How to “Think Outside The Box”

Filed under: Copywriting — Shaune on Sunday, April 2, 2006

In a comment, on my very first post, on this blog an old friend referred to me as someone who thinks outside the box.

Being able to do so has helped me a lot in my business, my life really.

How to do it…

As I look at it, I have never been one to “accept it”, as “they” say it should be. That said, there was a big moment in my life when I think that this natural tendency was magnified. I was forced into a “shift in perception.” I think this is the foundation for being able to think outside the box…being able to see things from a different perspective.

Here’s what I mean…

In my early twenties, nearly 20 years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Environmental Illness. For a couple of years I followed the experts advice until one day, when I thought I was dying… (No exaggeration)

Out of desperation, I called someone in the Natural Health field, Dr. Darrell Wolfe.

He told me to do things I had never heard of before but I was desperate. I followed his unusual advice and guess what…It worked. It was a turning point in my life. I was forced to see things in a different way.

My paradigm of what health care was had become completely shattered. No longer could I think, “This is how it is.”

Today I remain in the habit of asking myself, “How else can I see this.”

As an example, I’ll look to one industry and see how what they do can apply to what I’m doing.

My experience as an interviewer and it’s application to writing sales letters is one example.

FACT: We all see things through our own filters, filters that usually aren’t correct.

Let me say that again…

The way we see the world is often not as it really is.

We need to be conscious of this and question our perspective.

So it is with copywriting. When we “feel” that a word, a sentence, a paragraph, a section, an angle, a Body Copy Headline, etc. just isn’t on…

We should ask ourselves…

How can I see this differently?

Try not to get to attached to your own idea. It may be a good one, but my experience tells me, that often there is a better one. We just need to remain open, broaden our thinking and yes…

…Think outside the box.

Right now where is there a piece of your copy that isn’t tight? It isn’t as you would want it to be. It just doesn’t feel on!

Ask yourself…

What is it I’m trying to get across?

What point do I really want to make?


How else could I get it across?

Is there some other way for me to accomplish this?

If nothing comes to you it’s OK. Try it again for another point in your copy. Just keep trying until a new view comes. Once that first breakthrough comes, thinking outside the box becomes much more natural.

What is it that you believe right now that might not be exactly as you see it?

8 Comments - I want to hear your opinion. Click here to leave a comment.

Comment by John A. Manley

April 3, 2006 @ 9:28 am

Wow! That might surprise a lot of the hard core swipers.

I don’t think I could write copy if I wasn’t allowed to think outside the box. Come out with new angles. Build on existing techniques.

There’s a lot of room for creativity in copy. As long as it stays with in clear and reasonable guidelines.

It’s a more constructive form of creativity (in constrast to image advertising).



Comment by Shaune

April 3, 2006 @ 10:38 am

Clear and reasonable guidelines is key John.

I’m not sure that the hard core swipers would object though…if they really thought about it that is.

The problem with debates in copywriting over such things as swiping, long copy vs short, etc. is that none of these things occur independently.

There are other factors at play.

In order to successfully swipe you must understand the architecture of copy. You must be able to add substance to the copy. You must understand the flow of a great sales letter. If you try to swipe without this understanding you’re in trouble.


Because swiping, at least as it’s intended, is merely the swiping of an idea. In order to do so you have to understand what’s going on “underneath” the idea. The infrastructure around it that supports it and makes it work.

In isolation it doesn’t work.

To think you can successfully swipe without having the skill to write a letter without swiping would, at best, be a half truth.


Comment by Ryan Healy

April 3, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

I’m a contrarian thinker.

Whenever I wonder, “Which way should I go?” I observe what the majority is doing, then do the opposite.

The mob is never right. It’s why democracy is so scary. It’s why writing copy “the normal way” is a dangerous short-term strategy.

For long-term success, you must go your own way. Because, in the end, it’s the only way.


Comment by Shaune

April 3, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

Ryan are you contrarian? No wonder we’ve become good friends. Another good friend of mine calls himself a non-conformist.

On being contrarian, thinking outside the box, etc. let me say…

Although there is a “standard mantra” of how to write copy, if you listen closely, more and more, there is uncommon thought filtering through.

What tests well last month doesn’t this month. Why? It’s become to normal. You have to be different to gain attention.

Even one “Big dog” has come out saying that benefit-rich copy isn’t working anymore. What?

Why haven’t you told us sooner? Oh right some forward thinking “small guys” were saying so. Everyone was seeing, sensing, “feeling” the truth in it. You had to change your tune and quick.

And so it is that the ability to see it differently is becoming all to common…dare I say necessary!

And all that said, there are standard principles that applied yesterday, apply today and will tomorrow.

It’s just how we compliment them that becomes new. A simple will to see it from a different perspective goes a long way.


Comment by Robert

April 4, 2006 @ 3:35 pm

Interesting Shaune,

I too had a medical challenge that took my natural bent to look for alternative solutions and turned it into core approach to life.

I’d had a knee suddenly swell up - huge - in the course of an hour. One doctor said it was a torn meniscus and it could be rehabbed. It never really got better and I spent a year on crutches. Then it went worse. This whole time my lower leg kept swelling like a balloon. I’d ask why and he wasn’t sure because it didn’t match the symptoms of torn cartilage. I changed doctors.

The new bone doc X-rayed it and found the bone in the knee was severely destroyed - osteoporosis. He first diagnosed RSD. Then he went in and had a look and discovered it was gout of all things. They shipped me off to a rheumatologist. He diagnosed it as RSD because gout didn’t act that way. Later he found it was gout. I asked him why my leg kept swelling. He thought it could be due to the osteoporosis.

Fast forward a year… I go back and visit the bone Doc. I ask why my leg is still swelling. He thinks a while… Then he ships me off to a hospital with Doppler Radar imaging and has them scan the veins in my leg. Two hours and 3 specialist later they come in and tell me I had a blood clot in my femoral vein. It’s scared the veins so thick the radar can’t get through them. And it appears to be gone. The only question is why I was alive. When it broke lose I should have died.

I was already bent towards exploring angles and approaches. And like Shaune, that incident burned the habit into my being.

It’s made me safer and my clients wealthier.


Comment by Jack Bastide

April 6, 2006 @ 9:56 pm

Well I Decided to “slum” it a bit and visit Shaune’s blog … :)

Seriously though I’m one of of Shaune’s Coaching Students and its awesome

He’s teaching a whole new brand of copy and
you will soon be hearing Shaune Clarke being
mentioned among the copywriting greats.

Hopefully you will hear Jack Bastide too :)



Comment by Shaune

April 6, 2006 @ 10:10 pm

Hey Robert,

Thanks for dropping by.

Robert is a former apprentice to Jay Abraham. He has written copy under his direction.

I heard Jay talk about copy for 15 minutes one time and I really wanted to buy a copywriting product by him but he doesn’t offer one.

When I ran into Robert I asked him if I could interview him…he agreed. He is the closest thing to understanding Jay Abraham’s take on copywriting as you’re going to get.

No doubt, he understands exploring angles and approaches and how to apply that to writing sales letters.

The recording will be available soon.

If nothing else you’ll want to hear the unique “Copywriting Mantra” that Jay hammered into Robert’s consciousness!

It’s something to “Really Get!”


Comment by Shaune

April 6, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

Hey Jack,

Thanks for slummin’ it! : )

If I have my way Jack you definitely will be there. It is so fun to watch everyone evolve in the program, you too Jack.

You have that storyteller in ya. A little self-discipline to engrain those unique techniqes into your writing and you’ll be top-notch.

Be patient Jack. It’s worth the extra time.

Once you have it, you have it!

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