How to rip words to pieces and spill out their guts

 

Gross. Why should you give a rat’s rear The word "words" breaking into pieces with blood coming out of it
end?

I know, it’s off-putting. But I’d like to share what I’ve been learning as a copywriter.

And I’m just going to skip a long intro and jump right into my wild idea. Let me start by asking a question.

What are words?

Good question, right? Well, let’s see…they’re linguistic expressions. And they’re not real things, in the sense they’re not real human experience. Take the word “experience,” for instance. It’s not actual…experience. It just tells you to think about the concept of “experience” when you read the word. So, words merely convey past experiences you’ve had.

Experience and the words we express those experiences by are two separate entities.

For example, take the word “worry.” What is the word, “worry”? Nothing, right? It’s just 4 linguistic symbols, constructed into a 5-letter word to convey something we experience.

Therefore, words don’t equal experience. They’re signposts for experience.

Now let’s go on a hypnotic journey and shred up the word “worry” together…

Imagine the word “worry” in your head. Do it. Do you have a picture of it in your head right now?

Now, imagine a hand coming up behind the word “worry.” In that hand is a jagged kitchen knife. Can you picture it?

Suddenly, make the knife come down on the word “worry.”

Imagine “worry” splintering to pieces…

…and out of the word “worry” explodes images of anxiety and dread from your past, as if your horrible experiencing are playing back to you in a cinematic flashback.

What do you see?

Watch it for a while.

Really, what do you see? And, what do you hear?

Better yet, what do you smell?

What can you reach out and touch, grab, smack over the head, shove out of your way, run away from?

It’s okay, we won’t stay here too long.

Now, imagine all of those shredded pieces of the word “worry” floating back into place…

…and letters form…

…while the cuts and rips in the text bleed back together…

…and what you’re left with is the word “worry” again, and the anxious flashback you saw in front of you disappears completely.

But then, the word pulsates a bit, threatening to shatter again, hardly holding all those moments of negative experience contained inside itself.

Do you see what you just did?

And did you notice how I didn’t tell you what to see, hear, smell, or touch, but chances are you saw a lot of things you’d rather not think about?

Those flashbacks you just had are the experience behind the word “worry.” And chances are your readers have similar experiences contained inside their own “worry.”

So words don’t equal experiences, but…

…they do activate memories that are associated with that word.

A word is the shell of an egg. The memory that very same word activates is the yolk.

A word is the outer walls of your house. The memory that very same word activates is the space inside your living room.

A word is a painting. The memory that very same word activates is the artist’s process.

You get it. Now imagine your own metaphor:

A word is ________. The memory that very same word activates is ________.

It’s so important to recognize the experience behind words.

When you write a word like “worry,” just be aware — as a good writer — that it’s not the word itself that “does the work.”

It’s the experiences trapped inside the readers brain that you need to pay attention to.

I suspect that when you go back to write, you’ll see your copy explode before your eyes, activating the experiences those words convey. This is good. This is very good.

When you write to activate experiences, instead of just showing the world what a creative vocabulary you have, your writing becomes reader-centered, leading your consumer down a psychological, sensory path, instead of them thinking about what a great writer you probably think you are.

Now it’s your turn to hold the knife.

What words will you murder to see the experiences that lurk behind them? How will you use your new understandings about these words to evolve your writing style?

Animate your Copykiller, friends.

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Public execution: Let’s destroy a word, shall we?

Writers often talk about their love for words.

“Oh, I just LOVE words. Can’t get enough of them.”

But why do you LOVE words?

Seriously.

Words are frustrating. Words are difficult. Words are a barrier. Words get in the way of truly expressing an idea, or how you feel. Words are an enemy to authentic human connection. Words lie.

If anything, you should hate words.

I mean, I don’t hate words. I actually enjoy words.

But I also find them frustrating as hell. They’re like a whiny child who won’t do what you want unless you discipline them consistently. And that can get seriously exhausting, right?

“How..Can…I…Express…This…Simple…Idea? Rrrgh! Why is this so damn difficult?”

Ever slaved over a sentence thinking that to yourself?

So, do you really love words?

