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Posts Tagged ‘Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas

Copywriting is a Full-Contact Sport

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James Young: a Technique for Producing Ideas

Today we discuss Mr. Young’s book on how to have ideas. It’s an old book and disregarded by some of my copywriter/art director friends. But I come back to it again and again. I like how Mr. Young serves up the notion of a way to go deeper than our immediate surface reaction. I like the book because he provides signposts and mile-markers along the road of getting to the heart of a notion.

Now that's good copy.

Now that’s good copy.

To me, copywriting is a full-contact sport. Here’s what I mean: ideas do not come from sitting in a dark room and thinking deep thoughts. That is called a “nap.” Ideas come from a mind-body connection. Copywriting starts with gathering materials (Young’s Step #1) and then writing out the connections between those materials and the target audience’s problem or perceived need (Young’s Step #2—Masticate). This mastication or digestion step involves pages of false starts and headlines and mind-maps. It involves shuffling index cards and drawing with crayons on the walls/arms/shoes and many dumb sketches. It involves telling others your nascent point and watching their reaction (“What the…. Huh? Get away from me.”)

I particularly love Young’s Step #3—Walk Away. It’s when I go for a bike ride or a jog or a walk. Or lunch. Anything other than the problem at hand. And then—Behold—the solution pops into being. Fully-formed. Sorta. Sometimes it’s an ugly baby and needs, shall we say, a trim. But out of this process come useful ideas that get to the heart of the matter and may—just possibly—cut through clutter rather than add to it.04012014-YoungBookCover

Check out Maria Popova’s take on Young’s technique here.


Image via Copyranter


Risky and Risqué Reading for Christian Copywriting Students

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Reading is dangerous. And profitable.

On Tuesday I start teaching Freelance Copywriting (Eng3316) at Northwestern College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. These are junior and seniors largely from the English department, but also from Journalism, Communications and Business. They are generally excellent writers and engaged students—people eager to take their faith into the street. We’ll use a few thought-provoking texts that deal with the business side of copywriting, along with the what to expect as a copywriter and how to get better at producing salable ideas (Bowerman’s The Well-Fed Writer, Iezzi’s The Idea Writers, Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas). But I’ve become convinced the real-time critiques of working copywriters around the web are just as helpful if not more useful than our texts. It’s just that the language and images used in the critiques often veer outside the lines of nice and polite, though I would argue the critiques follow the line of conversation Jesus the Christ encouraged with regular people like me.


I’ve devised a warning:

Question: Is this overkill? My goal is to help prepare thoughtful writers who fold God’s message of reunion into their communication work and live it out in a world that operates on a very different basis. I think students will understand. I’m not sure the administration will.

What do you think?


Image Credit: Chris Buzelli via 2headedsnake

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