“Each work has its own space, which should neither be conceived as a sort of cage nor regarded as extending to infinity.” – Marino Marini, Born Feb. 27, 1901.
Marino here was a sculptor. And like carving stone, copywriting is an art constrained by certain limitations.
For the sculptor, there is an outer limit to what he can create – the edge of the piece of rock he has started with. But what he can chisel out and set free WITHIN that “cage” is limitless otherwise.
For the copywriter or other persuasive communicator, our constraint is only the desired outcome. That goal dictates the main shape and outline of what we need to create and craft.
Your objective is to include EVERY TRICK we know to assist that reader in making our chosen decision and taking our desired action. But also, we must chip away everything that DOES NOT serve that end.
Every sentence must be delivering or setting up a belief, an argument, an idea – one that adds to the evidence for deciding as we suggest.
Otherwise, it doesn't need to be there. Even if it's pretty or cool or funny or clever. If it doesn't express that final shape then it's gone, or else your work is cluttered and your intent becomes muddled.
But listen, once you understand this constraint… Once you know the ingredients that MUST be there, the rest is creative and freeing and exciting and fun.
How do they connect? How do they stack? What is the priority? What makes them curious, compelled, convinced, and crave catharsis via capitalism?
That's up to you. As long as you are working WITHIN a proven structure with proven components (like a template, an outline, a model, a method…) the sky is the limit on how you connect it all.
The sculptor is working within the limits of the stone, but yet we have Michelangelo's exquisite and exaggerated David.
Rodin's pensive and evocative Thinker.
Borglum's obnoxious and awesome Mount Rushmore.
The mysterious and monumental Moai of Easter Island.
The simple minimalism of Brancusi's Kiss.
Look them up if you don't know them by name – compare them.
All once not dissimilar shapeless hulks of stone, cut from the earth. And now all wildly different and varied expressions – yet all effective at their ultimate goal: to please the eye…
And so we persuasive writers work within the required limits of our form. But we put the creativity INSIDE that format, instead of trying to re-invent it.
No one can carve stone that isn't there.
But when you work creatively with what you've got at hand, you can make something uniquely yours. But most importantly, you craft something EFFECTIVE.
<!—- lagniappe Here is a list of potential constraints that the copywriter and persuasion engineer can use to FORCE creativity out of an overstimulated and unfocused mind... 1. The document. In many cases, you have one letter, one page, one video, one message - in that one directive you must make the case for the existence of a problem, the belief in a solution, and the trust in your ability to deliver it. You must establish authority, empathy, commitment, and honesty. 2. The product. The item on offer is itself a limiting factor. You can’t make promises beyond what it can potentially deliver. You can’t promise a popsicle will transport someone to outer space. But within the realm of experiences and benefits that the product CAN offer, you are unbound. 3. The target customer. You have to figure out how to frame your arguments and benefits and problem agitation so that they resonate directly with the people you are trying to convince. Not everyone. Not all people. Just the ones who have the problem your product will solve. 4. Your offer. You are offering only so much, for only so long, to only so many buyers. It’s not available forever and for all. It’s available only for those who act now, and decisively. Urgently. It’s not for anyone who will hesitate, or waffle, or procrastinate. You need to make them know the deadline. 5. The law. It will differ by your location and the region you’re promoting into. Get competent legal help if you need it, because there are DEFINITE restrictions on what you can claim and what you can’t say by law. It’s your job to know, and if you blow it, the consequences might be on you. BUT WITHIN the law, that’s where you can go bananas. Just know where the fence is. —->