Thursday, January 26, 2023

8 Follow-up Questions Every Interviewer Needs

When conducting an interview, to get below the surface follow up answers to your questions with more questions. 

8 follow up questions to use during an interview

Here are 8 follow-up questions to open up the subject and get to information that will make a difference in your piece:

  • Why do you feel that way?

  • What makes you say that?

  • Would you agree that [clarifying point]?

  • Could you think of any other situations where this would also be relevant?

  • What does that mean for you?

  • Why does that matter?

  • How could that change in the future?

  • How does that make you feel?

Friday, January 20, 2023

What is a Carrotdangler?

Carrotdangler is just one of the ways I describe what I do for a living as a marketing writer. 

Scott Frothingham, carrotdangler


In the old days, if a pack animal such as a mule or donkey, stubbornly refused to move, they would dangle a carrot in front of it ... just out of reach. The mule would start walking forward to reach the carrot.

Carrotdangler - mule motivated by a carrot

As a marketing writer, I find similarities with my job and the job of the mule drivers:

I'm paid to write an offer that is so enticing it causes the target audience to move towards it.


NOTE: If you're curious about any of the other descriptors, such as forestseer or stickweilder, ask away:  

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Writers in 2023?

Will Artificial Intelligence Replace writers in 2023?

About 12 months ago I wrote a blog post with a similar question about 2022. Looking back, not too much has changed, but we have more experience with AI through offerings such as ChatGTP from OpenAI. 

In regards to 2023, I don't know how AI will develop in the long term ... but for the foreseeable future it will need an experienced writer to input the right info for the directions/prompt and then edit/rewrite the output to humanize it and to check facts (AI pulls from the Internet which includes info from unreliable sources).

In other words, AI alone cannot yet be as effective as it needs to be without a properly trained/experienced writer ... it's a tool, not a replacement.

In the words of Paul Smart: "When AI can do subtlety, humour and nuance. In context. I'll hang up my pen. But until then ..."

That being said, don't ignore it.

Learn how to use it.

'Cause it's not going anywhere.

Make sure you're not either.


The Test

I prompted a popular AI site to write a blog post based on the keyword: Best Copywriting Books. Here it is. The copy is unedited. The only thing I added was the artwork.

The 10 Best Copywriting Books to Help You Become a Professional Copywriter

The reason I chose this prompt, was that I had recently written a blog post on the same subject and thought it would make an interesting comparison:

17 Books Writers Must Read in 2023

I have some definite opinions about the AI written piece, including that these books are being recommended by an entity that hasn't read them and has no ability to determine if they are actually the most helpful for copywriters. I'll spare you a full breakdown, but ...

The most most concerning observation is how quickly it cranked out a 1,000 word article that would be considered acceptable by many people

This leads me to believe that the internet is about to be overwhelmed with a deluge of underwhelming content.


What is ChatGPT Doing ... and Why Does It Work?

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Copywriter's Block

Writer's Block Candle

The world understands the concept of writer’s block.

Even nonwriters are familiar with idea that sometimes writers stare at a blank page or screen and nothing happens. The words refuse to come.

The blocked copywriter slowly shakes their head.

Walks away from their desk.

Washes the dishes.

Plays with the dog.

Posts a writer’s block lament on social media

Watches Netflix.

Distraught because they have writer’s block and can’t write today.

Hopefully tomorrow the block will be gone, and the words will flow once more.


What a huge, steaming pile of donkey dung.

If writing is a hobby for you, fine. Enjoy binge watching “Game of Thrones”.

But, if writing is your job, there’s no such thing as writer’s block.

If you’re a copywriter, you set a schedule of work hours, you show up, you plunk your backside into a chair, and you do your work.


Copywriting is a skill.

Like any skill, copywriting can be learned, and – with time and practice – you can become proficient at it.

And like any skill, it can be performed when you’re not inspired.

  • During dinner rush, when a trained chef who doesn’t feel like cooking is handed an order for Chicken Parmigiana, he doesn’t say, “I’m gonna take a walk and maybe read a book … I have chef’s block.”

  • When a master plumber doesn’t feel like replacing a wax seal ring on a toilet, she gets her tools from the van and replaces the ring. She doesn’t tell the homeowner, “I’ll be back sometime in the next few days … I have plumber’s block.”

