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3 Tips to Bust Through Writer’s Block and Create Magnetic Headlines That Rock

How to Cure Writer's Block

It’s a writer’s and business owner’s worst fear.

You’ve just written an awesome piece of content. You know this is it!  People are going to love what you wrote.

Now, just one last step. You’re searching for the perfect words to create the headline that will draw readers in like bees to honey.

Yet instead, you’re stuck with the dreaded blank screen.

That blinking cursor of doom is flittering at you – like an impatient tapping finger on the table….words… must…come…out.

But nothing’s happening.

Recently, I talked about 5 simple ways to get more people to read your emails.  It broke down different strategies to use in order to create a perfect headline.

But what if you feel stuck with generating your headline?

This article shows you how to get unstuck when you’re having writer’s block, so you can create that perfect, magnetic headline.

By the way, when I’m talking about a HEADLINE, I mean the title of an email, teleseminar, speaking engagement, or a book you send to your list.

It’s the first piece of text that people see to attract them to what you’re offering. So it matters a lot!

Are you ready? Below are three strategies you can use to overcome even the most perilous case of writer’s block.

Tip #1. Use quantity to get to quality

This is the #1 strategy I – along with my team – use to help us generate an audience-grabbing headline.

If you find yourself stuck, commit to writing 15-20 headlines for a single email.

I can practically hear your gasps coming through the computer screen as I write this. But trust me, it works.

This will allow you to get through all the bad headlines to a really great one.   Or from the “good” headlines to the “great” headlines, which is what you’re really aiming for.

It’s a simple strategy:

Step #1: Open a blank document on your computer.
Step #2: Write down the first 15-20 headlines that come into your head until you find one that wins. Really go wild with the brainstorming, and put down even terrible ideas! They help loosen up your brain so the creative ideas come out.
Step #3: Keep going until you think you have 1 or 2 or 3 winning ideas.
Step #4: Decide on your top 3, and then narrow it down to the winner. Do some final wordsmithing if needed.

Treat your headline with the same care and importance that you do with the rest of your content. You want to make sure you’re spending just as much time on the headline as you are on the content itself!  If you don’t grab your readers right off the bat, they won’t read the content you’ve worked so hard on.  So take time to write the headline that will draw in your tribe authentically.

Tip #2. Create a swipe file

This is a secret straight from the experts. The world’s best copywriters have this strategy in their back pocket to create headlines that that will “pop,” inspire and get their material read.

In writer’s lingo, a document where you gather headlines is called a “swipe file.”

When you’re in need of inspiration, go through your swipe file and look through headlines you can amend to fit your audience.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Borrow from other people’s hard work, and tailor it to fit your audience!

As a business owner, I imagine you subscribe to quite a few newsletters (I know I do!).  This makes you the expert at what people (namely you) like to open.  Spend a few minutes a day looking at what emails grabbed your curiosity.  Open a word document or Google document and cut and paste the best ones you see.  Save the document and call it “Great Headlines.” This is your new swipe file.

For example:
If you love a headline about gardening, and your email is about marketing, cut and paste it into your “Great Headlines” document. Take the essence of what you liked about the headline and change it to suit your audience.

Here’s how you might change it:
Do you make these gardening mistakes?  (from swipe file)
Do you make these marketing mistakes? (translated for your audience)

If you’d like more inspiration, this is also a great resource of the best headlines in the history of advertising.

Look at these headlines, and use them to get more ideas on some headlines that speak to the hearts and minds of your audience.

This is one of the easiest, foolproof strategies I know. The best part is this: you can do this in about 3-5 minutes a day until you have enough headlines gathered.

Tip #3.  Read magazine/article headlines

Here’s another secret from the world’s greatest writers and copywriters – pick up your favorite magazine, and scroll through the headlines.

Ever notice how much the headlines on a magazine can grab your attention? I know when I’m checking out at the grocery store, it’s hard to resist throwing a magazine into the cart.

Magazine writers don’t have much room to get their point across, and sales all depend on how quickly they can grab your attention at the checkout line.

So you can get a lot of ideas from these master works of copy.

Don’t read or subscribe to any magazines? Consider buying a magazine the next time you’re in line at the grocery store. Pick a magazine that draws you in.

