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Lift and Separate (Copywriting Tip #12)

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An idea is a new combination of old elements

This part comes after.

After the interviews and after reading the transcripts, after absorbing the journal articles and revisiting the notes from discussions with various experts. After taking in as much as you can, there is the sitting-back and ordering of facts and impressions.

Maybe you use an outline. Maybe you use index cards. Maybe you use a mind map or a white-board. Maybe you draw figures or icons on the back of corporate memos. But this is an essential creative exercise: sorting through and lifting up what keeps coming to the top. This creative exercise is about identifying and corralling the really important stuff. The stuff that simply must be transmitted.


Take steps to see more.


A shortcut to this essential phase is a conversation. If a colleague interrupts you with “What’s that project about?” The first three things out of your mouth—those things worth remarking on aloud—those three things need to find their way into the copy. Often they become the main topics.

Sometimes I’ll just start writing to see what I say. Give yourself 10 minutes to answer “What is this about?” and you will come close to producing an outline for the piece.

Or you can write a letter to a smart ten-year-old. Molding an idea into a simplified (but not simplistic) presentation has a clarifying effect.

The point is that your mind needs to find a grapple with myriad  facts and figures and impressions and data—to sort minor from major and to begin to find the story that makes sense to you and to your target audience.

I like the wide-open blank page aspect of this exercise. I also like that brand new stuff presents itself during the exercise:

…an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.

–James W. Young, A Technique for Producing Ideas (NY: Thinking Ink Media, 2011)



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

January 26, 2015 at 9:06 am

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