Before you sit and write that new ad, article, or even letter, you most likely will fight your way through the jungle of myth and preconception surrounding the art of quality writing. Many get lost; getting sidetracked is easy when you have the wrong ideas about what writing is and how it is done.
Next time you sit at the keyboard or put pen to paper, consider if you are limiting yourself by believing one or more of the big writing myths:
Writers wait for inspiration. Sometimes lightning comes crashing out of the sky and a good idea simply demands expression; it happens, but you can't rely on it, and writers who wait for inspiration are writers going broke. Writing is a learned craft, little different from carpentry. Learn the skills and let them guide your work, leaving inspiration to the poets in the coffee bars.
First instincts are usually the best. Occasionally they are, but instinct can almost always be improved upon by rational analysis. Listen to your instincts when you're writing, but don't deify them - question them just as strongly as you would any authority telling you to take their word on an important matter with a simple "Because I said so." Much of the time, first instincts are dead wrong.
Only drunk, tortured artistes can write properly (a.k.a. The Hemingway Syndrome). The only thing alcohol and emotional stress contribute to writing is the occasional bout of honesty in someone who can't be honest any other way. Sharp writing requires a sharp mind; clear writing demands a clear head.
Anyone can write. Anyone can sit at a keyboard and communicate an idea to a personal acquaintance over email; not everyone can effectively convey complicated ideas to complete strangers. Powerful writing requires attention to detail, patience in learning the rules and skills, and long practice in applying them. Anyone can learn to write; not anyone has the patience to accomplish it.
Grammar is everything; grammar is nothing. The rules matter, but they're not everything - some of the most effective writing has arrived from outside the bounds of established grammar standards. Never ignore grammar, but at the same time don't worship it. Learn the rules well enough to know when and how to break them.
The goal of good writing is to grab the reader's emotions. Emotional impact is an important part of effective writing, but the ultimate goal is always clarity. Unemotional clarity can often still be powerful; ambiguous and confusing emotion is simply wasted work. Always seek clarity in your writing first.
The goal of good copywriting is to sell. At one time, long ago, products and services could be sold almost entirely on the power of professional copywriting; that is no longer the case. Writing informs, and people sell. Your promotional copy should educate, inform, encourage and lead. Let the flesh-and-blood human beings close the deal.
"Writer's Block" exists. Short of ideas? In dread and terror of the blank page? Unable to shut up your inner editor long enough to produce that masterpiece? "Writer's Block" - probably the single most damaging myth to a writer - is the simple and direct result of unrealistic expectations, both of oneself and of the writing process.
Next time you find yourself stalled on the page, step back and check your expectations at door. Your writing and your writing life are both far better without myth and superstition getting in your way.