Each to their own.
If you haven't got Taschen's 'The Copy Book - How some of the best advertising writers in the world write their advertising', then get it. Now.
I don't own an extensive range of copywriting books. I think I've always looked to gain more from a piece of writing than the factual, the resourceful. I love insight, a real study of how people work, especially writers. 'The Copy Book' ticks that box. On top of thumbing through some of the most infamous long and short copy ads of all time, you gain a self-penned insight into the writer's routine and attitudes to their profession.
Every writer is different. One of the things I love about my job is the fact that I see a brief completely different to another copywriter. It's the personal idiosyncrasies and routines that make the writer.
'The Copy Book' delves into these, and I was surprised by the passionate obsessiveness of some and the robotic nature of others. When it comes to my own attitude and habits to my copywriting, there will always be areas that I ponder over and try to customise, so it's good to see the masters struggle with the same.
When it comes to the kick off I need two things; to be in the mood and a pen. I write everything by hand. Time consuming and not exactly tree friendly, but I like the look of words and my own handwriting. The act of handwriting is a real pleasure, probably why I love the research stage of projects so much.
The likes of David Abbott adopt a similar love for pen and paper. Abbott rarely shapes a piece of copy prior to creating the copy itself, it is 'somehow in his brain', something I believe the noble pen and paper is responsible for.
Ideas & Words
Advertising copy is definitely less a case of knowing what to write, but when to. Thinking visually and forging the idea into communication is a delicate process. I love bad ideas, they are just as valuable as the good, so as delicate as this process is, it can be about bold decisions and taking risks.
I stumble across my best ideas often by accident, but no idea is perfect. Test it's stealth and if it remains as pliable and punchy as it did at first thinking, then you're onto a winner.
John Bevins believes you don't "have" good ideas, you find them.
Work how you work
Some writers need noise to work, others a quiet office. For me, my writing space is often dictated by the project at hand. I love collaboration, I enjoy thrashing out ideas and test driving copy but I have to admit that the traditional notions of brainstorming and 'workshopping' make me cringe slightly.
I re-write continuously. A trait I developed as a screenwriter I'm sure, as some copywriters limit their copy to a 3 draft routine. Neil French rarely re-writes as it kills the flow once he starts to tinker.
Develop your own style and use it well. If there's one thing this book taught me it's that industries and projects change but habits and routines rarely do. The best writers are the ones that know what works for them and can apply it accordingly.