I mean, okay, I love words. I really do. But I don’t always like them.

I guess that’s my point.

Similar to all the important relationships you have in life, there’s love there. But you don’t always feel great about them. No relationship isn’t riddled with difficulty almost every day.

It’s a love-hate relationship, perhaps.

But for the sake of entertainment, I want to see how much fun it would be if we staged a “word execution” as a sort of linguistic exercise.

So how about we take a word, absolutely destroy it, and see what happens?

The purpose here is to have a fun, imaginative exercise, so you’ll actually feel more inspired about using this word in the future.

Because in order to create (feel motivated, innovative, inspire), sometimes you must bleed a little first.

“Love”

Love, any last words?

No?

Okay, here goes.

Love hangs with a black bag over its head, a trapdoor beneath its feet. The wooden platform, so rickety. So ready to snap free at any moment.

The priest: Love, writers all over the world use you for just about any branding campaign imaginable. A jury of your peers found you guilty of endlessly inspiring people to buy McDonald’s without question. You are hereby sentenced to hang until dead. May God have mercy on your soul. IF YOU HAVE ONE! MUA HA HA HAAA!

The trapdoor snaps free. The rope goes taught. Murmurs of shock and melancholy ripple through the crowd. Love’s legs kick for a moment, then quickly, there’s stillness.

The coroner: You have all accepted Love without questioning the extensive lexicon of human experience behind this word, and eaten way too much McDonald’s because they’ve successfully equated their fatty products with how you feel about your deepest human relationships. Is this right? Nay, I say. NAY. Let me tell you something about Love…

Let me deconstruct the word Love.

Let me show you how Love makes you feel.

Most likely, your parents told you almost every day that they loved you. You learned growing up this was an important idea. Love meant everything was okay. That even though your parents had to discipline you for your bad behavior, at the end of the day, they loved you. And that, above all else, mattered the most. It’s not without a huge sense of value do you read or hear the word Love.

When you moved out of your childhood home, you didn’t hear “I love you” so often. But McDonald’s gave you Love everyday, through their carefully engineered marketing and advertising. You wanted back so badly the love your parents had professed to you all those years, you visited the store and purchased their food products.

Think you don’t gravitate toward the word Love? Too bad. You’re psychologically manufactured to do just that.

“I’m lovin’ it.”

“Morning love.”

Love, love, love, love, love, love.  Fast food, fast food, fast food.

Some bright writer knew you had this nurtured need to feel loved, so they branded McDonald’s to make their culture and products synonymous with Love.

Brilliant, wasn’t it?

And you thought Love was just a word. No. Love is an entire wealth of experience. Love is an entire galaxy of feeling. Without Love, your experience is a black hole. Love fills that black hole and makes you feel everything is okay. Just as your parents disciplined you when you did something naughty, and afterward told you they loved you.

After you’ve done something bad or made a mistake at your job, do you ever feel like grabbing some McDonald’s? Hmmm?

Love’s death was deserved.

The end.

Okay, so, did you enjoy that? Just a little?

Look, I know I’m taking a crazy approach to talking about writing here. But it’s something I’ve got to do to feel inspired about writing again.

Plus, think about it. Really think about it: Words ARE a whole galaxy of psychology experiences, built up over the years.

So when you use a word, think about the years of experience you’re activating in your readers. Let that guide your drafting, revising and editing process.

 

 

 

How can you feel inspired about writing, right now?

I don’t know.

How do you do it?

In the writing world, you’ve heard talk about the structure of sentences and paragraphs. We apply metaphors to writing to help us understand how to follow a tight structure.

But in the end, writing is not a highway, a scenic trail, a house, a building. Sure, those metaphors can help us — a lot — to write with more clarity. But your structure’s pretty good. You’re on the right track.

So, why do you feel unmotivated to write?

So incredibly bored with your own thoughts? Running low on motivation?

One of the problems, I’ll venture to guess, is that you’ve somehow — somewhere along the way — restricted your creativity, or people around you have restricted it.

Because you’re not just a writer. There are so many other artistic qualities that inspire you. But somehow, when it comes to writing, we mentally transport ourselves back into our high school class rooms, where that horrible English teacher taught us how to write a proper essay.

