How to write better copy, faster

Image: Mario Testino

Image: Mario Testino

Do you ever suffer from writing paralysis?

Do you stare, unblinking at a white screen, mentally willing the words to magically appear before you?

I'll let you know a not-so-secret secret.

Everyone does.

Even the most experienced copywriters have felt that nauseating squeeze in the glut of their stomach as their fingers quiver over their keyboard, before hastening to the kitchen make themselves their fifth cup of procrastination tea. But the difference between you and a copywriting maestro is, the latter has a few tricks up his or her rather voluminous sleeves.

I have two tips for you to help solve your copywriting crises. The first is one of the oldest tricks in the book. The second involves Ryan Gosling. I know, I know, Ryan Gosling is cause for much thigh-clenching excitement. But before you skip the first tip and head straight to the goodness of Gosling, remember that age comes before beauty, and that the second tip needs the first tip, much like an ice-cream without the cone is just a sweet, sticky mess.

Timesaver tip number 1: Just Write.

Sit yourself down in front of your computer and open up a new blank document.

Before you do anything - before you draft a framework, do your research, re-read the brief - you set a timer for five minutes (or fifteen, if you have the time), and just write. As you write, you resist the urge to quickly check something on the internet, ignore spelling errors and avoid any self-censure.

The idea is that if you allow yourself permission to write without being self-critical or pausing to validate or research, your writing will be better for it. You'll achieve more in five minutes of writing non-stop than in an hour of methodically checking every fact and weighing up every argument.

It's amazing what will come out. Or won't. Sometimes what you write will have more drivel than an episode of The Real Housewives of Melbourne (confession: I'm actually a closet fan), but the important thing is you have words on a page. A place to start, that can be edited (and re-edited) later, once you've got all the facts.

But what happens when you are furiously writing away and you know there is something that you don't know? It might be a big, meaty piece of research that you need to read and reference later, or it might just be that you can't think of the exact word that you want to use. Rather than stopping, you need a placeholder. A reminder that you need to come back and check it later.

Timesaver tip number 2: The Gosling Gap.

This is where the Gosling Gap comes in. Rather than writing 'XXXX', or leaving blanks in your copy, you simply write the word 'Gosling' as a placeholder.

Then, later, you can use Ctrl-F (or Command-F if you use a Mac), to find all the little Goslings in your work. And rather than being an irritant, when you search for your Gosling Gaps you'll think not of those loathsome holes you have to fill, but of chiselled jawlines, broody eyes and muscular arms under white t-shirts. 

Ryan Gosling: best in brood. Image: New Line Cinema

Ryan Gosling: best in brood. Image: New Line Cinema

The joy of this trick is that it allows you to write faster. Under the encouraging gaze of Gosling, your words will pour out onto the page faster than Noah opened his heart to Allie (in The Notebook, obviously). Plus, your research will be quicker and easier because it becomes a frisky, rewarding mission to fill in the Gosling Gaps. Instead of being a mosquito bite on your piece of writing, those little Goslings will be like gentle caresses that you look forward to returning to. As soon as you have conquered your first Gosling Gap, you'll move onto the next with quivering anticipation.

It's worth letting you know that the Gosling Gap can be subbed out for the Hemsworth Hole, the Beckham Blank or even the Styles Spot (don't pretend you don't love him). Actually, don't use Styles, because that is an actual word and you want to use words that you aren't going to use in everyday language. Gosling is a fairly safe choice, unless of course you are an ornithologist or are writing a piece of content about baby swans. 

Harry Styles: don't attempt to use him for your gap (yes, I read what I just wrote, and I'm going to leave it right there). Image: Rex/Shutterstock

Harry Styles: don't attempt to use him for your gap (yes, I read what I just wrote, and I'm going to leave it right there). Image: Rex/Shutterstock

So there you have it. The Gosling Gap.

Embrace it, as Noah embraced Allie, and your life, like theirs, will never be quite the same again.

All the rain. All the kissing. Image: New Line Cinema

All the rain. All the kissing. Image: New Line Cinema