You can also go online line and try out what I like to call a “Headlines inspiration Station”: The Huffington Post and Upworthy.

These online publications are vying and competing with your time on the internet, and have only a few seconds to grab your attention and draw you in.

Explore their pages, and look through what headlines are grabbing you. They have mastered the craft of drawing their readers in.

Take note of the ones that you can’t help but click.  Cut and paste the winners into your swipe file. Or use one of the headlines you’ve noticed to inspire something you’re working on today!

Conclusion

Creating great headlines can be hard (especially in that first moment when you’re looking at a blank piece of paper or blank screen), but it doesn’t have to be. Use these three tips listed above to generate headlines with greater ease.

Remember to spend about as much time on your headline as you do creating your content.

Your headline is the gateway to your work, and taking the time to write a magnetic headline can be the difference between attracting a lot of people to your content or listening to a symphony of crickets.

If you’re wanting specific tips on the types of headlines that are magnetic, check out the last post I did, 5 ways to get more people to read your email.

What are your favorite tips for overcoming writer’s block?  Have any of your own not listed here? Let me know in the comments below!

Warmly,

~Bill

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Comments

  1. Writer’s block is something I never have trouble with, I can write pages and pages and never run out of ideas. One of my biggest challenges is protecting my work and I vigorously prosecute people who violate my copyrights. My writing is one of the cornerstones of my business and people who steal my work are stealing from my bottom line. So it was surprising to see you use the phrase ‘steal from someone’s hard work’ because I’m one of those people that those who can’t come up with their own original content steal from and I don’t appreciate it. Since I have a weekly audience of over 3 million for my newsletters, if someone steals my work it’s often my readers who let me know and they don’t think much of the person who stole it. Rather than suggesting that people engage in illegal and unprofessional behavior, I would suggest that someone with persistent writer’s block hire a copywriter or professional to do their writing for them. There are plenty of freelancers who excel at this work and who would be happy for the gig. In the meantime, I suggest that you refrain from suggesting that your audience uses others’ work because they may receive a tense reminder that copyright laws exist for a reason and stealing is stealing, no matter how well intended or desperate the ‘borrower’ is.

  2. Hi Bill, Thanks for the ideas, I’ve written something similar just recently as well. It’s titled “Tips for Breaking Down Writer’s Block” http://www.succeedatwriting.com/2014/08/tips-for-breaking-down-writers-block.html I’m a writer’s coach and give workshops and presentations on the craft of writing as well as keep up with my blog on giving writing tips and prompts. Any time you want to go on the road together, my bags are packed! 🙂

  3. These are really great ideas…same principals apply to naming products as well. A google image search of different combinations of the primary words can loosen up the mind too. Thanks for a great article.

  4. Pretty much covered the basis of writers block.

    I’ve been making them fun recently, which is helping — I think to create curiosity.

    Great tips. I use the third one most often.

    Nathalie

  5. Thank you Bill! Another great article! You write with such clarity and get to the essentials with such ease of reading and understanding. Much gratitude and appreciations for your contributions to my business development and to my life in general. In terms of overcoming writers block, I think you covered the essentials. Here is something that I do that seems to help. When I am feeling stuck in this area, I find a way to turn it from an “OIY!” to a “JOY!” by setting myself up in my environment in a pleasurable way. When I engage with “pleasure” it is easier for me to both access my authentic self, my creative juices, my fun mindset and helps me to lighten up in regards to the internal gremlins that keep me from enjoying the process. So my question for others is “what brings you pleasure?”. Experiment with Incorporating that into you workspace, your writing time, your research activity.

  6. Great tips,Bill. Never saw one on that tricky (and important) topic.

  7. Sherrie says:

    Great tips! Here is my favorite headline from my newly made swipe file….Puffins Are Adorable (And Why This Matters)
    Stumbled across this headline while surfing business coaches blogs. I totally opened it AND bookmarked his website.
    Thanks again Bill for powerful, fun, time saving tips. You rock!!

  8. Hi Bill:

    I totally agree with your theory. One thing I’d like to add about obtaining headlines can also be found in quotes, on billboards or walking through a mall and into various stores, church signs for events, event sights, going through a bookstore or just by talking with a
    stranger or ‘s.

    What are your thoughts?

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