Wake Up! 7 Simple Ways to
Energize Your Writing Powers

image of woman in bed

Do you sometimes feel like you’re in a rut with writing?

We all do from time to time.

It comes from getting too comfortable with the way we do things. We fall into familiar patterns and it puts us to sleep.

But waking yourself up isn’t as hard as you might think.

My wife and I were driving around a few days ago.

Like most people, we fall into a daze whenever we travel along familiar roads. But about halfway there, purely on a whim, I turned onto a new street. And we both instantly perked up.

Along the way we discovered a beautiful neighborhood, a quaint old bookstore, and a new restaurant where we had a fabulous meal.

It turned a routine evening into an exciting adventure. These places were there all along, of course, but we would never have known about them if we hadn’t tried something different.

The same is true when it comes to writing. When you’re feeling like you’re in a creative daze, take a new path. Do something different. That’s one way to wake up, discover fresh ideas, and energize your creative powers. Here are a few others.

1. Learn your craft

You can’t be truly creative in any field until you have mastered the tools of the trade.

Robert Irwin, an artist and MacArthur Fellow, spent two years working up to 15 hours a day, painting the same picture over and over again in order to understand his work better.

You don’t have to be so extreme, but you should certainly read books, attend seminars, talk shop, keep up on your field, and get as much experience as you can.

Knowledge is fuel for your creative fire.

2. Get off auto pilot

Robert Frost once said, “The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts the moment you get up and doesn’t stop until you get into the office.”

It’s good to have formulas and rules, but we should never rely on them blindly.

Question your own expertise and the advice of the experts. Stop looking for just one right answer. Don’t settle for the first idea. Set aside those pet techniques now and then. Banish those clichés.

Borrow good ideas from others, but try out your own, too.

3. Stop avoiding failure

Long, long ago, while still in high school, I took a driver’s education class along with a friend. With a death grip on the wheel, he sat bolt upright, swerved back and forth on the road, and slammed the brake at every intersection.

He was so fixated on not making a mistake, he couldn’t concentrate on just driving.

Likewise, if you build your writing life around the idea of avoiding failure, you will be unable to concentrate on writing well. You will certainly not realize your full potential.

Instead of avoiding failure, strive for success and accept the occasional failure as part of the learning process.

4. Focus on important problems

My work involves writing marketing copy, which is often tested to see what works best.

Recently, a business showed me test after test where they had changed a color slightly or modified minor copy points.

“We just can’t seem to change our results,” they lamented.

I could see why immediately. They were focusing on tiny, irrelevant issues!

When you focus on trivia, you will generally get trivial results. And this will only discourage future creative thinking.

Success breeds success. So tackle the big issues first. That’s where the real results come from.

5. Find new uses for old ideas

While analyzing copy for a fundraising organization, I concluded that people may harbor doubts about how funds are used. I knew from my work in advertising that doubts are often put to rest with a guarantee. So I suggested including a strong, detailed guarantee about the use of funds.

The organization hesitated, since none of us had ever seen a fundraiser use this blatantly commercial technique. But this old idea used in a new way produced significantly better results.

6. Break down false barriers

When it’s time to write a blog post, do you immediately start writing?

Who says a post has to be just another post? Why not a radio show? Or a video demonstration? Or a series of photos with captions?

Back up. Think things through from the beginning.

  • What is your message?
  • What would make it most interesting?
  • What sort of post have you never tried before?

False barriers blind you to alternatives. Ask yourself how you would normally do something. Then look for other ways. Often you’ll find them.

7. Set the conditions you need to create

For most people, this means comfortable lighting, pleasing sounds and colors, plenty of space to spread out and work, information and equipment handy, and no distractions.

But the right conditions for creative production vary from person to person.

Beethoven poured ice water over his head. Kant wrote in bed. Balzac drank cup after cup of coffee. Hemingway merely got up at dawn and sharpened 20 pencils. Find what works best for you.

I must admit that while driving along unfamiliar roads, I often get lost. But that’s okay. Because I always find my way again. And I always discover something new.

About the Author: Dean Rieck has been called “the best direct response copywriter in America.” Get his free report, Dazzle Your Clients and Double Your Income.

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Comments

  1. Number eight should be whisky.

    Actually, number one should be whisky, and everything else should be nudged down one.

