Copywriting? Use More Paint
Painters and copywriters have more in common than one might think. I noticed this most recently when I stumbled across an eccentric YouTube video called "3 Great Tips to Cure Amateurish Looking Paintings" by a painter named Daniel Edmondson.
Edmondson says there are three common mistakes that keep an artist's work from looking professional. Eliminate them from your paintings, and you'll look a lot more professional and have much greater success.
And, with a little metaphorical stretching, his rules apply pretty well to copywriting too. Here are Edmondson's three rules and how they can transfer from paintbrush to keyboard:
- Preserve the integrity of your brushstrokes. Edmondson says, "Trust in each brushstroke." If it's good, have faith in it. If it's weak, do it again. But don't pick at it, overanalyze it and nibble it do death. As a writer, think of each sentence as your brushstroke. If it's not a powerful building block toward a strong paragraph, rewrite it. But if it's good, leave it alone.
- Be authoritative. If you want to convince your readers to take the action you want them to take, you have to be bold and strong. Copywriting, like painting or any other art, is about getting people to feel something. Readers won't feel the way you want them to if they don't trust you. And they won't trust you unless they feel your authority in every word you write.
- Use more paint. Edmondson is not telling painters to make their pictures more complicated. He's saying use more paint in every stroke. For the writer, "use more paint" doesn't mean use more words. It means use more emotion, more power, more oomph. This gets back to basics: Never use a long word when a short one will do. Write strong, and be confident in every word you write.
In great writing, as in great painting, success is not just a matter of talent and energy (though without those, your letter is never going to move anyone). It's a matter of judgment. As direct-marketing copywriters, we're fortunate, because we can actually measure the success of our efforts by the result they produce.
There's great power in your words. But to find it, you must, as the Second Apparition told Macbeth, "Be bloody, bold and resolute."
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.