  • As a deadline approaches, if a professional copywriter has an email sequence to write, they don’t stare at a blank screen grumbling about writer’s block. They apply their skills and write the email sequence.

As you refine your skills, you come to understand that writing strong copy is difficult. You look forward to the days when it goes reasonably easily.

But on those days when it seems to be more of a struggle, the problem isn’t writer’s block.

Writer’s block is an excuse for something else.

Address that something else, and the writing will flow with less restriction.


That something else

Writer’s block is typically an excuse for one of six things:

You’re reluctant to write poorly

You haven’t run out of things to write; you’re surrendering to an unrealistic expectation that every piece of copy you write must be a dazzling showstopper. The fear that your writing will be subpar becomes paralyzing.

One way past this is to give yourself permission for your first draft to suck. Just open the valve and let it flow.

In the words of author Anne Lamott, “The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”

Don’t use the excuse of writer’s block to avoid failure. That’s a recipe that ensures you will fail ‘cause you won’t get your work done and you won’t improve as a writer.

You’re unprepared

Maybe the brief was incomplete. Or you didn’t ask enough of the right questions.

Stop stalling and get back to the client for the details you’re missing. Just don’t wait until you’re up against the deadline.

Pay attention to copywriting guru Dan Kennedy when he says, “Be cautious of anybody too quick to agree on the assignment and race to the keyboard. In sales copywriting, preparation is more than half the battle.”

You’re intimidated by the expectation of results

You feel the pressure of your client’s need for response to your writing. You’re worried that your copy might not generate enough business to justify your compensation. Your old friend imposter syndrome is whispering in your ear.

As a trained copywriter, you are your client’s best shot at success. Think they’ll do better if the CEO or sales manager writes the copy? Or Kevin in accounting who had a shift at his college radio station? Not likely. On your worst day, you’re better than the alternatives.

If the client has an offer that appeals to enough people who want/need that product/service and makes the commitment to properly expose that offer to those people, your copy has a good chance of working. Especially when the writing is guided by your experience with the principles of persuasion and your skills at emotionally connecting with the target audience.

If the writing ain’t coming easy, give it a swift kick in the seat of the pants by picking one of many time-tested copywriting formulas and use that to outline your first draft, such as:

AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action

PAS – Problem, Agitate, Solve

The 4Ps – Picture, Promise, Proof, Push

Kevin from accounting doesn’t even know these formulas exist, and if you ask him about a CTA, he’ll stare at you blankly and shrug his shoulders.

Of course, copy doesn’t always perform as desired. Nobody scores every time they have the ball. Keep in mind this statement from one of the most successful copywriters of all time, Eugene Schwartz: “Failing often, and testing big differences shows you are doing enough as a copywriter.”

You don’t trust your process

Over time, you’ve developed a process for writing. It may differ from how other copywriters approach their assignments, but it works for you.

Maybe you devote more time to research and revision. Maybe you use freewriting to coalesce your thoughts. Maybe you need thinking time to allow your research to percolate before writing your first draft.

Learn from author and writing coach Anne Janzer: “It’s taken me years to learn to trust that process. It’s always tempting to think that this time is different, that I can go faster by skipping a step. I nearly always regret it when I do.”

Don’t second guess your process. Just start where you always start and follow it through to the end. It won’t let you down.

You’re waiting for Inspiration

Yes, creativity is necessary for excellent copywriting, but skills are the foundation of the craft. Don’t fall into the trap of treating writing like an exclusively creative endeavor instead of a job. These guys sum it up perfectly:

“If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” — Dan Poynter

“Professional writers don’t have muses; they have mortgages.” –  Larry Kahaner

You’re a procrastinator

Some of us are. And some of us are just lazy. Sorry I had to be the one to break it to you. It’s not an easy thing to admit to yourself, but sometimes facing the truth can help us overcome bad habits and succeed where we otherwise may have failed.

If you’ve been calling procrastination “writer’s block,” print out this quote and paste it above your screen: “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting it off.” – Olin Miller

The bottom line

Let’s give the final word to writer Warren Ellis:

‘Writer’s block? I’ve heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. I’m sorry, but the job is getting up in the fucking morning and writing for a living.”



This piece was featured in: CHANGE MY MIND - an opinionated book on how narratives and content shape the way we see things. You can get a free copy of the eBook at

The Writer's Block Candle  –  yep it's a real product. Available from the Whiskey River Soap Company

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