I was recently encouraged to read David Ogilvy’s book on advertising, and already 10% into it there are deep veins of golden quotes from which to mine. The first one I found that struck me from a creative writing POV was this one:
Which immediately called to mind what Mark Z. Danielewski shared with me many years ago, a thing he called the “Jane Goodall Method” about how you need to devote consistent, quality time to your subject matter, as well as the benefits of free-thinking and other practices which have been written about exhaustively.
It also helps that we have great coffee and great wine within walking distance of our offices.
There’s something about the ability to fill your head with whatever pieces are pertinent to the current puzzle you’re writing to solve – be that an ETA with painfully-constricting character counts that bridges the gap between consumer-induced search intent and client-requested CTA, or whatever plot issues you’re currently facing in that novel you’re working on – to be allowed the freedom to throw it all into a mental slow cooker and just let it all stew is an effective (and rewarding) way to come up with fresh and innovative takes on your copy.
This is also your most effective antidote (your mileage may vary, but for me this is true) for the dreaded and feared “writer’s block”. When you spend too much effort focusing down on something to the point it loses it’s meaning, it becomes foggy, it becomes something else (it moves from “this simple thing” to “destroyer of worlds”), that is precisely when you need to retask your focus in another direction and let the aforementioned slow cooker do its thing: in the background. It’s that “unhooking your rational thought process” Ogilvy mentions that allows the mind to wander into places – and thus consider possibilities – that the rational would never allow.
Many people, typically those of a more analytical mindset, write this portion of the process off as nonsense, as an “artistic affectation” but the benefits are REAL. Copywriters everywhere should fight for this often misunderstood aspect of their work, and agencies do well to nurture this non-quantifiable, if not quirky, stretch of the creative journey.
For those that are fortunate enough to work in such an environment (I count myself among that group), how do you unhook the rational, thus allowing your creative mind the room needed to stretch its legs?