I’ve known for a while that the greater the restrictions, the more creative I’m forced to become.
In writing, this can only be a good thing. Give me a deadline, give me a strict set of guidelines, give me an inflexible word count, and together they will force my creative thoughts into places they otherwise wouldn’t go.
This is true whether we discuss copywriting, screenwriting, novels or poetry – the more rules we impose, the more creative we have to become to make our words work within those rules.
Copywriters work within very strict rules all the time. Their words have to align with an established campaign, fit within a certain number of characters, and still contain all of the necessary information along with the call to action or proposition.
This is why it can be far harder and take far longer to write a one-line slogan and a hundred words of tight copy than a complete 1,000 word article.
In the below video, taken from Robert McKee’s brilliant Story seminar series, McKee stresses how counter to creativity freedom actually is.
Writers, like all artists I would imagine, wish to be free. They don’t like the idea of limitation. They want to be free – free to do anything that they want. But, of course, the desire to be free as an artist is one of the most suicidal emotions you can have.
Writing is about problem solving – always. Whether the problem is how to fit a predetermined company ideology into a 125×125 webpage banner with space for about five words, or whether the problem is how to get your lead character into the right place within your story for the plot to unfold correctly, writing is always about problem solving.
And that’s because problem solving forces creativity. Without a problem to solve, your solution won’t be remarkable. Without a deadline, your brain doesn’t have the sense of urgency to fire those creative muscles. Without a strict word or page count, the tendency to fight to reduce a script or article to the most potent ideas is lost, resulting in overlong and padded, verbose and therefore boring writing.
So try to find creative freedom by imposing more restrictions. If there isn’t a word count, decide on one and stick to it. If the copywriting brief is vague, ask questions until it is fixed and very specific.
Seems counter-intuitive I know, but your work will improve because of it.