Would you like to be able to write better copy, faster?
If you’re like anyone who has ever written copy for any reason ever, I’m sure the answer is yes.
Now, what if I told you the answer is already floating around in that big gray glob between your ears?
Well, it is!
I’ve been asked about my writing process a lot recently. And in answering it, I realized that I probably do things a little different than most. And perhaps if I could share what I consider to be my most valuable secret…
Maybe, just maybe, that would be useful to you.
Drum roll please…
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, copywriters of all ages, let me introduce to you…
The secret of Automatic Copywriting!
“Ooh, fancy name, Roy, but what is it?”
One of my biggest secrets to effective copywriting… Is to get prepared for whatever I’m going to write… Then… NOT THINK as I write!
Sounds a little wacko, I know.
But let me ask you a question. When is the last time you thought about your heart beating? I’m guessing that until I asked you that question, it’s been a while. And yet, you’re successfully making your heart beat all day long — or at least, some part of your brain that you don’t have conscious access to is doing it for you.
How about an example that can be either conscious or unconscious — breathing. Now, you can consciously breathe. I actually do it every morning, as part of sitting meditation. In sports, you can get a performance advantage by learning to breathe better. You can actually help your brain function better by taking a few big breaths. And yet, you can also trust your subconscious to take care of breathing if you want, too — and it usually does a delightfully good job.
Now let’s tap a different capability of your subconscious — name and face recognition. For now we’ll ignore the hundreds of people you’ve met and hoped you’d remember their names, and instead focus on the few who you really knew well at one time but haven’t seen in years, maybe decades. Let’s say you’re out and about, and you see an old friend who you haven’t seen in years — and haven’t even thought about in almost as long. The instant you see their face, you blurt out their name. You didn’t even think about it — you knew what to do. It was… Automatic. In the right situation, your mind fed your mouth the name even before you consciously thought about what was happening.
When you trust your subconscious, magic can happen!
I’ll get to all the disclaimers here, including what has to be true in order for this to really be hyper-effective.
But I wanted to put this principle up front, because it really is the core of what you need to understand.
Just like making your heart beat, and breathing, and even remembering names of long-ago friends, your subconscious knows a lot more than you might expect about what you need to write…
IF you can trust it and let it do its thing.
At any given moment, your conscious mind holds 7 +/- 2 pieces of information. This is why phone numbers are 7 digits long — at least in the United States. We can hold 7 digits in short-term memory pretty easily. Longer than that, and we start losing numbers.
But your subconscious or unconscious mind is processing all sorts of information. The feel of your clothes against your skin. The sensation of your feet on the floor. The sounds of the room around you. The smell of the person sitting right next to you. All the visual stimulus just outside of the words you’re focused on reading right now. That and all the normal functions of the human body, including your heartbeat, breathing, and digesting what you ate for lunch.
It’s only when one of these stimulus start doing something unexpected that the subconscious starts waving a flag to get the conscious to pay attention. But under the surface, the subconscious is doing far more, all the time, than we could ever even fathom.
If you let it, your subconscious will even tell you exactly what you need to write next.
I’ll tell you how in a moment.
How our minds work…
First, some context and disclaimers.
Your subconscious will give you exactly what you need, in the moment, IF it’s been notified ahead of time what that will be.
First, let me butcher the core idea of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Basically, our brains are great at making split-second judgments for some things. But need to make drawn-out decisions on others. If there’s a pattern to all of it though, it’s this: experts make better decisions when they think fast, novices make better decisions when they think slow.
It’s not a perfect correlation, but the trend definitely points this way. The more you develop your skill at copywriting, the better you’ll do by making it happen as fast as possible, and entrusting the what to write decision to your subconscious. In fact, if you try to slow down, your copy will probably actually get worse!
This is somewhat related to the Four Stages of Competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model.
On any given skill, we move through these four stages:
— Unconscious incompetence
— Conscious incompetence
— Conscious competence
— Unconscious competence
Before you learned anything about copywriting, you were probably somewhere in the unconscious incompetence or conscious incompetence stages. You didn’t know how to write copy, and you may or may not have known you didn’t know.
But as soon as you start writing, you start to develop some competence. Since you’re reading my emails, I know you have at least some level of competence. Any research or reading on the topic you do continues to give you competence.
