For centuries, aspiring writers have spent hours copying out the work of masters in order to learn the secrets of being a great writer.
We’ve gone into detail before about what copywork is and how you can use it to benefit your writing. The idea behind this practice is that copying out sentences, passages, or even entire works of excellent writers will grant you an understanding of what makes the writing so good, therefore giving you those tools to use in your own writing.
As well as generally improving your writing, the practice of copywork can also help you find your voice. You know—that unique, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it quality that makes each person’s writing sound distinctly theirs.
You may be wondering how imitating the work of another writer can help you discover your voice. I’ll admit, it does seem a bit counterintuitive.
Copywork can help you find your voice by giving you greater control, letting you try on different styles without committing to them, and helping you find inspiration.
Incorporating copywork into your writing practice helps you model your writing after the masters and find your voice in the process.
“Copying is the highest form of flattery,” my parents would tell me whenever I was annoyed about my friends “copying” me. I didn’t believe them. (I was 8 years old at the time; can you blame me?)
But then I started college, and this “copying is flattery” came back to haunt me. My literature professors would tell me, “If you want to write like an academic, you need to read a lot of academic writing.”
So, essentially, if I wanted to do well in college literature courses, I had to figure out a way to copy these writers.Continue reading
Writing is something virtually all of us can get better at. Part of this improvement comes from our becoming more experienced—to put it simply, writing more makes us better. However, another part comes from others’ experience: We learn from the advice of those who’ve written more than we have.
The internet is a fantastic source of writing advice, containing seemingly endless resources and wisdom. And yet, there’s a certain problem with this abundance of knowledge: Not all of it is good for you.
On the one hand you can find excellent, in-depth articles written by people who really want to help you; on the other, catchy one-liners that sound important and wise, but can actually be unproductive, if not outright harmful. The problem is that such short and wise-sounding tips propagate virally and persist. For obvious reasons, we tend to be attracted to simple, one-size-fits-all solutions.
Sadly, these so-called easy solutions are often wrong or, at the very least, misleading or incomplete.
In this post I will visit three of the most persistent such claims about writing. We’ll see which one is somewhat true, which one is wrong, and which one is … not even wrong. The goal is not to offer you ready solutions—that would only perpetuate the “trust me, I’m a writer” problem. Rather, with this post I want to help you see how to gauge such writing claims for yourself.Continue reading