Killing the Copy by Hand

Writing by Hand to Activate the Reticular Cortex

30 High Impact Ways to Level Up Your Writing includes my favorite learning technique for writers. I’ve written about this before, but this is a new hit on it and a good one.

 Embed Awesome Writing into Your Brain by Handwriting

Sounds odd, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s how many great writers started off.

Journalist Hunter S. Thompson started by copying the The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter.

Robert Louis Stevenson, author of classics like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island, honed his chops by taking a passage from a great writer and reading it. Then turning over the passage and trying to re-write it again from memory.

Dan Kennedy bloodied his nose in the marketing world by copying out 500 sales letters by hand in order train his mind to absorb the rhythm of good copy.

I’ve used this technique myself. It ain’t easy, but it’s an excellent way to quickly absorb good flow and wording and sharpen your skills           author Hassan Ud-deen

He doesn’t get into the brain aspect here, but he’s entirely correct. I’ve heard Brian Tracy talk about the effectiveness of writing by hand and how it activates a certain part of the brain. The reticular part means your brain function will be sensitized to the particular subject you are writing about. You will learn more and faster when this brain function is activated.

There is a high impact way to level up your writing that is very closely related. One of the Teaching Company Courses I studied was about writing a good, solid sentence. The instructor was devoted to complex sentences that built and delivered a serious punch at the end. At the end of the day, I like simple sentences.

Here is what Hassan Ud-deen says about sentences.

Study Great Sentences

Sentences are the backbone of your writing.

The stronger they are, the stronger your writing will become and the more impact it will have on your readers.

If you encounter a sentence that catches your attention, stop for a second.

Go over it again. Handwrite it. Study it.

Break down why it’s such a good sentence. Is it concise and powerful? Does it contain a metaphor with killer clarity? Is it crammed with power words?

Take notes on what makes other sentences good. You’ll discover useful lessons that’ll strengthen your own writing.

Clearly this would be faster and easier than copying big chunks of text. And yet, when I was practicing copywriting, that is exactly what I did. I copied many print advertisements, some of them classics, like the story of two men. Then, I changed them a bit to focus on what I might actually sell.

To sum up, copying to learn copy is not a well known process. And not a well loved one either. But it supplies the seed of a powerful discipline if you choose to use it.

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