“The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.” – Socrates
I’ve had a sudden influx of people ask about daily rituals – and how to master copywriting for themselves.
Look: I’m not stupid enough to enjoy reducing my customers and adding to my competitors. And if you catch me in a bad mood, you may get a cold response.
But I do have a few tricks to share – and if you commit to them, whatever you’re trying to master, I think you’ll do very well indeed.
Pasted below is an email I wrote a young cub writer.
One thing I must highlight. If you’re young – let’s say under 30 – you need to accept the fact that life is a string of painful, humbling incidents. These failures and embarrassments are only bearable if you keep a journal.
By putting your experiences into words, you turn your failures into a stepping stone towards mastery. I’m saying this as somebody who’s still on that journey.
I turn 32 next month, and still know practically nothing. The more stuff I learn, the more I learn there’s stuff I’ve yet to learn.
Think about that. Let it sink in. Then read the ‘rituals/tricks’ – whatever you want to call them – below.
…On this subject of mastering copy, I was thinking about my own mistakes.
I think my biggest mistake was trying to study too broadly. I would read any marketing/advertising book I could find, which may sound like the right thing to do, but here’s why I think it’s not:
I learned to play blues and jazz guitar from a teenager into my twenties. Then, by my late twenties, I started to play classical. Classical playing demands a lot more attention to detail with technique. I realised I had a lot of ground-work missing on hand/seat position, breathing etc. It was a hell of an effort unlearning the errors and developing muscle-memory for the correct positions.
I think it’s similar with copywriting.
I think it’s more important to drill yourself on the fundamental principles, so they are hard-wired into your brain. This saves you time later on. It also makes it easier to judge other ideas when you do start reading more widely.
To start, I would:
>> Read the 3 most important books. (Perhaps Scientific Advertising, Tested Advertising Methods, How to Write Sales Letters that Sell or The Robert Collier Letter Book.) Read each of these 5 times, and keep a journal of new observations.
>> Spend 30 minutes a day copying great advertisements out by hand. This is, for me, the fastest way to get your brain hard-wired for writing copy. I would stick to copying ads by Gary Halbert, Gary Bencivenga, Eugene Scwartz…those old pros. I still do this 15 minutes every day.
>> Commit to being a lifelong student. I think we’re in a society where everyone is in a rush to be an “expert” or “authority.” Maybe I fell for this in the past. However, if you are an “expert” then criticism becomes an obstacle in your way, because it threatens your position as an “expert”. Your impulse could be to knock the criticism away, rather than use it as a path to improvement. As a lifelong student, you will likely notice more opportunities to improve.
Those are the 3 main ideas which spring to mind.
I’ll let you know if I think of anything else 🙂