Panic. Pure panic. As this copywriter sits before the screen, a deadline looming on the horizon ahead of me, my head throbs and my stomach clenches. Content ideas swim in my mind vying for attention, fighting for cohesion. Questions pound like rain on an unforgiving tin roof.
- What wisdom, information, solution does the reader need to hear?
- Is there a topic to which I offer a unique spin?
- Will my words do anything more than float in the surf of the Internet?
All day long I find things to say, words to add to conversations, advice to pass along. All. day. long. Until I put fingers to keys. Then, suddenly, the clamor roars to a deafening silence.
Can you relate? Have you been in this seat?
Maybe you too have struggled with creating content which inspires your audience? Or, perhaps your mind lost all intelligence when answering an employee’s important question? Maybe the solution to your business problem still lies beyond your mental reach?
What if I told you there is value in this silence? Value for you. Value for your business.
The Question: What to do with this Hush?
If persuasion is the art of the copywriter, what do I do with this hush? If words are my tools, what value is their absence? Other than frustration, what purpose does silence serve?
In the busyness of the business world (note the same root word!), our senses grow dull. As our feet move quickly and our mouths run even faster, we fail to pause for even a moment to observe and learn what is taking place in and around us. And, we find ourselves robbed of the creativity, problem-solving abilities and solutions required to thrive.
On the other hand, silence mutes our speed and begs us to reflect. This golden opportunity restores imagination, awakens problem-solving processes and finds solutions. Yes, it proves powerful in moving us forward if we take full advantage of it.
Bill Hybels, founder and leader of the thriving mega-congregation, Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, said it this way at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit, “I have learned the hard way that if I don’t punctuate my activity with times of reflection, I pay.”
Silence makes us better copywriters, better business men and women, better people. How so?
The quiet of our mouths and inner wonderings allows our senses to be heightened. Much like the blind reading so expertly with fingertips that we find feeble and cumbersome, the ceasing of my tongue increases the sensitivity of my hearing, tasting, seeing, smelling and feeling faculties. And, herein lies the power of silence.
The Answer: Engage the Senses
Silence grants us the rare opportunity to heighten our senses. As the frustration mounts with regard to the raging silence and looming deadline, the key is to step away for a moment. Though our natural inclination might be to plow through in a desperate attempt to resolve an issue or complete a task, engaging the silence may just prove the most productive.
Also, moments of intentional silence peppered throughout the week boost creativity and ward off stalemate thought processes at their root. As Hybels said, you and I must learn to punctuate activity with times of reflection, silence. Regularly scheduled times to step back and clear our minds brings new life to our work.
To begin, clear the distracting noise and visual stimulation that surrounds you. In small doses, this sensory deprivation proves beneficial. While you might look at this silence as torture (as it has been used), short-term sessions relax the stress centers of the brain. Anxiety, stress, chronic pain and problem-solving skills improve. And, as a result, creativity reaches new heights.
Finally, entering into the silence also works to engage the senses at new levels. And, whether you are a copywriter, business owner or parent, this action reaps benefits across your roles and activities. Take a look with me at how heightened senses brought on by silence impact your work.
Most evidently, when my mouth stops, my ears engage. Likely, the same is true for you. When silence falls and we engage in it, you and I better hear what others are saying.
Remember the childhood adage, “you have one mouth and two ears”? The implication is that you should listen twice as much as you speak. Truly listening and hearing your audience, your client proves impossible without quieting yourself first. In other words, you may get to the root of a client’s need, hear the underpinnings of a client dream, connect with your audience in ways unknown to you before simply because you are silenced.
As a means of engaging the power of silence, you also can ask the thoughts of others. For instance, without the absence of ideas, I tend to move in time with my grand plan never giving thought to the input of another, even if it might be better. Hence, the silence gives me an opportunity to hear new perspectives which spark streams of thought and innovative solutions.
Silence also creates space to immerse yourself in music, hear the sounds of the created world or the soft chatter going on around you. The nuances of these sounds and their inspiration often go unnoticed given the intensity of your work. Listening primes your mind to receive new ideas. Plus, studies indicate that ambient noise while working improves creativity and productivity as well.
Engaging in silence over a healthy, flavorful lunch or snack boosts energy and gets you unstuck. But, separating from the race of ideas also allows you to enjoy the flavors of a meal anew. In fact, your old standby peanut butter and jelly may just take on a depth of taste that leaves you wondering about life on a peanut plantation. And, a fresh garden salad brings sweet summer memories. Try closing your eyes to savor every bite.
Furthermore, healthy food choices do our body and our mind good. Science backs the concept that what we put into our stomach impacts our mental health. Including fatty fish, whole grains, lean protein and leafy greens in your day boosts brain function.
