Icefall of Khumbu glacier
Image via Wikipedia

On Mount Everest, climbers have to cross the Khumbu icefall, a tumble of monstrously tall ice seracs punctuated by deep crevasses. The only way across these deadly glacial chasms is by walking across flimsy metal ladders used as bridges. The icefall is so treacherous, climbers usually tackle it before the morning sun gets up. Even in sub-zero temperatures, the slight warmth from the sun is often just enough to make seracs topple, split apart, shift – and swallow even experienced climbers whole.

Most seasoned climbers agree, the best way to get across these precarious makeshift bridges is as quickly as possible, without stopping to over-analyze each step. The longer you take to cross a ladder, the more likely you are to freeze up, take a misstep, and fall.

Writing is like that. If you think too much, you freeze. You think some more. You look down at what you’ve just written, and your stomach starts to knot up. You try to write a few more words, and think “I can’t do it, this is crap.” You go back, and edit the piece to death.

Literally. You’ve killed every bit of emotion you originally put in it.

Writing is a tool, not a religion. Oh, there are times it feels like one, but it’s not the writing that makes it feel that way – it’s the communication. That’s what makes it sing.

No matter what sort of writing you’re doing, you’re still communicating. You’re telling a story.

When you tell a story to your 6-year-old at bedtime, you don’t backtrack. You don’t stop yourself and say, “That’s not quite the word I wanted.” You don’t try out 13 different words to see if you can find a better one – if you did, your 6-year-old would rapidly grow cranky and bored.

You just tell the darned thing, warts and all.

That’s why it’s best, when you’re trying to write sales copy, to get through it in one go before you start revising and editing. (The same goes for any other type of writing too.)

You’re likely to put the most emotion into that first run through – and passion and excitement are what sells a product. Not perfect grammar.

After all, it’s not like Everest, where if you make a misstep, you can die.

And fast copy doesn’t necessarily have to mean sloppy or poor copy – it just has to work.

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