The Constrained Shape of Effective Persuasion Is…

Marino Marini

“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.

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