Writing — How to Practice Correctly

Career

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jotham.lim

I’ve recently been introduced to the idea of Copywork by Matthew from TheFutur, and it helped me realise that I’ve gone about writing practices all wrong. When training new writers, my original regimen looks like this:

  • Fixing knowledge diets & reading more.
  • Understand theories behind the written structure.
  • Write as much as possible.

There’s something missing from the picture, and that’s imitation.

To learn how to play a guitar, you find tabs on the song you like and practice it. To learn how to code, you replicate an online tutorial project. To learn how to cook, you follow recipes to a T.

Yet for writing, you are expected to manifest original and unique ideas from the void. Why is that?

Is it because writing is supposed to be authentic? Is it because imitating other writers is beneath us? Is it because we haven’t been taught and are instead punished for copying others from a young age?

Writing is not so special that it transcends regular forms of practice. Copywork is the answer, and here’s how you can start:

  • Intentional transcription. Find an author that you like and copy their text word-for-word. Unlike other mediums, writing reflects the author’s mindset and thought process wrapped in style and prose. Re-writing the text helps us reverse engineer that entire process.
  • Reflection. Along with the transcriptions, write what you have observed and learnt. Personally, I’ve broken it down into two parts: structure, which is the flow of information and how the story is structured; and style, which includes vocabulary usage, sentence length and more.
  • Imitation. Using these observations, write a piece on your own while imitating the author as best as you can. This will be your primary form of practice.
  • Adjust. Every writer is different and so should the practice regimen. You should adjust the frequency and intention of copyworking to suit your needs.

The key is to practice consistently. Even prolific writers like Benjamin Franklin initially had horrible command of the English language. Instead of wallowing in embarrassment, he started by copying magazine authors he looked up to. Now, his writing has contributed to the founding of an entire country.


Personally, this article is the result of copyworking Seth Godin’s blog. This article may suck and not sound like me, but that’s beside the point.

So stay diligent, keep practising, and learn as best as you can.

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