Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Mark Lipsky

The Cure for Writer's Block
by Mark Lipsky, 1 Jul 2009

Mark Lipsky is President and CEO of Radio Direct Response in Media, PA and one of America's few "radio only" advertising agencies. RDR manages direct response, branding and radio promotion campaigns for such national clients as Cisco Systems (WebEx), Sony Playstation and DIRECTV.


A new exhibit at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame features memorabilia and personal items from the storied career of Bruce Springsteen. Among them is a handwritten page onto which Bruce penned an early set of lyrics to his breakout anthem, "Born to Run."

"By day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we stalk the jungle in heat with murder in our gears."

The Cure for Writer’s Block

Huh? Jungle? Murder in our gears? Yes, line two of the opening verse was reworded before the final tracks were laid down in the studio.

But this process underscores the importance of beginning the writing process by getting something, anything, down on paper.

The Cure for Writer’s Block

There are few things more intimidating than a blank sheet of paper – or blank computer screen – impatiently awaiting your hands to sprinkle profound brilliance upon its empty canvas.

Former Saturday Night Live writer Ali Farahnakian once told me the hardest thing about the creative process was writing the crappy first draft. (OK, he used a spicier word than crappy.) Rewriting, editing and paraphrasing are easy, once there's something down on paper to work with.

The Cure for Writer’s Block

I never listened to Paul McCartney's "Yesterday" the same way after hearing Sir Paul's story of how he created the melody line before the lyrics and used the words "Ham and eggs" as a three-syllable placeholder until he chose the word "Yesterday" to replace it.

McCartney had the concept for a powerful composition and put something down on paper (music and the words "ham and eggs") so he could return at a later date to complete the composition. This was a far better choice than letting the moment of inspiration escape simply because the idea wasn't fully formed on the first pass.

The Cure for Writer’s Block

So if you're ever taunted by a blank page or screen at the start of the creative process, just start writing! Describe what you want to say, even if you don't know how to say it. Speak through the eyes of a child. Or a business reporter. Or a college student spilling his every thought to fill up a Blue Book. Start the process and simply let the words and ideas fill the page.

Conjugate your thoughts with subtle variations of phrasing. Explain selling propositions from the perspective of both the provider and consumer. You can always go back and edit, rewrite and paraphrase. Just get the crappy first draft down on paper.

Do it today. So tonight you can ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines, as Springsteen affirmed as a far better alternative to stalking jungles in heat when you want to break out of New Jersey.

Print Article Brought to you by: Mark Lipsky | President & CEO of Radio Direct Response

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