Walnut half looking like brain

Copywriting tip 30: Feed the brain

Half walnut - trimmed

Here’s a wonderful quote from Picasso: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’.

No: I’m not talking about plagiarism, here.

This is about feeding your brain. Refreshing it with new ideas. Dedicating some time to research.

I like to think of my brain as a sponge, full of water.

You keep squeezing, squeezing, squeezing it: eventually, it’s going to run dry.

You’ve got to keep topping it up.

As many of you know, I start my working day between 3 and 4am. That’s ‘am’.

(Oh, the joys of being a freelance copywriter …)

After a brisk half-hour walk, I dive in.

I start with the news: the BBC, the ABC, then the Guardian, and News Limited.

Then Flipboard, where I’ve got the Daily Edition, the Sydney Morning Herald, Al Jazeera, The Age – as well as various parenting, celebrity, recipes, food and TV news sources.


I’m gauging the environment my work is going out into.

As a copywriter, what I create is going out into the public domain.

I need to know how it is going to be received.

Are people feeling positive? Negative? Flat? Unsure, scared, happy.

That impacts how and what I write. No point going out all upbeat when the economy is tanking and people are feeling shattered.

That news review takes a good hour.

Next, onto the newsletters. Over 125 of them, overnight.

I read them all. Yep. All of them.

Topics range from breaking ad campaigns (Ads Of The World) to the Economist. Marketing, to psychology.

That’s another hour.

My Chrome tabs open

Then, into the fun stuff. All the links I’ve clicked in the newsletters and news reports. I can have 40 tabs open in Chrome.

It’s a process that takes a good three to four hours, every morning.

(And, yes, weekends, too. The news and newsletters don’t stop.)

I’m feeding my brain. Topping it up with ideas.

During the day, I take deliberate breaks to look for clever, funny, fresh ideas on Google Images and Pinterest.

I see all of this as an essential part of my job.

To be up to date. Aware of sentiments and patterns in the world.

To constantly keep my brain engaged.

Sure, it sounds like hard work. It is.

But it’s also exciting. To have a finger on the pulse.

Of course, it’s impossible to know everything – and I don’t even pretend to come close.

(In fact, I started my Digital Copywriting workshop this week by pointing out it’s impossible: and asking for attendees to help by leaping in whenever they had more up-to-date stats, insights or research.)

Many famous authors have stated the key to writing is reading a lot.

Take this, from Lisa See:

‘Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.’

And Stephen King:

‘If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.’

Now, I’m not trying to persuade you that 3am starts will work for you.

But I am joining Stephen King and Lisa Lee to say you’ve got to feed your brain. The best way to do that is read.

Dedicate time to exploring ideas.

Listen to music. Watch movies. Visit museums.

To everyone else, that’ll look like you’re slacking.

You and I know it’s essential.

You keep your body alive with food and drink.

Don’t forgot to feed the mind, as well.


This tip is based on my 30 Tips in 40 Minutes webinar.

Feel free to download a version of the slides and watch a video of the one-hour webinar.

Image sources: Pixabay and Stephen King’s website


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.