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The Copywriting Brick Wall - How to Find the Door

Published by: David Garfinkel on 03-15-2021

We recorded today’s show a few days after the Superbowl, and I’d like to talk about the most admired and most hated athlete in America, Tom Brady. People seem to run very hot or very cold on him.

Personally, I like him. He lived in my part of the country earlier in his life; he graduated from the same college I did; and he used to come back here summers to work with Tom Martinez as a personal quarterback coach. Martinez was also the football coach at the College of San Mateo, where legendary coach Bill Walsh once played.

Football royalty. So, you have every right to ask, what in the WORLD does this have to do with copywriting?

Well, I know about Tom Brady’s secret frustration. And what I know is not from any inside information, but just from a fact of life which also affects copywriters. Tom Brady’s work ethic is not the only reason for his incredible success. It’s also his patience, when he worked and worked and worked and worked and worked without seeing any progress. And then one day - shazaam - a breakthrough.

There’s a brick wall he kept running into. A brick wall we ALL run into, if we really want to get really good at something. Then one day, the door seems to magically open, and you break on through to the next level.

We talked about the brick wall today and I laid out the formula for getting through it. What you need to know to get to the next level of copywriting.

The brick wall I was referring to before has a technical name, among those of us who study it and those of us who coach people for performance improvement. It’s called the plateau.

When you’re climbing a mountain, there are stretches of the path where you are moving upward. And there are stretches of land on your path that are flat. You have to move across these flat areas to get to the next part where the path continues upward. In geography, the flat area is known as a plateau, and that’s where the term comes from.

We talked about George Leonard’s book Mastery a few shows ago. He has a chapter in the book titled “Loving the Plateau.” In that chapter, he writes

“The achievement of goals is important… We are taught in countless ways to value the product, the prize, the climactic moment.

“But even after we’ve just caught the winning pass in the Superbowl, there’s always tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. If our life is a good one, a life of mastery, most of it will be spent on the plateau. If not, a large part of it may well be spent in restless, distracted, ultimately self-destructive attempts to escape the plateau.

“The question remains: Where in our upbringing, our schooling, our career are we explicitly taught to value, to enjoy, even to love the plateau, the long stretch of diligent effort with no seeming progress?”

It’s a good question, the one that George Leonard asks. I’ll hazard a guess. Most people aren’t taught to value or even love the plateau. And when it comes to copywriting, that may be the number one reason people give up on trying to get really good about it.

Yet you’ve got to. Put in the darkest terms, I’ll quote Winston Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

It’s amusing, and it’s easy to focus on the word “hell.” But I’m here to tell you today to focus on four other words instead: “going through” and “keep going.”

Now, to get a little clearer on the concept: A plateau is not writer’s block or burning out. No, a plateau is where you keep working on what you’re doing, and it seems like you’re making no progress.

We talked about what that looks like… what you need to know about plateaus that will help you keep going and realize all is not lost but, to coin a phrase -- and that’s really what we copywriters do, you know, coin a phrase -- the best is yet to come.

Books referred to in this show:

Mastery, by George Leonard

Peak, by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Keywords: writer's block copywriting

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