Oh boy. The dreaded writer’s block! It’s an ailment very few are immune to. Yep, even us copywriters (journalists, bloggers, novelists, you name it) with years of experience are known to suffer from the chronic condition from time to time.
We’re regularly asked how to overcome a bad case of I-don’t-know-what-to-write-itis, and in more recent years, I-don’t-know-what-to-write-in-this-Instagram-caption-itis.
So, it’s only fair we share some of our cures for this debilitating disorder so you will never (ok, rarely) suffer from I-don’t-know-what-to-write-itis again.
Pens and papers ready?
Let’s do it.
Why Writer’s Block Happens
First, let’s start with the psychology behind writer’s block.
The thing is, if we are to get down to basics, writer’s block is likely brought on by a few things, which are (#truthbomb) usually all in our head.
Perfectionism, fear of rejection and lack of time are some of the main causes of writer’s block and manifest in excuses, procrastination and, you guessed it, the inability to get our brain into gear.
A 2012 Psychology Today article discusses the challenges of embarking on a new project – in other words, sitting in the chair and putting all your energy into making magic on the page.
“The prospect of having to invent an entire world is a little like having the creative responsibilities of God – with none of the superpowers,” the article stated. “The task feels impossible.”
This post refers to the state of flow. Without a sense of flow, writers may feel paralysed, stagnant in their rut. Instead of fixating on how to express yourself ‘well’, think about expressing yourself freely.
Try to ignore the stories you’re telling yourself in your head: “I’m not good enough”, “What if they hate it?” or “I don’t have time for this.”
It will actually take some mindfulness to focus on the task at hand and ignore that voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough – and yes, it’s just a made up story.
Know Your Brand
But sometimes writer’s block goes a little further than psychology.
Sometimes it comes down to not knowing your brand inside and out and being constantly inspired by your brand messaging.
Let’s say you’re so excited about a beautiful photo you’re ready to post on Instagram, but you can’t think of a witty caption to go with it. You’d love to be one of those brands who can tell a long and interesting story about how they started their business, or how they got their name. But you have no idea what your story is.
Brands often come to us asking for help with their Instagram captions and this is usually where they’re falling down – by either not having an articulated brand message, or having one and forgetting just how important it is, especially when presenting their brand on social media.
So, what can you do now?
Here are 4 ways to help you cure your next case of I-don’t-know-what-to-write-itis.
1. Get clear on your brand values
The first thing to consider are your brand values . Also known as: What do YOU as a brand stand for?
These are things like honesty, integrity, innovation, respect and basically explain the way your business/brand operates. Whatever your values are, they underpin all of your brand messaging and should definitely be thought of prior to writing Instagram copy.
A tip: If you have five brand values, try to write your posts based on those values. If a brand value is sustainability, on Mondays write something that conveys how important sustainability is to you. If your second value is honesty, write something truthful about yourself or your business that people will connect with, on Tuesdays.
2. Know your brand personality
Perhaps you’ve written your caption but it’s sounding a little ‘meh’. It tells the story you were hoping to tell but there’s no personality, no excitement, and no call to action. It’s there, but it’s not there, you know? This is where your brand personality comes in.
We will harp on about the importance of brand personality until the cows come home and it’s something we specialise in at Wordfetti; it’s the foundation for every word we write for each of our clients. If you know your brand personality, it’s going to be much easier to concoct interesting Instagram captions (or any brand messaging for that matter).
Is our personality cheeky, professional, informative, humorous, energetic, tongue-in-cheek? No matter the personality traits, once it’s nailed, not only will you find that cloud of Instagram writer’s block slowly lifting away, but you will also humanise your brands.
3. Know your big brand message
Your big brand message or your unique selling proposition (USP) is what sets you apart from your competitors.
This is a few paragraphs explaining what it is that you do and why it makes you better than the rest.
If you know this message, you can make sure it is articulated in your Instagram captions – sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously.
If your brand message is “we put the fun in functional fitness,” be sure to always articulate this in your Instagram captions.
Don’t confuse your audience by writing a lengthy caption about metabolic conditioning when they’re used to you posting light, positive messages that encourage them to move their body.
4. Ask: what do you want to get across?
Stop. Step Back. And ask: “What is the one big takeaway or question you want to answer?”
Then ensure your caption paints a picture to answer that.
If it’s an Instagram caption think about if you want to include dot points, if you want the caption to start big and bold with a controversial statement, if you want it to be short, succinct and to the point, or if it’s going to be long and conversational. If it’s a long caption, it’s handy to pick one point you’d like to get across, write a few sentences building up to that point and then finish with a call to action. Once you have your structure, consider tips one to three and write that bad boy!
So fam, there you have it.
It’s important to understand that writer’s block is inevitable and it happens to the best of us.
Whether it’s your brain playing tricks on you or you forgot to consider your brand messaging, it will happen and you will get out of it eventually if you stop, step back, look at things differently, and consider these four points before you make your move.
Want a head start when it comes to writing fresh and conversational-starting captions?
Or still lost for words when it comes to where to start and what to write?
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Until next time.
Anita Siek is an ex-lawyer turned Copywriter and the founder and director of Wordfetti. A Copywriting and communications house helping brands stand out in their industry through the understanding of consumer psychology, strategic thinking, and words.