Letter leads

Writing for the Blocked, Bored & Balky

I don't get to work at 6:00 in the morning so I don't get to leave around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. If I'm not out at meetings, my late afternoons are a struggle between "I CANNOT begin a new writing project at 3:37!" and "I CANNOT putz around and waste time just because I don't have it in me to start something new right now."

What ta do, what ta do?

Submitted here in all their practical glory, are some of my late afternoon go to's for when you have to get stuff done, but can't BEGIN to get big stuff done...

Block. Outline. Plan. Maybe you can't plunge into your copy and get it all done in one fell swoop as you might at the beginning of your day, but you can certainly draft an outline and get a little good concepting time in. And when you're not forcing yourself to work a project from start to finish, this actually frees you up to explore some new ideas and get a little freakier than you might otherwise.

(SIDEBAR: "concepting" is a word, Word. Quit autocorrecting me.)

Headlines. Subheads. Callouts. You know that brochure that's due this week will need them. Consider this your copywriting amuse bouche. They are small, manageable and you'll be that much farther along when you come in tomorrow morning and start on that 16-page behemoth all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. See also, "get a little freakier …" from above.

Reach Out & Touch Someone. Not literally. At least not where I work, but I don't know how you roll where you are, so … maybe? What I'm talking about in my 1970s, AT&T metaphorical way, is tending to that correspondence you're always putting off. Set up some coffees and lunches with contacts and friends you haven't seen in a while. Get on LinkedIn and Twitter and comment. "Engage" as the marketers like to say. It's writing/work that needs to get done and if you can't be billable, you may as well be sociable and get yourself and your company out there.

What do you do when you start getting pouty and still have several hours left in the day, friends?

Every 5 minutes ...

All writers have their "go-to" techniques. I get that. I'm guilty of it as much as the next guy. And the direct marketer in me appreciates using proven strategies. But sometimes, it's time to let an idea retire with dignity to a condo in Florida.

Strolling through the Atlanta airport last week, I was excited to see lots of non-profit display ads. These two caught my eye. Right next to each other, both using the "every X minute, something happens" technique. They probably didn't think they'd be so close for comfort. But surely, there's a better, more attention getting way to catch the eyes of passersby. Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Ideas that Stick, offer some great ideas for re-casting need and impact. Check it out. A great challenge to all writers ...