Five Places To Find Writing Inspiration
If you were to look at my desk, you’d imagine that all of my writing inspiration comes from the masters of the copywriting craft. Piled high are books by Maslen, Ogilvy, Trott and the like, topped by a handful of grammar reference books.
But there’s one single word that describes a copywriter who’s only inspired by other copywriters.
If you want some inspiration that’ll help you raise your game, you need to look beyond the confines of the industry and find wordsmiths out there in the wild.
A new appreciation for wordplay and the joys of English are only a few clicks away.
Five Places I Find Writing Inspiration
Inspiration is a personal thing, and you need to find out what works to get your creative juices flowing. But these five places are a great place to start your search:
1. The Food Critics
Benefits, not features. Benefits, not features. Benefits, not features.
It’s drilled into us all from day one, but we still need to touch on the features of a product or service so that the readers know exactly what we’re trying to sell them. But isn’t that just an excuse for a dull list of specifications and descriptions?
Not a chance.
I look to the food critics for inspiration, because they manage to take the features of heated protein and turn them into something truly wonderful:
Korean fried chicken is hot right now, especially if you go for the hardcore stuff, slathered in a chilli sauce the colour of the outflow from a severed jugular and finished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Jay Rayner in the Observer
Nobody makes the mundane magical quite like a great food critic. So tuck in to a heaped plate of writing inspiration in the Sunday supplements, and see what you can take on board. Even if you find the florid prose a little too rich for your client’s palates, it’s always good to have a taste of something exotic before you tuck in to your meat-and-potatoes work.
2. The Storytellers
This isn’t going to be a screed about the importance of brand storytelling or anything like that.
We’re hard-wired to love stories. And true stories can be a great inspiration to any copywriter. To connect with a reader, we need to empathise with them on an emotional level, so knowing roughly how people react in different situations is a huge boon. That’s where hearing or reading people’s stories about their lives can really inspire us to make a connection with our audience.
The world is full of stories. Listening to conversations on the bus, in the pub or in the Post Office queue can provide little insights into day-to-day lives, but you can also seek them out.
Personally, I enjoy the Risk podcast – an eclectic mix of funny, emotional and sometimes downright disturbing true stories from real storytellers. Just beware – sometimes the podcast can get a little blue.
Wherever you seek out your storytellers, make sure you pay careful attention. Because they’ll inspire you and teach you how to connect with an audience.
3. The Poets
Words, eh? What are they like?
For many of us, they’re just the way we make a living. Clear, efficient communication is the name of the game.
We just don’t have any bloody fun with words. We don’t take the time to play with them, and quite right too – because that’s something that’s best left to the poets. Manchester’s got a lively spoken word scene for anyone searching for that little bit of writing inspiration. Marketing’s anathema to these folks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bask in the way they string together sentences and make use of tone, tempo and tune to produce something that does exactly what your writing needs to do:
Speak to an audience.
More and more copywriters might be flexing their creative writing muscles, but I’d rather listen to a Scouse monoped give life to a sentient globule of tinned pie any day of the week.
(Interested in the Greater Manchester poetry scene? Check out Evidently.)
4. The Malcontents
Headlines. They’re hugely important. Copyblogger has built a reputation on that little nugget of advice (even if not everyone is impressed) and every copywriter worth their salt knows that a magnetic headline can really boost clickthrough rates.
But is trawling through dozens of varieties of “headlines are important” posts really going to provide you with the writing inspiration you need?
Nah. But seeing headlines generating interest in real time might.
So it’s time to delve into a hive of scum and villany.
Not everyone likes Reddit. The site has wonderful corners and hugely helpful users, and buckets of hateful, spiteful trolls and misogynists. But we’re not interested in the comments or even the content of posts. We want headline inspiration.
So going to any subreddit and ordering posts by most popular (all time) is going to show you a huge list of headlines that people have reacted to. And if you want to know what really resonates, the all time site-wide list might help.
Just take it all with a pinch of salt. The site’s best ever headline is a bit of a doozy:
The answer is bubble gum.
5. The Sports Reporters
Sometimes it feels like we’re scrabbling around to find different ways of saying the same thing. Maybe we’ve had a run of customers in a certain niche, or we’ve got to work on content for our own business marketing materials. Either way, you feel like you’ve said all this before. And you’re in desperate need of inspiration.
So the fifth and final place I find my writing inspiration is people who make a living finding new ways to describe the same thing – the outcome of a sporting event. No matter the minutiae of the event, it’s all broadly similar. 22 men kick a ball around for 90 minutes and then Leeds lose.
Fortunately, sports reporters have found thousands of way to describe sporting events. Whether you look for professionals in the papers, or the raw, unpolished work dotting various fanzines and fan blogs, you’ll find inspiration from passionate people who really care about what they’re describing. But you won’t be lucky enough to receive the most inspirational pieces in my swipe file.
My dad’s regular exasperated email in which he provides a match report (and usually a pub report) from his weekend’s entertainment.
From the first minute to the last we were lackadaisical and sloppy – Bamba gave the ball away twice in the first five minutes when under no pressure at all. To do justice to how bad it was I would need a Thesaurus to find alternatives to slow, uninterested, lethargic and rubbish. We had no idea and nothing worked.
David Nattan’s Email Match Report – Leeds United vs MK Dons (2/1/16)
Even if you’re not on my dad’s list, you’ll find real inspiration across the sports media. Just make sure you don’t fall into their trap of using the well-worn cliché. But that’s another post for another day.
If you find it hard to find the inspiration to create content, a freelance copywriter thinks about words non-stop all day and crafts text for a whole range of audiences. Maybe hiring someone could be the way to go?
If you’re writing regularly yourself, I have a few questions for you. Where do you find your inspiration? Who’s your favourite critic? And what food would be distusting [sic] with rice? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Enjoy That Free Post? There’s More!
The 603 Copywriting blog is updated on a semi-regular basis. If you’d like to get a monthly digest with new posts, subscriber only tips and the odd special offer, then why not sign up for the newsletter?
Thanks for Signing Up!
You’ll get the newsletter mid-way through the month. Usually.