Photo by Paul.
If you are working as a copywriter, or in any creative field, you need to be able to have ideas to order, to meet deadlines.
The good news is that having ideas is something that can be learnt. There are proven techniques that can be followed. The most famous, certainly in the copywriting world, was outlined in a book(let) called A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young, first published in the 1940s.
It’s well worth getting a copy and reading in full. The essence of the book, however,is to break the technique for having ideas down into five steps.
Step 1 – Gather raw materials
The mind gathers its raw material. The material needs to be of two kinds: specific and general. For advertising the specific information is about the product and the target audience. General information includes anything and everything and is a lifelong exercise.
Step 2 – Working over
Step 2 is to chew over the facts, bring them together and see how they fit. Sometimes the facts reveal their meaning more quickly if you don’t look at them too directly. You almost need to “listen for meaning instead of looking for it.” As small, partial ideas come to you, write them down, now matter how crazy or incomplete.
Step 3 – Incubation
Walk away. Put the whole problem out of your mind for a while. Let your unconscious mind work on it for a while. Do something else, something which stimulates your imagination and emotions. It could be reading a novel, going to a concert, listening to some music. You are giving yourself time to digest the facts.
Step 4 – Eureka!
If you’ve done the first three steps successfully, then an idea should appear ‘from nowhere.’ It could come at any time and probably when you least expect it. The answer to your problem may appear to leap into your mind for no apparent reason.
Step 5 – Shaping and development
The idea has to be turned into reality, into something that can be used in the real world. You need to show your ideas to others and see what they think. They may be able to add to it and make it better. It may spark whole new ideas.