What If You Run Out of Creative Ideas? [Book Review]

Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown ManHoward Luck Gossage is one of the great unsung advertising heroes of the 20th Century.

I didn’t know this until recently when I read Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man by Steve Harrison.

I picked up a copy on Drayton Bird’s recommendation, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a remarkable book.

As I read about Gossage’s life, I recognized many parallels between his career and mine — mostly in terms of feelings and thoughts I’ve had about doing client work.

For example, Gossage often feared that he would run out of creative selling ideas. Harrison writes:

Given Gossage’s inability to work in a team, and the agency’s promise never to palm clients off with secondary talent, it was he who was responsible for all the creative ideas. This put him under tremendous pressure. Sally Kemp was witness to this: “At times he was literally in despair and I can remember him tearing his hair and saying ‘I feel like I’m digging in my skull for gold and my skull is going to be empty and I’m going to have nothing but gold fillings under my nails and there’s going to be this empty skull.'” (Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man by Steve Harrison, p. 35)

I don’t know whether or not I’ve ever reached Gossage’s level of despair, but I’ve certainly felt the pressure of trying to come up with a big selling idea while under deadline.

When the ideas don’t come easily, it’s easy to let stress and fear creep in. What if the creative well has run dry? What if I run out of time?

It seems all copywriters struggle with the creative process and the business of actually writing copy.

I’m reminded of David Ogilvy’s arduous writing process, which he once described in a letter. In Step 9, he says, “If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.”

It’s my personal belief that good selling ideas come from good research. The better the research you do, the better your ideas will be.

And if you are really worried about running out of creative ideas, you may want to try these three idea generation tips. I’ve used all three with good success.

Oh, and a few drinks never seems to hurt either.

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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