Also, adding untried flavors and global cuisines mixes up the experience of your palate and spurs ideas. Drink in these experiences as your mind lays quiet to truly immerse yourself in the taste. Broadening culinary and activity horizons offer more for each of us to draw upon and stave off times of writer’s (or thinker’s) block.
Silence allows us to broaden our focus, to remove our eyes from the screen or spreadsheet or report in front of us. When we work, we tend to develop tunnel vision. Maintaining endless focus for too long of a period hurts our efforts overall. On the other hand, taking in a panoramic view awakens creativity.
Take time to observe the interactions in your office, on the street at the cafe or as you wait for an appointment. Enjoy the people watching, and be inspired by what you see. You may just be surprised by the details that you never noticed previously.
Also, looking up from our work to take in direct daylight enhances focus and alertness. In fact, a 2012 study in Behavioral Neuroscience revealed that six hours of daylight exposure for two consecutive days heightens feelings of alertness and increased accuracy on work tasks. Depending on your geographical location, this task may not prove easy. But, work to build light exposure into your daily routine.
Adding images and colors which reflect nature further enhance these qualities. After all, natural views have been known to inspire creativity. The best option? In the silence, take a walk outside. In fact, be sure to do so a couple times per day. People watch and take in the natural world without any agenda other than to simply see.
And, as you walk amid the sounds of nature be sure to breathe in deeply. Notice the nuances of scent. Fragrant pine needles, musky earth, a salty ocean breeze, a storm rolling through, crisp fall air or heated desert sand bring newness when experienced through the nose.
Studies report that scents impact us psychologically and cause particular reactions in each of us. For instance, in general, lemon improves cognition. Rosemary or grapefruit energizes. And, vanilla with cinnamon brings out your creative side.
However, the role smells play also relate to memories. In reflection, identify the smells which invigorate you. The clarity of chlorine as it takes you back to your competitive swimming days. Apple cider’s comforting waft due to chilly autumns spent by the fire. Fresh cilantro from days in the kitchen filled with laughter, culinary creation and Grandma. Without silence, these life details likely pass without notice.
Silence pauses us in our rush from one task to the next and allows us to breathe deeply. Research speaks to the value of this practice. For instance, controlled breathing links with reduced stress and anxiety. And, you and I have experienced the negative effects which stress heaps on creativity.
Touch changes how we think. So, say psychologists. In other words, abstract concepts are connected to our physical experiences. Imagine how a warm breeze or the sun’s rays feel after you being sequestered in an office all day.
Silence lends a break to reflectively recognize the state of your physical body. What environmental factors keep you in a holding pattern? The comfort of your chair, room temperature, clothing choices and hunger all speak to your ability to focus.
Removing your riveted gaze from the work and its looming deadline for a moment, silence allows you to notice and address these issues. For instance, switching from a soft to a hard chair could increase decisiveness. And, those seated in soft chairs lean toward greater flexibility in negotiation. Yes, simple changes based on the feel of your environment affects the way you feel and, thereby, think.
If we move beyond physical touch, the feeling part of our psyche offers benefits to our work as well. When silence is permitted in your life, you are better able to imagine the experience of a client, a colleague or another with whom you are interacting. After all, there is a moment to actually observe and think about the perspective of another human being.
This concept proves useful for copywriters and business owners. In fields where knowing your audience reaps rewards, we are wise to take the time to get to know others and understand their perspective. Therefore, finding touchpoints proves vital.
The Impact on Copywriter Work (And Yours)
Copywriters need a wide range of sensory experiences from which to draw words. But, creativity is not left to writers, artists and the like. Business owners require the same for creatively designing a business and directing a team, solving problems and spurring innovative thinking.
While the precious commodity of time may leave us pushing the idea of engaging the silence to the end of the task list, in truth, we cannot afford the lost hours brought on by not harnessing the power of these opportunities. Whether in the moment or planned preemptively, silence resets creativity and perspective, solves problems, and finds solutions.
Whether you are engaging a reader or uniting a work team, moments of silence prompt better work and results. The combination of our sensory experiences combines in unexpected ways according to Charles Spence, psychologist, to influence our perceptions and work.
On the flip side, at their core, good copy and good leadership persuade by awakening the senses and speaking to them. Creating an appealing sensory experience connects people to you. Engaging the silence increases your sensitivity to these influences.
As a result, when the silence breaks, the fog clears. My fingers again find the keys and with greater brevity and clarity. Words of importance rather than ramblings of insignificance appear. Yes. High-quality content arises. Panic averted.
What practical suggestions do you have for entering the silence and engaging your senses? Leave a comment below so we can learn from each other. And, be sure to share this post with a friend in need of a new perspective.
For help with your panic moment or need for great content, engage the silence. Seek another perspective. Contact us today.
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