My life presents numerous complications making it hard to plan ahead or get ahead. One simple practice I’ve begun is to stop waiting around for last-minute writing inspiration and instead, generate ideas that can be waiting in the wings, for their chance to step onto the screen and become a blog post, podcast, article or even a book project. That way when some time opens up to write, I don’t spend half that time trying to come up with an idea; instead, I choose from my existing list.
Jon Morrow’s Massive Headline Output
Not long ago, I was listening to a Duct Tape Marketing interview with Copyblogger writer Jon Morrow. In it, Jon said he likes to focus on the emotion he wants to bring out in the reader. The interviewer asked him about his practice for finding that target emotion, and Jon explained that Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, gave Jon an assignment early on when they started working together. Brian told John to write 100 headlines a day for different blog posts and get really good at it.
And Jon did. A month later, he went back to Brian with 3,000 headlines. And Brian was astonished! Because even though Brian had told other people to do the same thing, no one had actually followed through. But Jon did.
By taking on that assignment, John noticed certain headlines made him feel something, and those were the ones that grabbed his attention. So his approach is to focus on what he wants the reader to feel, and then choose a topic and dive into the writing.
We’ve got two things going here…one is this philosophy of writing for emotional results—emotional connection. That’s interesting and we could discuss this in more detail in another podcast. But I want us to pause for just a second and let that number sink in: Jon wrote 3,000 headlines in one month.
In fact, Jon continued that practice of writing 100 headlines a day. He says he got so much out of it for 30 days, he continued doing it for two years, seven days a week. He never took a day off. He wrote 36,400 headlines in one year, and at the end of two years, he’d written 72,800 headlines.
With all that practice and repetition, he got better and better. And he had absolutely no lack of ideas when he came time to write an article!
The 50-Headline Challenge
So in honor of this 50th episode of the podcast, I’m issuing a challenge.
You can take Brian Clark’s challenge of 100 headlines a day if you want to, but I’m going to go easy on you.
I challenge you—and I’m challenging myself, too—to write no fewer than 50 headlines for whatever kind of writing you do…in one week.
If you write online content, you might enjoy playing around with some tools like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer or a tool called the “Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.” You can have a little fun with this.
Fifty might feel like a lot if you’ve never done this before, and the first few could feel clunky, but once you get going, I think you’ll start to feel yourself loosen up, and the ideas will flow.
Headlines Provide Writing Inspiration
In episode 46: What’s the Big Idea, I suggested coming up with the big idea of your piece, your controlling idea, your theme statement, your thesis, to guide your writing. Well, each of these headlines can capture a big idea.
And don’t feel like you’re locking yourself into writing all 50 of these ideas. It’s practice for headline writing, and offers you options when it comes time to write.
Let’s take the challenge. Let’s generate headlines, or titles, so we have options and inspiration at our fingertips, because I don’t want to be stuck sitting around waiting for last-minute inspiration. And I don’t want that for you, either.
Are you ready? 50 headlines. Let’s do it.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- Duct Tape Marketing interview with Jon Morrow
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
- Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer
- #46: What’s the Big Idea?
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The podcast is also available Stitcher, and you should be able to search for and find “Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach” in any podcast player.
Sure, you can poke around the Internet collecting writing prompts and creative writing exercises.
Or you could buy an ebook that collects them for you in one place.