Yesterday I asked my Instagram people what their biggest pain point is with copywriting; what constantly makes them unsure; what they struggle the most with.
This morning I opened IG to a variety of replies, but one summarized them all: how do we deal with “blank page fright”?
The phrase resonates so much with me. Haven’t we all been there? You open your notes app to write an Instagram caption—and nothing comes? You poise your fingers on the keyboard to write the home page of your new website—and you don’t have a thing to say?
Even though my actual JOB is writing captions and website pages, I despair sometimes when I have a shiny white page and a blinking bar in front of my eyes. My brain freezes and I wonder why in the world I started a business again?
I for sure don’t have it all figured out, but here are some steps that I implement every time I sit down to write.
- Keep a swipe file. I will run this point into the ground someday, but I keep talking about it because it GENUINELY HELPS SO MUCH. Make a weekly or daily or every-other-day practice of blocking out a bit of time solely to gather inspiration. Go through some of your favorite websites, or random advertisements or the headlines in your email inbox. Pay close attention to what stands out, makes you curious, and sounds interesting. Notice what makes you want to click! Collect these headlines or bits of copy in a Word or Google Doc and tweak them or quote them in your own copy. (Make sure you credit them and use quotation marks if it’s a direct quote! Plagiarism is not okay). Before you try to write copy, reference your swipe file and read through it a bit to get some creativity pumping.
- Copy/ paste some words onto your page. When I sit down every week to write captions for a friend’s product shop, I paste all the info she has given me about that product onto my page before I start. It is less scary to start writing on a page that isn’t completely empty. You can employ copy you’ve used previously for this, words from your swipe file, or even a brief bullet point outline of what you want to say.
- Set a timer. This one is a total life-changer for me! Set a timer for a length time that doesn’t sound overwhelming to you—I usually start with five or ten minutes—and just type hard and fast about whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about spelling, or if that one word is exactly right, or what your mom will think. Just type for all you’re worth. Almost without exception, this will at least result in a nugget or two that is what you are trying to get at!
- Edit with grace and personality. You are a human. No one wants you to be God. No one wants you to be a clone. The things you write do not need to be perfect—they can show your normal side, your quirkiness, your own slant on a thing. Should you be careful with your words? Yes. Should you obsess over them? No. Write in the best way you know how and then release the words with a prayer. It’s going to be okay.
Emily P. Freeman always ends her monthly emails with the same phrase, and I echo it: “Here’s to good words and honest stories.” Here’s also to no longer being crippled by a blank page; here’s to pushing past our fears and schedules to create copy and write content that serves the people God has put in front of us!