Writing Peace: You Don’t Have to Be So Creative

I find myself consulting with a lot of passionate, energized people who want to bring a lot of personality to their brand. They are often very creative, even if they are not actually writers.

Writing Peace pen to Zen

Clarity more than creativity brings peace in your writing.

But in my experience, the creativity doesn’t always work in everyone’s favor. We tend to think the biggest problem with writing is writer’s block, or not coming up with anything. But for many (including this writer), it’s the opposite–knowing how to edit yourself.

When writing marketing copy for your business, especially the copy that will first convey your brand (like your name, tagline, and web page headlines), it can be tempting to get caught up in the creative process. Because you try to do so much.

You want to differentiate yourself. Attract attention. Encourage people to read on. Sum up what you do. Explain why it matters.

Look at that list! How much are we asking of our names, taglines, headlines, etc.? How much are you asking of your blog writing? I’ve seen brilliant service providers and product developers get stuck on finding just the right word or phrase, for weeks, because they think it might do all that.

Listen,

I LOVE words. But they aren’t all that.

What you DO matters more, and what matters even more than that is how you help others. Please. Trust me when I tell you, if for no other reason than I have done it successfully for others many hundreds of times: when you’re trying to write just the right, perfect, wonderful thing for yourself, you don’t have to be so creative.

It can actually work against you:

1. Extra creativity can lead to unnecessary, long delays. I once worked with a brilliant, energetic woman with a start-up in the business coaching field. We went through a mini-branding and naming process that was supposed to take three weeks–driven by her excitement and urgent timeline. We had arrived at some nice contenders like Shoreline (get there) and Aperture (light/focus). But, she still needed to work more on it. Months later, she eventually went rogue and came up with one on her own after a number of stalls and changes in focus. There are several learning points in this story. This one is, why the delay, when so many great names and domains had already passed us by and the business could have been up and running?

2. Extra creativity can lead to confusing concepts. Be careful not to overcreate for your audience. In my example here, the name my client came up included EntrepRENEW. I’m not sure if she landed on this as a final… actually, there are several others using versions of that! But for story’s sake: when asked for my opinion, I expressed concern that renew is forced in there as part of a version of entrepreneur, which is already a challenging word to spell. Does the audience need a double take? In all fairness, she said she didn’t realize how important it was for her to come up with something clever, with a double meaning or a hidden word. I respect authenticity, so I get that. The thing is, clever may not be so important to her audience. Must we make them figure something out?

3. Extra creativity can lead to extra, unneeded words. I’m the queen of this one. My curse is that I’m a creative writer, too, not just a business and marketing writer. Great for concepting, terrible for being concise. I admit it: I like fluff, conversational tone, description, puns. It all comes in handy. But I’ve had to learn (is 30 years long enough?) how to red-line copy. A LOT. When you’re working on your tagline, for example, try my take-away approach. I literally try taking away words and phrases to see if it’s still good. It’s a poetry thing. The perfect poem, they say, is one that you can’t add any words to, or take any away from, to make any better. How about a headline like that?

4. Extra creativity can lead to a watered down result. This one might be the subtlest of all. You bring flair to your project. You substitute words like a thesaurus app and you survey all your friends and associates to find out what has just the right ring to it, only to keep adding and changing to meet this or that communication goal. But you end up meeting less of them in the end. It’s not about the length, the perfect word choice, hitting all targets or stopping people from leaving your website in four seconds or less. Who can do all that?

Writing solid blog or website copy is more about knowing what you do, for whom, and saying so. It’s okay to be more straightforward about it.

When I write for my clients, that’s where I focus. I get to know them, their offerings, and what makes them special to whom–their audiences. If you want writing peace, I suggest you start with that end in mind for all your own communications. Then edit.

Sure, I like to bring my creative chops when I can. But you don’t see me mention that in my name or tagline, right? Not every post is a master work of art, either, is it?

No. We don’t need to fold under that kind of pressure. We just need to do our best work. Want more flair? Practice.

All in due time, grasshopper. Whatever you and I have to say, remember, we have ever more words to use in our future.

 

photo by: Olga Kruglova

6 Responses to Writing Peace: You Don’t Have to Be So Creative

  1. Crystal Collier November 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    LOL! Is that extra creativity or perfectionist tendencies? Either way I’ve got them both and I say there’s definitely a benefit to jumping rather than stressing over all the little details. That said, there’s definitely a happy medium that works best for both ends of the spectrum.

    • Faith Watson November 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      Crystal, balance, yess–that’s a good thing! I think it can both extra creativity and perfectionism. Creativity looks like random piles and flashes of brilliance sometimes, but it also looks like revise revose erase wait see paint-over paint-over… I guess we just don’t want anyone to try so hard they feel like slicing their ear off or pouring gin in their coffee in the morning to see if that helps. ;-)

  2. Lindsey November 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Thanks Faith! I am a little stuck on this very thing and you’ve hit the nail on the head about trying to be too creative and allowing it to stall progress! Its like you were watching me for the past two days with this unnecessary brainstorming. I’m going to follow your advice and just go with what I have for my business name and keep making progress on the rest of my business. Digital High Five for the pep talk!

    • Faith Watson December 2, 2013 at 9:21 am #

      Lindsey, you’re welcome and I’m glad I could pep you up a little! HIgh Five accepted! If it seems like I’m in your head, it’s only because I’ve been through the same thing, and I know plenty of others who have been, too. As my grandma (not your typical granny) used to say, “shit or get off the pot” … I use her stuff for inspiration all the time. ;-)

  3. Marcos Rocha October 7, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Thank you for writing this. I see how we get stuck on upstaging ourselves or being something EXTRA that we are not. The important thing is doing our best and doing things from our unique perspective without over thinking it.

    • Faith Watson October 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Thank you for visiting and reading the post, Marcos. Doing our best work is most important, but of all that, just doing the work, period. Your best is always a work in progress–we are always learning. However… most of us who are trying to create something new and/or get our message out there are prone to overthinking. Me too. I try to work on detaching from comparison to some idea I have about how it’s supposed to be, and instead, focus on my intentions for how I want to reach/serve others. I’ve learned others aren’t expecting, nor in need of, high art in every blog post. They need your best job in connecting with the information or inspiration they’re looking for. That’s not easy, but it’s often simpler than we make it out to be!

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