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    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    How to Produce Ideas.

    So you sit down at your computer. You need to write that blurb, that ad, that brochure. The click is ticking. The client is on your back. And then. Nothing.

    No ideas.

    A day without ideas is a day without a livelihood.
    No ideas--the number one problem that everyone who writes faces on a day-to-day basis. Having something worthwhile to say is the world's most important qualification for any copywriter. How good or bad you are as as writer has to do with many things--skill, eloquence, insight, to name a few. But even if you're the most skillful, eloquent, and insightful person in the world, if you don't have anything to say, no dice.

    That's because copywriting and marketing is driven by one thing and one thing only. To get all Latin on you, it's the sine qua non ("that without which it is not") of the trade. It's all about ideas. No ideas, no copy; no copy, no money.

    So where do ideas come from?
    On one hand, there's an element of luck involved--you wake up in the morning and -BLAM- the idea hits. Ten minutes later, you have a reasonable piece of copy that's 75% of the way there. But who wants to trust their career to luck?

    Depends how you look at it. "I'm a great believer in luck," Thomas Jefferson said. Then he added, "And I find the harder I work the more I have of it." I think the second U.S. president is right on the money, and his advice is worth millions to writers.

    Churning out good ideas requires hard work.

    Five steps for producing ideas.
    Take an impossible project and chop it down to its individual tasks and suddenly the project isn't so impossible after all. That's exactly what James Webb Young did as a sucessful copywriter. And fortunately for us, he wrote a book on it. In A Technique for Producting Ideas, Young outlines five simple steps that will virtually guarantee you to produce one great idea after another. Here they are:

    1. Gather raw material.
    2. Digest the material.
    3. Forget about the material.
    4. Out comes the idea!
    5. Fine-tune your idea.

    In the next few days, I'm going to write a series of short posts on each of these steps and how they've worked for me. Stay tuned...

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