You feel it, don’t you?
The tightening in you chest. The clench in your stomach. The racing thoughts as you try to figure where to begin.
There’s just something about the blank page that can make even the most confident writers feel like they’re lost in a sea of uncertainty.
The empty white space just waiting to be filled. The cursor blinking mockingly, daring us to come up with something good.
Cue the anxiety!
When I feel myself losing the battle with the blank page, I tend to run away.
I’m the self-proclaimed Queen of avoiding hard things. So I’ll scrunch up the digital paper and shove it into my drawer. Out of sight, out of mind.
But what do you do when you have to push the words out no matter what?
Whether you’re a copywriter or course creator – all of us in the online business world have to face up to the blank page eventually.
So what do you do when you’ve got a client waiting for you to write for them? Or when you want to launch a new offer, but you got no clue how to talk about it?
They say deadlines are supposed to help us.
And anyone who’s ever procrastinated a college assignment only to miraculously come up with 10,000 words one day before the deadline can agree with this.
BUT deadlines can also backfire and heap on even more anxiety.
Because you’re not just aiming for an arbitrary grade.
In the “real world” the words you write mean something. To the clients who pay you upwards of 4-figures. Or to your business, because your ability to make sales (AKA pay your mortgage) depends on what you say.
And the closer you get to the deadline without anything feasible on the page, the more your palms sweat, stomach clenches, and you spiral into a never-ending loop of self-doubt.
This angst-ridden pattern is something I was all too familiar with in the early days of writing launch copy.
I’d plop myself at my desk, excited to write. But as soon as I hit a roadblock or struggled to figure out how to make my ideas connect, the fear would start to creep in.
What if the client hated it? What if it didn’t convert? Was I even using the right strategy? Maybe I should offer them a refund.
The project that once held so much promise now felt like an obstacle, and my confidence quickly eroded.
And instead of continuing to chip away at the copy, I’d dive under my sheets, swipe open YouTube, and watch Tedx talks about anxiety.
The thing is: the project would always get done.
Sure, there’d be some hair-pulling and head-banging against the keyboard in an attempt to battle my anxiety — but the copy would always get finished. And despite my worst fears my client would rip it to shreds and demand a refund, they’d like it!
But the more projects I took on, the more I realised there had to be a better way to handle the angst that inevitably creeps up.
I’m not an expert.
But after battling through countless rounds of anxiety in the writing arena —
Here are the things that helped me vanquish the blank page and ship my work:
Give yourself permission to be sucky.
The pressure to write the perfect blend of high-converting words mixed with on-point humour, and a sprinkle of persuasion without being too salesy straight away – is like pouring a tub of gasoline onto the anxiety fire.
So many of us want to produce perfect words right outta the gate. But as the saying goes: you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. And you can’t write a brilliant piece without a couple dozen shitty drafts.
So let yourself word vomit a bunch of nonsense onto the page. Clear the gunk out of your wheels. And you may just find something good will appear out of that mess.
Make friends with your sweetheart, not your critic.
I swiped this from one of my favourite authors, Natalie Goldberg, who wrote Writing Down the Bones. (Great read, highly recommend).
She talks about your inner critic — the voice that tells you you’re the worse writer in the world and everything your produce is trash. He/She/They usually takes on the face of the person you hate the most. And they happen to be the default voice for many of us.
But your sweetheart? She’s like the soothing balm on your raw, chafing wounds. She busts out the confetti when you string together one whole sentence. She shakes her pom poms and encourages you to keep writing, no matter what.
And I know who I’d much rather have hanging out in my corner when I’m facing down the barrel of an impending deadline.
Write something else.
Lately, I find my favourite words come when I’m not actively working on the task. I think of the best ideas for launch emails when I’m in the middle of writing the sales page.
(And I think up even better ideas once it’s already submitted to the client. Oops).
Often, moving onto another creative task and letting the ideas percolate is the very best thing you can do to kickstart your creativity. Once the pressure’s off, the golden thread connecting all your ideas will start to come to light.
Keep facing your fears
Remember when I told you I used to be petrified of the blank page when it came to sales pages?
Well – since it’s the number one deliverable my clients keep coming back for – I’ve had no choice but to push through the discomfort and continue writing them.
And you know what?
The more sales pages I wrote and researched, the more I improved, and the more confidence I gained. And now, I don’t feel the same intense stomach-clenching, chest-tightening anxiety when someone asks me to write them.
Sure, there are still prickly situations when I have to check in with fellow copywriters and to gain clarity or see if I’m on the right track. But it takes me half the time to figure out the best strategy to adopt and how the individual sections will flow.
So if you have no choice but to continue writing for a living, throw yourself in it and you may just find it gets easier.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this quote from Natalie Goldberg to cheer you on the next time anxiety feels like it’s winning —
“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.”
When you write for your own projects, it’s easy to let anxiety (and your jam-packed calendar) convince you to keep tossing it onto the back burner.
If you want someone who has no choice but to battle through the anxiety, prioritise your project, and get it done, hire a copywriter. Like me.