  2. Dean:

    I like your quote of Robert Frost. Here’s one of my favorite quotes by him on “The Road Less Traveled by”:

    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
    and sorry I could not travel both…
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.”

    One technique I learned from some renown copywriters is to take famous ads and copy them out by hand. I have done this for at least a half hour each day, for over 3 years, and I find it very beneficial.

    Then you brought up Kant. Did you know that someone in the neighborhood know what time it was, when Kant came walking by? He was that consistent – even in his daily walk.

    Good ideas in your post today. They got me thinking many thoughts.

    Randy

  3. @ Andy – Ogilvy said he used to drink spirits once in a while. You are right about the whiskey
    Write, write, write!

    • One thing about the whiskey. It might inspire you to write a great Country and Western song. Whiskey certainly fits into several I can think of.

  4. Hi Dean,

    Writing isn’t typing. The more you live, the more you have to share. And then writing isn’t a problem.

    Hemingway went to Spain for a reason.

    He knew how to type but he wanted too see things worth writing about.

    We don’t all need to see Civil Wars to get started… but you have to move out of your comfort zone to wake up.

  5. I am a huge believer in #4 and focusing on the big, meaningful stuff. So many times projects get bogged down and end up stalling because of something inconsequential. Because of this habit I like to take short breaks to breathe and get a clear perspective, after that the minutiae melts aways and the big, mission critical stuff takes center stage and the project/task is back on track.

    Thanks for the great post and the much needed reminder.

  6. “Instead of avoiding failure, strive for success and accept the occasional failure as part of the learning process.”

    This is really true. However, finding your voice is also really important.

    Great post!

  7. Dean,

    Another awesome post, by the way. I could relate immediately to your illustration of picking a new road on a whim and turning something familiar into an adventure. I’ve enjoyed the same experience several times, both literally and in my writing. As an example from my own experience, at one point several years ago, I was struggling with a particularly challenging headline. I wanted short, powerful images, but everything I was coming up with was flabby. On a whim, I Googled “short powerful phrases” and stumbled across a really fun little blog post on using Haiku as a means of practicing creating powerful images with few words. From that day on, I’ve been dabbling in Haiku as a form of mental exercise and I’ve even had a few published. Great side trip!

  8. Great advice. Someone else (the name escapes me) also said “write drunk, edit sober.” Terrific advice if you really are blocked. A glass of wine or two can loosen you up and bring your own genius to forefront.

    Are you writing persuasive copy? Watching a television infomercial can actually stimulate your thought processes.

    Oh, and one of the best books that I ever read on writing was Stephen King’s “On Writing.”

    • Pamela,

      The notion of seeing things differently, however you can do it, makes a world of difference. If not being drunk or a bit tipsy, then simply turn your chair backwards and face the wall or a window to write. Use an actual piece of paper and write some ideas down and then use some electricity. I agree with you that doing something to shake the tree is important.

      Thanks
      Scott

    • Ernest Hemmingway is credited with the phrase “write drunk, edit sober.”

    • I have to second the book “On Writing” by Stephen King. I had to read it for a COD creative writing class.

  9. Great tips, I really like number 3. Our best teacher is our last mistake. If we are afraid of failure we never push to learn more. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Dean, hi.

    No. 6 is my favorite. Break down false barriers keeps you fresh and keeps your readers intrigued not only with your topics, but your presentation.

    Figures I would like this since I don’t like to drive the same route to work every day. It is BORING! :)

  11. Just make good use of your time and get the ball rolling..people will start to follow you if they love your content..so just start writing..

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  12. Number three on this list is critical. If you’re always worried about failing, there’s no way to produce your best work. Instead of focusing on improving, you’ll always be distracted by the thought of failing.

    Failing seems like such a big deal, but really it’s not. Failing isn’t the problem; not learning from failures is.

    Also, if anyone reading this post hasn’t visited Dean’s blog yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great example of giving away free content and demonstrating expertise. You’ll learn a ton about copywriting and blogging by checking out Dean’s blog — ProCopyTips.com.

    Dean, thanks for the great post. I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

    Joseph

  13. Hey there, Dean —

    You came up with some great quotable quotes. My favorite? “When you focus on trivia, you will generally get trivial results.”

    And I’m going to be reminding my clients, “If you build your writing life around the idea of avoiding failur, you will be unable to concentrate on writing well.”

    Thanks for all the quotable wisdom!

