PI4MM19 Pt 1: Wrath of the Trickster God (A naked breakdown of John Carlton’s twisted writing process)​



00:37 – Why John is sitting alone in the dark during a power-outage spending the last drips of cell battery to record this episode…

07:36 – Why good writing is “good looking” writing…

09:17 – The only gauntlet John trusts to test his writing…

11:10 – The one thing your copywriting MUST do before it can convince a soul to even pay attention…

13:00 – John’s adventures in voice to text and why it can’t mimic writing style…

17:05 – The secret power of “incongruous juxtaposition” (hard to say, but easy to do after you hear this)…

20:11 – What great writing does to your brain…

26:39 – John’s trick for popping out an irrisistable Twitter update…

28:13 – The critical difference in approoach between writing for twitter, Facebook and a blog…

33:09 – A line by line breakdown of John’s 3 paragraph SuperBowl facebook post that will change the way you think about writing forever…


23 thoughts on “PI4MM19 Pt 1: Wrath of the Trickster God (A naked breakdown of John Carlton’s twisted writing process)​

        1. Merna Dwyer

          I really enjoyed listening to this – so many takeaways, and a whole new perspective on the power of words and writing. I have always enjoyed writing, but somehow through work commitments got lost in the “daily grind” of just getting in done – you have reminded me that it can be more than just a bunch of words on a page.

          I’m going to start listening more to the other voices in my mind also.. 🙂

  1. Tony

    Pearls for wisdom here, John, you rock it. If science makes it possible I’d like to rent a permanent room in your head. Get a couch, good lighting kick back and start unravelling and mining those wonderful interesting gold nuggets knocking around in there.

  2. Cathy Goodwin

    Love the part about speaking vs writing voice. People don’t even recognize their own voices. I’ve had people, “I can’t hire a copywriter because my copy needs to sound like me.” One time a client – a marketer in her own right – asked me to be sure to include a paragraph she’d written that she really liked. When she got the copy she loved everything but that paragraph: “I’d never say anything like that!”

    Blogs going away? Say it isn’t so!

  3. Les

    Talk about a cliffhanger! Where’s Part 2, bru?

    Listening to that incredible portion where John quotes Lennon, Mick Jagger and Shakespeare drew attention to the rich texture of John’s thinking. That same richness of texture (without fluff) is what I love in authors like Glen Cook, Stephen Donaldson, Terry Goodkind and the early Robert Ludlum (The Holcroft Covenant).

    A mere mortal, I can only remind myself to breath again.

  4. Peter Michaels

    Fascinating glimpse into John’s mindset while writing, and I’m looking forward to part 2.

    Really good to hear you fellas talking so passionately about the writing part of what we do. A lot of pros play down the choice-of-language aspect of copy to focus on the more strategic, scientific elements of persuasion (sure, all hugely important, and absolutely necessary to sell at the top level) – and I understand why.

    They’re the easier parts to teach & learn for one thing… the more ‘writerly’ elements can be easily dismissed with a wave of the hand and something grunted about “college words” – I get it.

    But the output of good writers who ENJOY WRITING will always resonate deeper with many – you can see it, you can sense a kind of ‘glow’ around really great writing, even if you can’t explain or dissect it. There’s something less tangible, something more about the effect words, phrases and their arrangement have on the reader. (In books, in sales copy, on Facebook, wherever. It’s about the picture, not the frame.)

    You can spot a sales message written with all the focus on getting the “right” ingredients in their correct ratios and no original elements churned out like you can tell when a movie script’s written by a committee.

    Hey, I’m not saying these approaches never work – and I’m sure most of us’ve been involved in at least a couple instances ourselves when backs are against walls – but there’s nothing quite like reading the work of a real craftsperson.

    (Funny you should bring up Gatsby too, it’s one of those ‘obvious classics’ that as a Lit student (and since) I wanted – even tried – to hate, given its sacred cow status… and I STILL can’t explain why it works/why I love it, even after the 3rd read-thru and a bunch of critical analyses. After a while it doesn’t matter, you just accept it.)

  5. Kevin Rogers

    “You can spot a sales message written with all the focus on getting the “right” ingredients in their correct ratios and no original elements churned out like you can tell when a movie script’s written by a committee.”

    Excellent comparison, Peter. That crap reads more like SEO copy, written for algorithms, than a human to human transfer of emotions, which is the definition of great sales copy.

    Thanks for your note.

    Part 2 coming next week.


  6. Bob Long

    I don’t feel good writing this comment guys. The podcast today was not good for me. Too many interruptions by John, often over stuff I already know and was not that turned on to it when I first reading it.
    I noticed this on YouTube too.
    Yet, when I bought your book recently* I read it twice, maybe will read it again. * Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets Of a Marketing Rebel. Even though I knew some of this, much of it… it was coherent. I didn’t feel the podcast was coherent. Everyone seems to like you John and I like you, but the podcast seemed to be a time waster. Sometimes too much clever stuff and not useful stuff. Should we talk to our clients like this? Only, to me, if it works for you.

    1. John Carlton

      To each their own, Bob. We do the podcasts to please ourselves — it’s the kind of programming we would want to hear. Freeform, a real conversation, going deep on subjects we care about (and can talk your ear off on). There is approximately zero chance we’ll ever change the way we do them.

      One man’s incoherence is another man’s revelation. (Just check out the other comments on this page.) There are tons of guru’s and podcasts out there. Go find someone you connect with, and burrow deep into their world. No resource is worth listening to if it causes you pain.

      1. John Carlton

        Heck, go look at the reviews on Amazon for my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”. The majority love it. But there are, nevertheless, some folks who remain baffled, even angry about the way it’s written. That’s life in the fast lane — you cannot please everyone.

        I had colleagues BEG me not to title that book like that, by the way. And I have readers who feel they need to carefully explain to me why slang (and, OMG, swearing!) is damaging my reputation.

        I get it. I understand that even good-hearted folks can disagree about something as important as biz advice. I am very much not everyone’s cup of tea.

        And, true to form, I kinda enjoy that…

  7. Ludvig Sunström

    Great podcast.

    Some of the things I thought were most interesting/useful:

    — Distinctions between different writing styles. Copywriting = waking people up and keeping attention and interest (in hopes of achieving desire).

    — Great Gatsby not becoming successful while Fitzgerald lived (reminds me of van Gogh, slightly).

    — Writing & speaking are not the same. (I agree on this one).

  8. Go Fujii

    I enjoyed listening to this and all of the other audios.

    I’m from Japan and many folks over here write terribly.

    90% of the copywriters still use ” How to —– in 90 days!”.
    And whats sad is, majority of the people respond to that kind of writing.

    I really feel that business in the States is way more ahead of business in Japan.

  9. Eric

    My writing voice is far different from my speaking voice. Clarity in writing is important to me. My Dad was a lexicographer (he published a book of idioms – NOT self published) who instilled a respect and fascination for our very strange language. I also appreciate others who write clearly.

    My daily speech on the other hand, is atrocious. F-bombs, unfinished sentences and speaking too damn fast like the young whippersnappers.
    Sitting down to write a clear email to a colleague, describing the problems I’m about to leave in his lap, is a relief.


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