There’s nothing wrong with structured writing. That’s good writing.

But why are you so dead-uninspired?

If you just want to write, write, write, you will get burned out. You will feel stuck. You will get to a point where you simply cannot write another sentence or you’ll feel like you want to kill yourself.

That’s why you need to activate other creative areas about yourself you love. And use those other artistic qualities in you to drive your writing.

Great writing doesn’t happen inside a vacuum. Writing conveys experience. Any of it. All of it. So why are you restricting your writing to some tiny pigeonhole of your experience? You need to expand your creative sights as you jump in to write, and activate those parts of you that get you excited.

I mean, some days you really just feel it. You’re ready to write. But at point or another, you’ll run out of gas. It’s almost impossible just to write, write, write, write, write, write, write.

Because sooner or later, the inspiring stimuli you’ve deprived yourself of will bite you in the rear, and you won’t have any good feelings to draw from anymore.

Some ways to light up your brain so you’ll feel more motivated to write:

  • Listen to your favorite music before, during, or after you write. Select wordless music if you can.
  • View videos and art that make you feel something. That make you feel anything. Knock yourself out of the stuffy confines of an academic, ultra-structured approach to writing.
  • This is why people listen to nature soundtracks while they work. They like how that stimulus makes them feel. It gets those positive, motivating brain chemicals flowing through their bodies, so they’re motivated to buckle down and get stuff done.

For some bizarre reason, I’m reminded of the Berlin wall right now. An amazing structure, right?

East and West Germany had created such a rigid rivalry between each other, the two regions were separated by a structure. To keep away from each other and maintain their political, social structures.

But at some point or another, people realized they had to tear it down if they were to truly abolish a stuffy, socialist system.

History buffs out there, I’m sorry for castrating such a complex, serious topic. But do you feel me, at least a little bit?

That’s how I feel about lack of motivation in writing. There’s this huge, menacing wall between my creativity and my writing process.

And sometimes, it takes a little destruction to bridge the gap between these two regions of the brain.

So you can write whatever you want. You have freedom to do that!

BLAGAJKJDFKDAJALKKKKKKKKKKK….;fsl;;;;

See? I don’t care. I do what I want. You know why? Because it’s worth it to me to be nonsensical, go a little mad, get super creative, if that means feeling inspired about my writing again.

So I’m going to draw pictures for no reason. I’m going to dive into those locked up parts of my brain that I’ve neglected. I’m going to make a conscious effort to reactivate my childish imagination.

Do you remember how you felt as a child when you played imaginary games?

No matter what was going on in your life — mom and dad fighting, bad relationships with siblings and neighborhood kids, getting in trouble — you could play a game and totally escape all of that.

Imagination is a great coping mechanism. So activate it. The world can be an impersonal, unforgiving place. Throw some paint into its face. Take revenge on the mechanical, stale realities of the world.

Get excited for absolutely no reason.

I’m tired of feeling scared because of adult responsibilities.

I’m tired of fearing about what will happen if I take risks. I’m tired of feeling like I’m going to fail.

Throw some freaking paint in its face! Don’t ever forgive the world for taking your youthful joy away from you. Don’t even forgive your brain development over the past 15-20 years.

Take revenge. Get angry at it. And never neglect your imagination. Some day, it may disappear entirely, and you’ll never be able to get it back again.

Look, I don’t think you should use imagination to paint over reality so you don’t have to DEAL with real situations, or your lot in life, or your responsibilities.

I think you should use imagination to deal with the grim FACE of reality. Your imagination is there. It’s a welcome friend waiting to play. All you have to do is spend time with it, and it’ll help you feel awesome dealing with things you’d otherwise avoid, run away from, or ignore entirely.

Imagination is your friend. It can get you excited again. To quote Starwars, “Just let it in.”

Now go spend a little time looking, listening, or doing something that excites your freakin’ brain. Only then will you be able to fall in love and get inspired about writing again.

 

 

What … or who … is Copykiller?

 

In a nutshell, Copykiller is an idea.

It’s a concept, meant for writers, to inspire and motivate them to set goals and reach the next step of excellence in their writing careers.