On a conscious level, you’re probably remembering somewhere between 1% and 5% of what you’re learning in all of this. But your subconscious is picking up far more.
And so as you work to build your conscious competence, you’ll also be developing unconscious competency with it.
You’ll go from not being able to make a good decision at all, to really having to think through a decision to make sure it’s good, to making great decisions on the fly without any thought at all.
And at that point, one of the worst things you could is over-think it!
Now: how to develop unconscious and automatic writing ability…
The single-most important thing you need to do if you want to get really good at Automatic Copywriting — that is, writing great copy, fast — is to maximize your inputs.
What do I mean by that? Well, you need to become an information sponge. Soak up as much as you can. It doesn’t matter if you can remember it all, by rote, like you’d need to in order to pass a test in school. Rather, you want to get to the heart of every lesson as quick as possible, and move on to the next.
I’ve come to prefer audio books and podcasts for this, as they allow me to listen at 2X speed or higher. I recently asked a company if I could watch their training videos at 2X speed before buying. Reading is great, too — better if you learn speed reading principles.
Your goal early on is to get the basics learned in as little time as possible.
Then, keep up a steady information diet, because it’s like exercise for your brain.
Also, branch out. When you start copywriting, it’s important to read all the classic copywriting books. But then, learn about other subjects. My latest fascination is hypnosis. I’m also a student of economics, business, and the stock market. I like to learn about tech to stay on top of those trends. Society and politics are endlessly fascinating. Before marketing, I learned as much as I could about human psychology.
Having more areas of focus to draw from increases your subconscious ability to make connections and create more interesting output.
Also, before you start work on any project, you should gather as much information as you can about what you write. Dig into the research. Gather your ideas. Even outline a rough narrative flow.
But when it comes time to write, you have to stop gathering. You have to stop thinking things through and planning.
To get started, you must decide to start…
Every day, I give myself about an hour to write these essays. That’s a very short amount of time to write the 1,000 to 2,000 words you eventually read.
What this does though is it forces me to start writing, right away.
I don’t have time to consciously think of all I want to write. I may be able to jot down some notes beforehand, as I did today. But by and large, I MUST trust my subconscious to write.
To get the maximum benefit from Automatic Copywriting, you must…
— Decide to start
— Commit to speed, and
— Trust the output
Your subconscious isn’t holding 7 +/- 2 things at a time. It’s constantly processing the signals of 100 billion neurons from throughout the human body, and making sense of it all.
It doesn’t work slow. It gives you things fast. And so you must write as fast as you’re able to move your fingers.
Trust that process to get you to a solid first draft.
Finally, edit out the mistakes, but not the magic.
You will make mistakes. And you should edit them out. (Says the guy who let through an obvious mistake in yesterday’s essay — and probably another in the day before — and maybe will today — and probably will tomorrow.)
Your subconscious may be great at the ideas, but your conscious mind and fingers are only middling at putting those ideas on paper. So correct the mistakes you make. But be careful in doing so that you’re not taking away the magic that comes from trusting your subconscious and letting it riff.
A good editor will find areas to improve every piece of writing they touch. A great editor will know what not to touch!
How to overcome the two most common obstacles to Automatic Copywriting…
I’ll finish with two big obstacles I’ve faced, and seen in others…
“I’m not sure what/how to write this?!”
If you don’t know what to write or how to write this project, you have one of two issues. Either you haven’t done enough research, or you’re not trusting yourself. Figure out which it is. If there’s a specific unanswered question that can be answered with research, answer it and try again. If it’s a more general issue, you may just not be in the groove yet, in which case…
“I sit down and can’t get in the groove — I’m still thinking too much!”
You can’t expect to go from zero to Automatic Copywriting in a moment. I find it takes me a good 5 or 10 minutes to warm up. The best thing to do to get your Automatic Copywriting going is to start typing something. If you’re smart, you’ll probably delete it — maybe even in those first few minutes. But I find starting is what it takes to get momentum, which goes back to making the decision to do so, and setting that timer if you need it…
Try it. Trust your next writing project to your subconscious, and don’t put too much conscious work into it until the editing phase. You may be surprised…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: I meant to mention the book Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale in here somewhere, but I didn’t. Oops. It was definitely an early inspiration for me developing this approach, although I think I instinctively knew it before that (and that book is less about this process than how to write in really compelling ways). Good book!
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