    Carol

  14. I think getting #3 through your head is a huge achievement. I don’t know a single writer who isn’t afraid that everything they do is terrible. But if you stop worrying about failure and actually just put out your best work forward, then that’s really all there is to it.

    I really like this idea of shaking things up and trying something new. I’m always afraid to rock the boat, but I guess you’re not living unless you’re trying new things.

  15. Hi Dean,

    You’ve touched some great points in your article.

    Personally, I think that #3 is quite important, because thinking at failure and trying to avoid it, attracts failure.

    Well done!

    Eugen

  16. I love your advice. I read this everyday…very inspiring

  17. For number 9 (after the booze at no. 8 ) I’d suggest finding a collaborator or at least a “sounding board” to get a second opinion when the spark has died. Sometimes a different perspective is the key to regaining energy – just don’t be come dependent on it.

    Number 10: pretend that someone or something is stuck in the path of a freight train and you need to finish your piece by a certain time to save them/it from destruction. I haven’t tried it personally, but I think it has potential. Don’t try it at home.

  18. Appreciate the analogies and quotes.

    Liked Robert Frost once said, “The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts the moment you get up and doesn’t stop until you get into the office.” Wonder what that means when you work from home?

  19. What? No methylphenidate? ;-)

    – Tyrus

  20. I think that you are so right about the first point ‘Learn your craft’.

    A tip that I often suggest to people who have to write a lot of marketing copy is to learn how to touch type.

    I learnt several years ago by downloading a touch typing programme called Letter Chase. It’s free to download a trial version at LetterChase.com.

    I found touch typing really difficult to begin with and nearly gave up on it a few times as I found I was typing slower than I had been when using two fingers. But I’m so glad that I stuck with it especially now that I have taken up writing post for my marketing blog.

    Thanks once again for some great tips – I’ll put them into practice and let you know how I get on.

  21. Great post – and I find this very true: “7. Set the conditions you need to create”
    My productivity definitely spiked once I gave my home office a makeover. There’s something about being surrounded with things that make you feel happy that triggers creativity.
    I also switch back and forth between my standing desk/desktop computer and a laptop whenever I feel myself lagging throughout the day. Changing perspective – whether from one side of the room to the next, or one side of the world to the other, can encourage new viewpoints.

  22. I completely agree with #3! Another failure just brings you one step closer to success. Thanks for the tips to energize the mind and body to inspire creativity! Time to put them to the test : )

  23. Some of these ways will take some time for me to implement but others I can use immediately.

  24. I hate to sound like a broken record, but number 3 is the most integral of all of these. Great article.

  25. Writing is a powerful tool in insuring online visibility and credibility. Though when you are starting it may be tough, with time anyone can get addicted to the pen.

  26. Great post. I find that for me one of the most important things is not getting bogged down by the little things and not being afraid of failure. I always try to plan things out to make sure I don’t do the wrong thing and try the think of all the little details that may possibly go wrong. But then amidst all this worrying, I realize that I still haven’t done anything!

  27. Point 2 is a very good one. With the pressure of a heavy workload it can be easy to get into a situation where you’re running on auto pilot.

    Taking time to understand the market you’re writing for helps to focus on the job in hand and keep things fresh.

    When it comes to copywriting, formulas and rules should be a starting point only, you still need to think creatively to really get under the skin of the people you’re writing for.

  28. Wonderful post! Whenever I’m succumbed to writer’s block and can’t think, I take a step back and engage myself in other random activities to not even think about writing, but just doing something will allow my mind to work in the background to generate great new ideas once I come back.

  29. Stephen King’s On Writing is my favorite writing book. I learned a lot from it.

    I’ve been working on a novel recently and I’ve found that this time around shaking up my writing routine has really helped me get over some problems I’ve been having with writers block.

  30. I agree with Ivan — “the more you live, the more you have to share.” One of the best ways to give a lift to your writing is to LIVE like a writer. Keep your writers eyes open all the time, soaking in emotion and sensations and experiences. When you do that, you have endless creative ideas and endless energy for getting the words on the page.

  31. I like all the points specifically “stop avoiding failure”…this is the tendency in most of us…..thanks for all this

  32. Dean,

    Great 7 tips! I liked the 8th tip by Andy to add “whisky” to the list :-)

    Writing about some thing you love and passionate about also helps in creating best content in my opinion.

  33. When trying to come up with new content, I always try to think with the end user in mind if it will be valuable and relevant information based upon their wants and needs.

