Not that I’ve ever actually ridden a bull — even a friendly one. (I’ve heard it’s hell on a manicure.)
Been to many a rodeo, though, where they save the toughest event for last: Bull riding.
A bull rider gets eight seconds to prove himself. If he stays on the bull for 8 seconds, while the bull snorts, kicks and tries to throw him, his ride qualifies. During those 8 seconds, the rider can’t touch the ground (“hit the ground” is more like it); he can’t touch the bull with his free hand, and his rope hand has to stay in the rope.
Copywriters get less time than that. Three full seconds before the reader (the ultimate judge) decides whether to toss you or stick with you.
(I can almost hear you laughing right now. I must fancy myself as some tough little lady, because God planted in me an appreciation for traditional guy-stuff. I don’t know why I love rodeos, car races and boxing…I just do.)
Let’s keep with that bull and see if there’s a correlation to the dangerous sport of copywriting 😆 — and how readers tacitly score you:
First: You must keep control of the bull. You have to stay ON the bull. You can’t touch the ground. Writers have one purpose: to keep the reader engaged. It helps to stick with one message, one big idea. Your butt can leave the saddle, and you can spur the reader on with barbs of humor, arguments, bullet points and stories. But your main job is to ride one bull till the end. No switching bulls midway. (I’d like to see one of those tough-as-nails dudes do that trick!)
Next: You can’t touch the bull. This is referred to as a “slap” and will get you disqualified. Ever notice how the rider keeps that hand high in the air — as far away from the bull as possible? Again, it’s a control thing. If his arm gets whipped around so much that it slaps the bull’s body (or the rider’s own body), he loses. Writing is like keeping an upright position on a bull. Keeping an “upper hand” means maintaining a consistent tone, keeping spelling errors in check, respecting the different positions of your audience, and leading them to an easy conclusion.
Last: The riding hand (the one that’s holding on) can’t come free from the rope. Commitment, practice, tenacity — you need these to write every day. (Callouses don’t hurt either!) If you can keep a reader riveted for more than three seconds, it’s sign that you’ve been at it awhile.
There will be moments when you won’t want to keep your grasp on that promise you made yourself to write.
But don’t let go. Keep writing in spite of all the distractions, the dizzying exceptions to the rules, the fierce competition, and the trauma of spinning “down in the well” of writer’s block.
One ride does not a bull rider make. Neither can you judge your writing ability on one blog post, email or article. Some of it is going to be crap, let’s face it. And when it is, just get back in the saddle and try again.
A final note: In bull riding, the bull also gets scored. Changes in direction, kicking height, and spin all factor into the ride’s degree of difficulty. A dull bull can negatively affect the rider’s score, sometimes resulting in a do-over. Writers aren’t so lucky. 😉
Brush yourself off. Get back in the saddle. You’ll get another three seconds again real soon. Yeeee-ha!
Always open to weird metaphors…what’s your copywriting challenge like for you?