Copykiller is a character, too. One I made up. Because, I looked deep inside my own writing life, found that I was feeling uninspired, and I realized I needed something compelling to motivate me to become a better writer.

If you’re the kind of person who likes weird ideas, and you know in your heart it’s those weird ideas that cause revolutionary change in the world, you’re going to love this.

 

So, you’ve watched a few horror movies in your time, or a hundred. You may love them, you may hate them, or, like most people, you may have a hyperactive curiosity about them — but you’re unwilling to go all in with the genre.

You know what a slasher film is, right? The kind of film where a group of ignorant teenagers and misfits hang out in a remote area for a weekend, and they’re all killed except for one strong, surviving heroine? And in the end, that survivor kills the killer, or at least makes the murderer disappear until the sequel?

Are you ready to make a huge, imaginative leap?

Step up to the precipice…

As a copywriter, imagine the beginning of the slasher film is your first attempt at writing your copy, your rough draft. You’re glad you’ve sweated out this first stage of writing, and you’re sort of happy with what you’ve produced, but you’re not sure what happens next.

That’s where Copykiller comes in.

When you write your first draft, you’re a copywriter. When it’s time to improve on all the mistakes you’ve probably made — when you revise, edit and proof your draft — the Copykiller comes alive in you.

Now it’s time to slice and dice all those unnecessary words, beating and choking and kicking and killing your copy until all that’s left is the most powerful copy. The lone survivor.

Once you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you can’t possibly improve the copy any more, the surviving copy defeats the Copykiller, sending it back to the dark abyss from whence it came.

Then you’re just an ordinary copywriter again. Your strongest draft gets published and you pat yourself on the back.

But you know, deep down, the Copykiller’s still out there, ready to pounce again once you’ve completed your next rough draft of whatever it is you’re writing. And this time, it’ll be stronger than ever, having learned from your tricks, your shortcuts and your weaknesses as a writer.

Copykiller dies each day, but it always, always, always rises from the ashes and comes back stronger the next day than the day before.

What that means for you is this: Make your next round of copy better than the last, so at least a few powerful phrases will be able to survive the wrath of a bigger, badder version of the Copykiller.

Sometimes, when you write, looking over your shoulder from time to time, you wonder if the Copykiller is just a figment of your imagination. Is it … out there? Or … does it live … inside me?

Even while studying your customers, you’ve noticed you’ve adopted the meticulous habits of a social freak, researching who these people are by stalking their social accounts, blogs, YouTube channels, Etsy stores, and begging the people around you for demographic data and tracking results. The way your colleagues look at you — you think, just maybe — you might be more like the Copykiller than you’d like to admit to your parents, your loved ones, even yourself.

Can it be? You create copy just to delete a lot of it? And leave only the best sentences and turns of phrase standing?

Suddenly, you remember, in a flashback, deleting words you knew and loved — yet you knew, deep inside, that your target customers wouldn’t relate to them at all. So they had to go … THEY HAD TO GO.

The end.

You get the idea.

I’m going to commit to that idea, too, and reference it often. Copykiller is here to help you become a more imaginative, inspired, faster, analytical and ruthless writer. Because those are some of the key traits it takes to survive when people are paying for your craft.

I don’t know what it is. I just find the idea of madness quite motivating. Anyone in their right mind wouldn’t be willing to revise the crap out of their copy. It totally goes against our childhood desire to create, show our work to mommy and have her go, “That’s so nice, honey!”

In the end, applying a critical eye to your own copy can be soul-crushing. That’s why I’m applying this creative idea to the process — copykilling — to help inspire you as you go through the process of evolving your craft.

Copykiller belongs to you.

Think of it like a secret chamber where you can delve into ideas about writing without anyone bothering you or telling you you’re crazy (newsflash: you are crazy, or you wouldn’t be here. But that’s okay. “We’re all mad here” … )

Just be careful.

The spirit of Copykiller lives on this site. So, whenever you come here, and you read a blog article, or look at an illustration, a little essence o’ Copykiller rubs off on you.

Fair warning.

