Monday, 7 November 2011

You may not be a songwriter but...

trying to write a song could help you with all kinds of writing.

Today I'm reproducing an article from one of my favourite newsletters.  Copywriters Roundtable.  Penned mostly by John Forde, commercial copywriter, American but living in Paris.  Yes he's commercial and writers those long sales letters many people hate.  But he's also interested in all kinds of writing, offers practical and wide ranging hints on writing of all kinds.

And he has many guest writers.  Today I'm reproducing an article by Cindy Cyr another copywriter, married to and mother of songwriters.

by Cindy Cyr, Copywriter

The other day while listening to Pandora Internet radio, a song came on that took me back in time and put a big smile on my face.  Suddenly, I was 20 again, standing in the kitchen with my best friends. Laughing and singing The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” at the top of our lungs, the world was ours for the taking.

A well-written song does that. It transports you and taps into your deepest emotions.
It can remind you of good times, like “Louie, Louie” written by Richard Berry.
Or inspire you to take a chance, like in “I Hope You Dance” by Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers.
Or fill you with feelings of hope and togetherness, like in John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Great copy does that too.

The challenge is … how do you tap into those emotions? How do you write copy that makes people feel a deep connection?

Nearly all professional songwriters, including Grammy winners John Mayer and Gillian Welch, use variations of “object writing.”

Object writing is a warm-up exercise where you write for exactly 10 minutes first thing in the morning about a random object, emotion, or event and focus all your senses on it.  Kind of like stretching before exercising, it loosens up your writer and prepares you for a productive day of paid writing projects. You’ll find it helps you to stop judging your writing and just write. That speeds up project completion and encourages more original ideas.

Object writing is best known to songwriters, but it can help any writer tap into deep emotions, avoid clichés, and showcase their own unique voice.  It can also help you create a bank of sense- bound language that involves your reader by tapping into their deepest thoughts and feelings.

Let me show you what I mean...


The part of object writing which says, “Focus all your senses on it,” is actually the most crucial part and the key to connecting to people emotionally.

You see, most people focus on only one sense at a time in their writing – which one depends on what they’re writing about.
And most people are aware of only five senses:sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

However, there are two additional senses acknowledged and described by the scientific community: organic and kinesthetic.

Organic sense is “your awareness of your inner bodily functions.” For example, your heartbeat, cramps, or a headache. If you sit in front of your computer too long, your organic sense would tell you that you have a stiff neck.

Kinesthetic sense relates to “your relationship to the world around you” and has to do with body movements. For example, if you spin around in a circle quickly, the world around you is blurry.

So what happens when you start including all of your senses in your writing?

Including words or phrases that create vivid pictures and relate to ALL of a person’s senses helps connect a person emotionally to your copy.

For example, you could say, “Make more money when you use product XYZ.” Or … you could use more of your senses and say, “Feel like you hit the $1 million jackpot at a slot machine in Caesar’s Palace when you use product XYZ.”

Which creates a more colorful picture in your mind?

In the first description, “make more money” is bland and vague. But in the second description, you can hear the coins clanging in the tray. You can just see them spilling over the sides as the machine dumps its entire contents.  While showing and telling both have a place in your writing, showing is more difficult. But it’s a necessary element for connecting with your reader.

Use the following exercise to uncover the vivid writing that lies within you. You’ll soon notice you're quickly able to come up with juicy descriptions that will liven up all of your reader’s senses.

Here are seven tips for how to get the most out of your object writing:

1) Write using all seven senses. Focus all of your senses on the object you are writing about.

For example, let’s say the object you are writing about is your backyard. How would your bare skin feel if you were to lie down in it?

What does it smell like? What would it taste like if you licked it? How does it sound? What do you see? Remember your other two senses too.

How do you feel in your backyard? Can you feel your heart rate slow down because you’re so relaxed? Are your eyelids tempted to close because of the bright sun?

2) Do it faithfully. Do your object writing every day, and I promise you’ll see a difference. Stick to 10 minutes only. Remember that the critical part is to always use ALL seven senses.

3) Rotate your subject category. You have three categories to choose from: Events, Objects, and Emotions. Most people find one category easier to write about than the others. Rotate categories consistently so that you force yourself to practice writing about each one. If you want topic ideas, you can go to You’ll find a daily object to write about, plus you can see how other people describe the object of the day.

4) Try variations. There are a couple of ways to tackle your object writing. One way is straight journaling. Another popular technique called “cluster writing” is similar to mind mapping.

You write down your object of the day in the center of the page and put a circle around it.
Then write phrases and thoughts around your word. Some people alternate styles from day to day.

5) Don’t worry if it’s any good. Many writers fear the blank page or writer’s block.

You stare at the page and you can’t think of anything “good to say,” so you don’t put anything down. But with object writing, your goal is to put words down on paper as they come to you. Not all the ideas or phrases will be great. But you’re trying to get things down as fast as possible so the good ideas can emerge.

Besides, nobody has to see what you write.

Rick Beresford, an award-winning songwriter and songwriter coach, says, “It’s okay to fail. Mistakes lead to great songs.”

Similarly, mistakes lead to great copy. No one has to see this if you don’t want them to. So don’t be afraid to write and make mistakes. Because while the main purpose of object writing is to get you to stop judging your writing, train you to write faster, generate ideas quickly, and create spicier copy, you might just find the clue to your next blockbuster headline too. For example, one day the object I wrote about was “my first paycheck,” which led to a headline idea for a client.

6) Review what you write. Take a minute after you’re done writing to underline any colorful phrases, interesting word combinations, or anything that leaps off the page at you. If there’s nothing that strikes you, that’s okay.

7) Leave it for later. Capture your best stuff.

Take the phrases you underlined and transfer them into a spreadsheet or some sort of idea bank so you can use them in the future.

You’ll discover that object writing prepares you for the day’s writing projects. You’ll always be ready to dive in and knock things out. Plus, because you’ll be coming up with new ideas all day long, your copy will no longer suffer from “sameness.”

Once you consciously start writing to all of your senses, you’ll find yourself automatically injecting phrases that jolt your reader’s senses – connecting them to your copy at a deeper level emotionally and causing them to read, click, and buy more often.'

My comment; if you haven't tried this exercise then give it a go.  Experiment for two weeks and see what results.  Anything that loosens up our thinking before we write can only be positive.

And if you want to take a look at Copywriters Roundtable  check it out at

No comments:

Post a Comment