Performance: On Stage Fright and Copywriting

In the spotlightsAfter immersing myself in background materials, scribbling notes and coaxing ideas from my bursting brain, it’s time to put paper to pen. Or open that blank Word document. That’s when I get the surge of adrenaline. After looping a path through my limbs, it settles as a flutter in my stomach.

I refer to this as stage fright.

It could be my background in theatre.  I always felt that surge before performing on stage and, even more so, as the lights rose on a production I directed. While the extra adrenaline couldn’t help me as a director, watching from the audience, it certainly gave me an edge as a performer.

While I don’t get this surge when writing personal essays, I certainly get it when I’m submitting them. I check and re-check email addresses, names, titles and my pitch. However, it’s mostly when I’m writing copy for clients that I experience this “stage fright.” And I’m torn on whether it gives me an edge as a copywriter.

I do know that it’s a sign of wanting to write creative, inspired work that will put smiles on my clients’ faces. And I know that it’s an indicator that I’m in performance mode. Thankfully, it doesn’t last the entire time I’m drafting copy. It’s usually at the beginning of a project for a first-time client or at the start of an especially juicy, challenging assignment.

But I also worry that it could be a sign of nervousness that could spill into the copy. Or, since I don’t need the extra energy to physically perform, I’m putting unnecessary stress on my body.

So I’m torn.

Do you experience anything akin to stage fright when you’re writing? Does it occur when you’re working on particular types of assignments, such as a first piece for a magazine? Or, do you think this type of adrenaline is unnecessary, and possibly a distraction from producing good work?

Photo attribution: / CC BY-SA 2.0

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5 thoughts on “Performance: On Stage Fright and Copywriting

  1. Great site:)
    I do get butterflies when I start a new piece. But, it’s not one of dread, more of excitement. I think I do need the adrenaline rush to keep me going when I start something new. For me it’s all part of it and gets the creative juices going, so to speak!

  2. @wordsedge: Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. You completely inspired me! I so love that moment when you’ve “cracked it.” It’s like reaching the top of a difficult climb. If it requires the butterflies to achieve that feeling, then I say bring it. You also made me realize that I do get that feeling with non-client writing…such as when I finally figure out how a scene should be structured, or finally find the words for that perfect description.

    @marthaandme: I’m with you on “do I really want to share this.” One of my writing instructors told me that feeling meant I must be on to writing what I need to be writing. Still doesn’t mean it has to be shared with the world…but isn’t that part of the thrill of writing in the first place? The possibility that someone else might see it.

  3. Butterflies? Yes. I used to be a copywriter and technical writer (but not in that chronological order). I used to get that buzz with varying levels of associated nervousness at different stages of the process – first draft, submitting to the team leader and the CD, sending to the suits (via traffic), at recordings/TV shoots, viewing/listening to the first few mixes…

    It was part of why I enjoyed the parts of copywriting I enjoyed.

    I now write fiction and other tangents and I do it on my own time (the job that pays for it is at a library, which is fitting, I guess). I still get a buzz but it’s different. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you’ve cracked it – the answer to a brief – except that it comes more from wonder and love than the sheer cerebral thrill of finding a solution to a client’s problem.

    Is it good, or bad? I think, as with most things in life, it’s too soon to say. But, if there’s some way it can help I say: let it.

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