Are you giving yourself time to think when writing?

Have you ever noticed that the busier we get and the more that we are expected to deliver, time to think is getting sacrificed? It feels to me like we’re expected to just jump straight into every single task – whether answering an email or writing a speech – with a focus on completing it, versus completing it thoughtfully.

How are we supposed to create anything of value when faced with pressure – from others or from ourselves – to skip the most important step: thinking?

I had an incident a few years back that opened my eyes to the fact that for some, taking time to think isn’t expected or even appreciated. I had paused to reflect during a meeting and within seconds I was pounced upon with, “Well? Well? Did you hear me?” I was forced to state the obvious: I had been thinking about my answer to the question posed. I was shocked that I had to justify the few seconds I was taking to provide a thoughtful response!

But troublesome colleagues aren’t the only ones depriving us of room to ponder. We do it to ourselves when we sit down at our computers and expect to be able to just start writing amazing copy instantly.

And when we don’t build thinking time into our copywriting process, we feel rushed, irritated or anxious, we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure and we feel that creativity-killing urge to ‘get it over with’. And that’s when we either resort to the same old messages, go into cut and paste mode, start procrastinating by allowing distractions in, or worse – bail on the task and put it off even further.

How to build thinking time into your copywriting process

If we want to write better copy, we need time to think: time for inspiration to arise. So to help build thinking time into your next copywriting project, you might try this:

Schedule a copywriting kick-start time

If you know that you have an important piece of copy to write, put it on your calendar. You’ll never have time to think about the project properly if you’re constantly trying to fit in writing between meetings and other day-to-day tasks.

Split this kick-start time into two hours

Not only is putting writing on your calendar important, but so is setting aside enough time to be thoughtful about it and to get into a state of flow. Schedule two hours in a row, at your most productive or most quiet time. First thing in the morning works best for me.

Designate the first hour of copywriting time for thinking

This is the most important step. Abandon the assumption that when you sit down to write, the first thing you need to do is…write! In fact, plan to NOT write.

Take the pressure off and give yourself time to get into the writing mindset by:

  • Reviewing notes and background information you’ve already collected (this is not the research stage, which should already have been completed)
  • Creating a list of questions you want your copy to address – and answering them
  • Organizing your desk, your files and yourself, to reduce physical and mental clutter and have everything you need at your fingertips
  • Brainstorming
  • Mind mapping
  • Outlining
  • Reflecting

Or, do whatever you need to do to put aside mental clutter and allow the ideas, structure and ideal approach to your writing to take shape in your mind.

Now, although you’re telling yourself that this is a no-writing hour, it is NOT a procrastination hour. No social media and only those web searches relevant to the current task. And of course, if your prep work during this period has you itching to start writing before the hour is up, go for it! The whole point of this hour is to crystallize your thoughts and get into the copywriting zone.

Designate the second hour for writing

After your first hour (or other generous time period that works for you), take a 10-20 minute break. I like to go for a super quick creativity-boosting walk during my breaks. Allow your thoughts to further percolate and then sit down for an hour of focused writing. Instead of staring at a blank screen you should be well primed to let those gems out of your brain and onto the page.

Research is important. Planning is important. And getting into the ‘creative zone’ is important. Like many, I can’t just summon creativity and inspiration on demand, but I can rely on a few steps and exercises to get me there relatively quickly.

If you’re anything like me, the copywriting kick-start time I’ve described will be enough to help you make a serious dent in your project.

Are you giving yourself time to think? Will you start?

If you’re constantly bored or disappointed with the copy you write, evaluate whether you are giving yourself time to think. If you are responsible for content creation, then taking this time shouldn’t feel like a luxury to you. You’re expected to create the best content you can, so create the conditions to do so!

What do you think? Will you start using any of these permission-to-think tips? Do you have any of your own? Please share in the comments below. And if you know someone who might like to hear that this permission is totally okay, please share this article!

Side note: are you wondering whether I followed my own advice for this article? Of course I did! And after my thinking time, the first 700 words flowed out in less than 30 minutes!


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