When exploring philosophy, one of the biggest questions to answer is not WHY to do something but HOW to do it. How can I apply this lesson? How can I put this teaching into practice?
This question fascinates me and it’s inspired the creation of a series called ‘How To’, which will look at how to apply different philosophical viewpoints to different roles. The first part of the series is focused on copywriting, an industry I’ve had experience in. More specifically, it’s about how to be a Stoic copywriter.
Read on to discover how to apply Stoicism to being a content writer and techniques that will make you better at your job. Fate permitting.
What is a copywriter?
Also known as a content marketer, content writer and content manager, a copywriter is someone who helps brands bring their story to life. A copywriter works to understand their client’s tone of voice and conveys information about their products and services in such a way that makes sense to their customers.
A copywriter does this through creating blogs, landing pages, whitepapers, eBooks, videos, social media posts and more. When done right, great copywriting helps to boost brand awareness, drive more conversions on websites, create better customer connections and keep you at the forefront of your industry.
As any copywriter will tell you, the industry is fraught with many twists and turns. Frustrating clients, writer’s block, deadlines and misaligned messaging are all dragons that need to be slayed for a content marketer to do their job effectively.
Content writers are “guilty of a simmering indignation, a righteous contempt for those who believe that anyone with fingers, eyes and access to ink is capable of copywriting. And we see these characters everywhere, even lurking in the shadows of our best and most productive client relationships.
A feeling that our contribution isn’t quite as valued by some as we know it should be is perhaps the fuel for another common anxiety – a crippling, obsessive, maddening perfectionism.”
How to apply Stoicism to copywriting
So, it’s accurate to say that some copywriters can be neurotic (I am), can become overly precious about their writing (I’ve done this) and want to solely focus on the act of writing (I’m fond of this too).
There’s a lot more to copywriting than being a writer and Stoicism is a practical kind of philosophy that can be applied to making the process smoother. Here are six Stoic techniques for content marketers:
- Focus on what you can and can’t control
The essence of Stoicism boils down to what you can and can’t control. While this sounds simple, you’d be surprised at the amount of things we believe we can bring within our sphere of influence and that is true of the copywriting profession.
The tone of a blog. The direction of a video. The knowledge that we know better than the client. These are the pitfalls of the proud copywriter and when things don’t go our way, it’s easy to get frustrated.
By remembering this Stoic precept, it’s a good reminder that we control how we react to a situation. A client may be difficult, a blog may need editing several times before it’s accepted. Taking the time to assess the situation can put things into perspective and help to overcome these challenges.
- Take The View From Above with clients
The View From Above is a Stoic technique that takes a kind of big picture perspective. It’s stepping back from a situation and expanding the mind outwards until you imagine you’re looking down from a great height.
“One who would converse about human beings should look on all things earthly as though from some point far above, upon herds, armies, and agriculture, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, the clamor of law courts, deserted wastes, peoples of every kind, festivals, lamentations, and markets, this intermixture of everything and ordered combination of opposites.”
This zooming out technique can be good for handling difficult conversations with clients who may be unhappy with your writing. By looking at it from an objective, ‘top view’ perspective, it’s a reminder that such a small thing isn’t worth getting angry or frustrated over.
Far better to state how you can find a solution to the problem e.g. asking more questions about a client’s tone of voice and incorporating it into your content.
- Practice the premeditation of adversity
Another popular Stoic technique is premeditatio malorum, also known as the premeditation of evils or adversity. This mind trick is useful for preparing for setbacks and involves imagining some of the worst possible scenarios on a regular basis as a kind of stress inoculation to certain situations.
The Roman power broker Seneca was fond of this technique, writing about it extensively:
“What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events.
Rehearse them in your mind: exile, torture, war, shipwreck. All the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.”
It’s important to note that the premediation of adversity is not a pessimistic or fatalistic attitude. It’s about learning how to prepare for the worst so we can be primed to respond better in the likelihood of the rehearsed scenario.
In a copywriting context, it might be that you have an upcoming meeting with a client and your copy is key to the big pitch. You could imagine yourself being face to face with the client and them asking you different questions about the direction of a campaign.
You could then create content that solves these challenges before they arrive.
- Keep a journal
Journaling is a wonderful exercise for indulging your creativity, reflecting on the day or jotting down thoughts.
At the end of a stressful day, you could write down points about what you think went well and reminders of what needs to be improved. Or you could generate a list of titles for a new blog or video series.
The beauty of journaling is that it can be whatever you want it to be and many of the ancient Stoics kept their own journals, which helped them to make progress one step at a time.
- No copywriter is an island unto his or herself
Content writing is an exciting profession. It offers the ability to flex creative muscles, be at the forefront of new ideas, feed off the energy of like-minded people and win new business and awards.
It’s also a solitary job that requires long stretches of time with your ass in a chair and the temptation to block out the rest of the world is always lurking. It’s easy to get lost in the writing and not see beyond anything else. It’s easy to be stoic and not talk about any of the problems that you’re facing with a brief, misgivings about clients etc.
This is the bad kind of lower case stoicism. Upper case Stoicism teaches that we need to feel our emotions, react appropriately and ask for help when necessary. As Marcus Aurelius said:
“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?”
- Check your ego at the door and embrace every second of what you do
Copywriters can be egomaniacs. Sometimes, we think we know how to tell the greatest story ever told. Other times, we dial it in because we’re confident we know a client inside and out and that we don’t need to put the extra work in. That’s not the attitude of a Stoic content marketer.
It’s important to take ego out of the workplace and focus on writing the content that is appropriate for the brief and the situation. It’s about showing up and doing the work and fulfilling the role that has been given to you that day.
It won’t always be easy and it won’t always be fun. It will be the way to grow as a person and become better at your craft.
Get in touch today for help with your content strategy
Let me know if you put any of these Stoic techniques into practice with your writing or job.