Your “Super-Sized” Goal for 2008

Last year at this time, I told you about one New Year’s resolution I had made: to write a poem a day for 365 days. I got the idea from a playwright who had done something similar. She wrote a play every day for a year.

I liked the boldness of that ambition. It seemed to me that it was the kind of goal that could change a life. It did for that playwright. One of the plays she wrote made her famous.

I have written poetry on and off my whole life, but never seriously. Maybe, I thought, I could improve my skills and even write some good poems this way. There were no guarantees, but I was optimistic that something good would come of it.

When I revealed my personal goal to AWAI members last year, I recommended that they set an equally ambitious goal for themselves related to copywriting. Read a new promotion every day, I suggested. Or write one.

Many people who read that article in The Golden Thread probably thought I was dreaming. “What’s the point of making a resolution you can’t possibly keep,” one person wrote me.

I was concerned – maybe even a little afraid – that the objective was too grandiose. And that I wouldn’t follow through.

But I was also hopeful. The cleverness of the idea was the sheer size of it. By setting a super-sized career goal, I thought one could break through a lifetime of failed smaller objectives. An Extra-Extra-Extra-Large New Year’s resolution might be big enough to crash through whatever psychological barriers were holding one back.

That was the idea. And guess what? It worked for me. I did write 365 poems in 365 days. I skipped a few days when I was busy traveling, but I made up for them when I had spare time. Many of the poems I wrote were only a few lines. And many weren’t very good. But at the end of the year, I had more than 100 poems that were – according to a few editors I sent them to – good enough to publish.

So that’s what I’m working on now: publishing them in literary journals and collecting them for my first book of poetry. It feels good to have accomplished this goal. It feels great to have improved my skills as a poet.

This brings us back to you. Did you read that article last year? Did you set any similar goals related to your career as a copywriter?

If so, we would really like to hear about it. We’d like to know, in particular, how tough it was, how you coped with whatever setbacks you encountered, and what you gained from the experience.

If you didn’t make a gargantuan resolution last year, consider doing it now for next year. You know how quickly time flies. And with every passing year, it will move more quickly. Seize the day, as they say. Capture the moment. Make 2008 your year for taking a quantum leap forward.

To remind you, here is what I suggested last year:

Set some unthinkably big task for yourself that, when completed at the end of the year, will have made you a much stronger and more highly compensated writer.

And my specific suggestion:

Write one effective mini-advertisement per day.

If you’d like to take on that goal, here’s how you can do it in a way that might also dramatically increase your income:

  1. Get on the mailing lists (snail mail and Internet) of six or eight direct-marketing businesses you’d like to work for. (Long-term AWAI members should have already done this.)
  2. Build a “swipe file” (that is, a borrower’s library) of ads that these companies are currently using.
  3. Every day, before you do any other work, take out one of the ads from your swipe file and study it. Spend 15 to 30 minutes figuring out what the copywriter is attempting to do, evaluating how well he’s doing it, and identifying other approaches that might work equally well or even better.
  4. Pick one of those alternate approaches and make that your daily assignment.
  5. Spend the next 30 to 45 minutes writing and editing a little ad based on the theme you’ve chosen.
  6. When you are done, file the completed mini-ad in a large envelope addressed to the CEO or marketing director of the company it applies to.
  7. Once a month, send out all those envelopes (each of which will contain one or several samples of your work). Include a letter that briefly explains who you are and why you are sending them this free copy. The letter should be some version of: “I admire your business and hoped that, if you saw what I could do, you might have a spot for me on your freelance rotation.”

Don’t spend any more than 60 minutes a day completing this task.

In the beginning, you will find that you will be able to write only a limited number of words. But as the weeks pass, you will see your speed improve dramatically.

You’ll almost certainly double the speed at which you write. You may quadruple or quintuple it. And you’ll also see that the quality of your writing will improve – which may surprise you, considering how much faster you are getting. You will have sharper, more tangible ideas. Your language will be crisper and cleaner.

The trick is to focus on quality, not quantity. So your daily objective will be to come up with just one good marketing idea – and then, when you have it, to write it as simply and powerfully as possible.

If you don’t want to do this every single day of the year, make it a workday goal … which would mean you’d be writing about 250 little ads this year and sending them out to potential clients. That goal is plenty big. And it allows you two days a week to do something else first thing in the morning.

In addition to this “write one ad a day in 2008” idea, here are some other “unthinkably” big goals to consider:

  • Learn a marketing secret a day.
  • Scan an educational book a day.
  • Contact a potential client a day.
  • Call/write a friend a day.
  • Practice a self-promotional speech a day.

Identifying your goal is the first step. As soon as you do that … and I hope you do it today … write it down. Send it to us. We want to hear about it. We want to cheer you on over the next 365 days.

Then tomorrow … get started!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: December 31, 2007

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