We Can’t Lead With Pleasure – We Must Begin Our Work at the Point of Pain

Carol Ann Duffy

“Like the sand and the oyster, it's a creative irritant. In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so it can't have a fictional beginning.“ – Carol Ann Duffy, Born Dec. 23, 1955.

I’m no poet, that’s for sure.

But what is quoted here is certainly true about persuasive writing. Perhaps even more true than when it’s said about poetry.

Because poetry is art – it’s allowed to exist for its own sake. To read it is to give it purpose.

Carol Ann wants that pain to be kept inside and turned into a pretty pearl by coping with that problem and covering it up – just like you’re a little blob of shellfish.

Persuasive writing is different.

We have a purpose for the reader beyond simply consuming the work. A piece of copywriting doesn’t exist just for its own sake.

It is meant solely to drive action.

It is meant to provoke a response beyond an internal one.

We want measurable, external behavior.

We want that little blob of shellfish to realize it has a problem and DECIDE to spit out that irritant and accept our help in improving their life as a bottom-feeding lump of goo.

Okay, look, I accept that the metaphor is stretched to its limit.

The point is, it MUST begin with a TRUE point of pain.
You must empathize with it, and understand it.
You must be able to describe it back to the sufferer in words they’ve never tried to formulate themselves.
So that they BELIEVE you know their secret suffering.

Otherwise there is no point whatsoever in them reading your offer, much less you writing it in the first place.

If you aren’t beginning with a problem in mind, your product or service is just a blob. A nothing. It doesn’t connect in any meaningful way with anything in their lives. Like a poetic ode to belly button lint.

But if you look at what you’re selling as a SOLUTION to a problem…

And you identify that problem, the damage it does, the pain it causes, the consequences it creates due to being ignored or failing to address it…

NOW we have a reason to bother people.

NOW we have a reason to reach out and OFFER HELP.

And if they realize that we SEE them and understand their issue – even better than they do – they become all the more willing to accept that offer.

But it all starts with the irritant that won’t go away by itself.

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