The Copywriting Secret I Rediscovered in a 243-Year-Old Break-Up Letter
Matthew slipped into his seat just as the late bell rang. As the rest of the class cracked open their history books, the teacher caught his eye.
Her steely eyes pierced his cocky, teenage swagger … silently reminding him he’d barely made it in time. Her body language told him she was in no mood for jokes this morning.
“We need to chat about something serious,” the teacher opened class.
“You know it’s not appropriate to write notes during class. It’s disrespectful and tells me you weren’t paying attention.”
“But yesterday, I found this note on the floor after class,” she added, waving a folded piece of spiral-bound notebook paper with her right hand.
“It’s pretty long, too,” she continued, “meaning the author missed a huge part of the lesson.”
“So …” her voice trailed off in a dramatic pause, “instead of assigning a detention, I’m going to read the note to the entire class.”
A hushed murmur spread through the room as she started.
The Break Up
“Dear blank,” she began.
“And just so you know,” she interrupted, “I’m protecting the guilty as I’m sure they’re already embarrassed enough.”
“Things used to be so good between us. I felt like you really understood who I wanted to be.
You were supportive. You gave me my space and you were always there when I needed it … no matter how far apart we were.
But then you started to get more controlling. You kept telling me what to do and wouldn’t respect my opinions. I think you even stole some of my stuff.
I tried so many times to make it work. I forgave you … and even wrote you that sweet letter!
But last night was the final straw. You accused me of doing something I didn’t do … which led to our really big fight.
No relationship should be like this. So, after a lot of thinking … I think we are done.”
She paused, then scanned the 27 anxious faces — each one attached to a fidgeting body that made the classroom feel like a Jerry Springer audience.
She continued reading.
“I’m sorry it has to be this way. But I have to declare my independence, King George.
So, I’m breaking up with you.
The 13 Colonies.”
Laughter exploded through the classroom and Matthew blurted, “Oh my gosh, you totally sucked me in!”
The “A-Lister’s” Secret Weapon
About now you might be thinking, “What does teaching teenagers history have to do with your copywriting career?”
The answer … everything!
Quite simply, if a high school history teacher can use a great Big Idea to capture the attention of one of the hardest “audiences” to crack …
Then think of how valuable those skills are to your copywriting clients — and their bottom line.
Beyond the artistry of stringing together compelling leads, unforgettable bullets, and an irresistible call-to-action …
Generating Big Ideas is THE skill that separates the “A-listers” from the “just good” copywriters.
When you become an Idea Generator, you instantly become an extraordinarily valuable asset to your clients … more of a business partner than a copywriter.
And that lets you do more than dip your toes in the copywriting pool.
It gives you the superpower to grow your business as big as you want … by partnering with your clients to make their businesses explode.
Become an Idea Machine
So, when this teacher shared her story — full disclosure, she’s my daughter, Cheyenne — I laughed at first.
Then my copywriting brain kicked in and I just had to ask … how did she come up with the Big Idea of introducing the Declaration of Independence as a break-up letter?
Her answer provides a quick case study in how easy Big Ideas can become when you’re an Idea Generator.
As a fairly new teacher, Cheyenne has spent a lot of time creating lesson plans to engage a highly skeptical audience … teenagers who’d rather be anywhere other than a history class.
Because of this, she’s been regularly exercising her Big Idea muscle … even though it’s not in the role of a copywriter.
She relayed a conversation where a colleague planted the idea of a “break up” to describe the colonists’ separation from the British Crown.
Then — my translation for what she told me …
She thought about how to transform this seed into a complete “sales pitch” that would speak to her target “customer” — and enter the conversation they were already having in their heads.
The result? The Big Idea of a break-up letter … something every American teenager can relate to. Presented with a story lead and a little dramatic flair.
So, like any good copywriter, I swiped Cheyenne’s story and used it for this article … because it shows the extreme value of being an Idea Generator no matter what you do.
Now, when you’re ready to take your copywriting business — or any business — to the next level …
Or become indispensable to your clients as a valued member of their team …
Become an Idea Generator.
There are many ways you can do this.
3 Ways to Strengthen Your Idea Muscles
One is to read both volume and breadth … lots of different content from a wide variety of types, sources, topics, etc.
I have a good friend who does this. He’s been known to read religious texts, songwriting magazines, construction plans, and government forms … all in the same morning.
And he’s an idea creation machine — because he can connect dots from so many different areas.
Others I know have had success by learning the process from an “idea mentor.” This is the case with several real estate investors I know and have worked with.
And still others have found training programs helpful for learning how to generate Big Ideas.
Just choose at least one and dive in …
Because it will not only transform your copywriting, it will change how you look at the world.
Regardless of how you learn, here’s a final piece of advice I learned from Jedd Canty — a modern-day legend who built an “AWAI Copywriter of the Year” career on his Big Ideas …
Exercise your Big Idea muscle every day. And document your progress in an idea journal where you track all your ideas — big and small.
Because you never know when the dots will connect these different ideas and produce an attention-grabbing (and profitable) Big Idea.
The kind that will suck your audience in like a 243-year-old “break-up letter” did to a group of Arizona teenagers.
Do you have any questions about getting started as a paid writer? Please share in the comments so we can point you in the right direction.
The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter
The AWAI Method™ combines the most up-to-date strategies, insights, and teaching methods with the tried-and-true copywriting fundamentals so you can take on ANY project — not just sales letters. Learn More »
I have to say, Keith, this was one of the most entertaining - and useful - articles I've read in a while.
And...you've given me a lot to think about. Thanks for that!
Anita Cooper –
Keith I agree completely with Anita. Very entertaining (I was completely sucked into the story like a high school student).
You have tweaked my brain cells to look for that big idea and jot it into a journal for future reference, I only wish that those big ideas would come to me a lot easier.
Thank you for the inspiration.
Thanx, Anita and NovyGuy! 🙏
I'm glad it helped stimulate your creative juices. 👍