Now that I’ve explained all the conceptual stuff behind Copykiller, let’s dive into some actionable content. Let’s get inspired. Let’s feel free. Let’s be little kids again and show those stuffy adults how we kill it in the marketplace!

Animate your Copykiller, today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I started Copykiller

You understand this is a blog.

Duh.

You’re pretty sure it’s written by a copywriter — and it’s for other writers. It contains tips, anecdotes and rants about writing and marketing.

Yep.

But let’s peel back the surface for a moment, and I’ll break out and explain why the heck I started this project in the first place.

Of course, if you’re not too concerned with my backstory, jump over to one of my more actionable posts. Those are what you’re after.

For the rest of you: So … here’s my backstory, in so many words. I’ve worked at an ad agency as a copywriter for a little while now. It’s my first position in marketing. I find myself … running low … on inspiration.

It’s no one’s fault but mine. The problem, I think, has arisen because I’ve been writing branded copy/content, and I’ve neglected my own … what do you call it … identity? As an artist. As a writer.

This blog is meant to help you and myself find inspiration and drive, so we can find true happiness doing what we do.

I guess you could say I’ve lost that loving feeling — towards writing : )  I’ve lost touch with my personal brand, I guess. It’s the thing that should launch me out of bed in the morning, jacked up and happy to churn out copy at the agency I’m working for.

Without a strong sense of personal development and identity, I guess I’ve lost some measure of motivation as a writer.

I mean, shoot me. Just being transparent about it.

There’s some intuitive part of me that knows I can get excited again and keep it that way if I’m able to inspire myself and others to reach the next level of excellence, whether that be improving as a writer, or landing that new job, or getting a promotion, or just being recognized for writing some hard-hitting, emotionally-poignant copy.

But how can you produce breathtaking words, sentences, and paragraphs if you’re not excited about it?

That’s why I’ve conjured up Copykiller.

It’s the answer to your unhappiness as a writer. Now let’s dig deep and get inspired. Because that, my friends, is what makes happy writers, yeah?

 

 

 

Why have you come here?

Well, let’s figure it out.

Are you a writer?

Do you aspire to write for a living?

Do you have that aching pain inside you that knows you need to write more, write better, write faster, write for a purpose?

Do you want to write to help people lead less painful lives?

Do you want to write to lift yourself out of the life you’ve been living?

Do you want to feel inspired about what you do, and prove to yourself, your family and friends that you can find success?

Do you even, sort of, want to prove people wrong? That when they asked you why you majored in your field, or told you your ideas were weird — or even that you were weird — that you can now tell them, and they’ll know … they had jack squat to do with your glittering success?

Do you want to be excellent, recognized, accepted?

Do you want to be better than anyone else at what you do? Come on, don’t you want to be the best in your field, or at least pretty darn good? Someone who people look up to, use as an example, stare wide-eyed at and wonder what they themselves are doing with their lives, and then inspire those people to pursue their goals?

If you’re saying “yes … uh-huh … yep … get to the point …” in the back of your throat, I’m so glad you’re here!

Enough grilling.

I answer “yes” to those questions, too.

The reason for this blog is I’m tired of feeling stagnant. Unmotivated. Uninspired. Lackluster. To me, those words are synonymous with “Death.” I hate everything about how those words make me feel. I’m vehemently prejudiced against them.

So I’m going to try my damndest to snap myself out of this funk. Burnout, stagnation, boredom, whatever you want to call it. And I’m going to solve my problem through writing. And I’m going to make this journey so refreshing and analytical, we won’t have the time to let malaise set in.

Hopefully, I can help you, too. To be the best writer you can possibly be, and avoid sluggishness.

Because look, I’m not even talking about writer’s block (necessarily). I’m talking about feeling unhappy with your lot in life, and now you want to improve yourself, and by doing so, improve your situation in life.

And specifically, I want to help us all be the best copywriters, content marketers, producers, authors, ghostwriters — whatever title you have or want.

(I am a copywriter, by the way.)

If you write and you write for profit, I want you here.

Welcome to Copykiller.

I’m super excited to dive into my journey to become a better writer. Because you always want to get better, right? It’s all uphill from here.

Come on, let’s go!