  34. I’ve got another way of using number 6. Break down false barriers. Whenever I’m at a loss for words or stuff to talk about? I pick one of the most commonly accepted beliefs (“rules”) of my market… and try to break these rules in whichever way I can.

    Result: a challenge that you learn from. It ends up being a creative and/or provocative post and often it gains me more followers than writing about topics everyone’s writing about because google like them. Why? Because I’m being a category of one, I’m being different, which makes me #1 for that topic instead of “just another dude” that gives advice.

    I’m in the self help for men niche and what I for example did was break the rule of “TV shows are crap and you can’t learn anything from them because it’s acting.” Wrote a whole bunch of posts on how Charlie Harper (of Two and a Half Men) can help men meet more women in XYZ way, how Barney Stinson (of How I Met Your Mother) helps men in ABC way, etc.

    Hell, I make it my goal to try and break every rule other people come up with. Every time I succeeds I gain more fans. Every time I fail I learn and have at least improved my creative skills.

  35. Amazing post, thanks!

  36. I like the concept of taking the road less traveled. I think it’s always good to try and write something once in a while that’s in a completely different style than you’re used to doing. It helps to learn to be creative and think outside the box.

  37. Funny you should mention a radio show.

    I recently started one, called Get Bizzy Blogging and we air tonight!

    I love the new medium- as my dear departed Dad would say,

    “A radio show- who woulda thunk it?”

  38. Seems like we are going to have a lot more drunk bloggers and writers haha.

    I think the biggest thing which many have mentioned and the article points to is a change of pace. Whether you change you commute in the morning, or your view from your desk, even your daily routines. We all know that humans are a creature of habit but the more we experience the more we learn. I feel these experiences are the key to creativity and writing.

  39. I’m newbie in the world of blogs and love reading your articles. the same goes with this article really inspires me to continue working. thanks for the support.

    I hope many learn from you.

  40. Hi Dean!

    I wrote a similar piece about this and I can actually compare notes with you. But, I could really learn a few things from this blogpost of yours. Especially your point number 6. I should really give this a thought. Thanks for the idea!

  41. “Stop avoiding failure.” I love that!! I like the way John Maxwell describes us as “failing forward.” Avoiding risk means we can’t grow.

  42. Oliver Holtaway :

    Great point on avoiding autopilot. Always tempting to reach for last year’s press release as a “framework” when the client’s annual report is coming up again, when you would probably achieve better results starting from a blank piece of paper – not to mention thinking about how the client’s business objectives might have changed.

  43. Point 3 really hit home for me. Often times I worry too much about making any mistakes, grammatical to be precise, and not enough about writing. Thanks for putting in perspective. Cheers

  44. You always surprise me :)

  45. Wow! I really enjoyed this post! I have been writing for years and sometimes I struggle with coming up with fresh ideas (as I am sure everyone does). It is even more perpetuated for those who are required to write in their career – ‘forced’ writing can sometimes be a catalyst in the despise for the craft. Learning to overcome this feeling through embarking on fresh ideas can give a tired writer an energetic and youthful approach to the craft once again. Thanks so much for sharing your tips on overcoming the dreaded writer’s standstill. Much appreciated!

  46. Thanks for the good ideas.

    There is a chapter in a book I recently read that suggests getting near water when you are ready to write. Apparently being near water is conducive to creativity. The suggestions include having a shower, going for a swim or even taking a short walk in the rain.

    The book is called: Write It Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser and comes recommended.

  47. That is true, most people only focus on failure instead of success and of course what happens is that they get what they focused on.

    Great article as always, I expecially like the profound last paragraph:

    “I must admit that while driving along unfamiliar roads, I often get lost. But that’s okay. Because I always find my way again. And I always discover something new. ”

    Vaclav Gregor

  48. Write short which hits straight on the CPU of Human Species probably eight words is best to register forever
    ” TRY ” it works. Then remember me who gave the idea,
    Good Going.

  49. Try this…

    Pretend you are writing for a 1st grader to read aloud.

    The trip down memory lane will jump-start the Authority in you.

  50. Thanks Dean,

    I loved the whole post but number 6 really started me thinking on my next post and how I can do it differently. Thank you very much for the info and the ispiration!

    Blessings,
    Morgan Dragonwillow

  51. I tried this the other day and yeah it helped me when writing a personal stament, thank you!