Copywriting 101: The First Pancake

Confession: I procrastinated majorly writing this part 2 of my copywriting series for you guys. Like, it’s 9 p.m. on Monday night and I know this blog post is going live in a few hours, and I’m just now writing this sentence. Even after 10+ years of writing and editing, I still have trouble with the words sometimes, even if I’ve got the concept down.

For example, Last week I told you why you should be blogging, and this week we’re starting with the how. But how do I start?

It’s a pretty tall order to teach the how of writing, and it’s a little intimidating to get right. So I procrastinated. I tried to brainstorm ideas all day, but once again, my favorite quote is right: The doing of it is the thing. Sitting down and simply starting this post is how it’s getting done.

So, you’ve decided to blog. You’ve made a list of topics for your blog. You brewed coffee and returned your emails. You put on some mood music. You took the dog for a walk. You thought about pouring some wine… oh wait, yes, you still have to write the post. But you have no idea where to start.

Which Mind Are You?

Start with the first sentence. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s well-written, clear, concise, grammatically correct—you’re worrying about all of those things, trying to get it right from the very start. But you can’t, you’re brain is either too clogged with words you need to get on the page right now, or it’s completely empty with zero words, almost as if words didn’t even exist. Both of these situations are OK.

If it feels like your brain has too many ideas to function, start writing. The next thing that comes to mind, put it down on paper (or, um, in html). You’ll sort it out later, but the first step is spilling the words onto the page.

If you’ve got zero words in your mind, that’s fine too. Think of the concept you’re writing about, summarize it in the most general way you can think of, and then write it down in one sentence. It’s your starting point. You’ll keep going from there, gradually getting more specific, until you have an entire paragraph. Keep spitting out the specifics.

There’s a common element here: The first sentence.

The first sentence is the first pancake. It doesn’t actually matter what you write for your first sentence because you’re going to throw it out anyway.

It’s like when you make pancakes and you throw out the first one because it’s more for determining correct temperature than for eating (though, if you’re me, you probably ate the first pancake anyway. *shrugs*)

Why throw out that first sentence that took you so long to get on the page in the first place?

“The only kind of writing is rewriting”—Ernest Hemingway

I hate the break it to you, but you’re going to throw out most of what you write. Or, at least, you’re going to rewrite most of it. That’s a good thing. It’s how you weed out the useless, fluffy words and get down to business with the useful, entertaining words.

And that’s the first step! As simple as it can be, just write. And then keep going. When you finally reach a point and where you can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief and feel a little bit empty (in a good way), then the work begins. Then you’ll start to rewrite. When all is said and done,

“I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” ―Vladimir Nabokov

I have more in store for you next week! We’ll be talking about Copywriting 101: Mastering an Outline. In the coming weeks, we’ll also cover: becoming your own editor; choosing visual content to pair with your posts; creating an editorial calendar; and how to edit one blog post for multiple platforms. Plus, check out part 1 if you missed it—Copywriting 101: Yes, You Should Be Blogging.

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