So you wanna get really good at copywriting, fast?
Maybe you’re just getting started as a copywriter… Or maybe you’ve been a writer for a long time, writing some copy here and there, but decided it’s time to really hone your direct response chops…
What’s the best way to get up to speed quickly?
Let me start with a story…
You probably didn’t know this about me, but I was a breakdancer in high school (and college, and I’m still okay at it, but rusty like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz).
I got into it because it was a big part of the electronic music scene in the late 90s, here in Nebraska. But I danced at my high school with a mix of kids, some into electronic music like me, others into hip-hop…
At lunch time every day, we’d find our way to the very bottom of one of the main stairways at our school — down in the basement by the shop.
It was a nice, big, tiled floor with almost no traffic going through at lunch — and no classrooms within earshot that we’d be a nuisance to.
In short, a perfect place to dance.
It started as just me, Kyle, Leo, and Chardell. Now, we were all pretty good dancers… And we constantly challenged and taught each other.
But Leo and Chardell were also amazing at something else. Rapping. Pick any major hip-hop or rap artist of the day, and ask them to rap like them, and they’d just go.
They’d often just go off on any song you’d ask them to… But what was even more amazing was when you’d recommend a specific artist — including really distinctive artists like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, for example — and they’d set off on their own freestyle that was an incredibly close emulation of the original artist.
Considering the talent that a distinctive sound like BTNH takes, it was amazing.
One day, I asked Chardell how he got so good at rapping like all these different artists…
“It’s easy,” he told me.
“You can rap like anybody. Anybody can.”
“All you have to do is listen to their songs, over and over again. Memorize them. And practice them yourself. Over and over again. Trying to sound as much like them as you can.”
“The more songs you memorize well enough to sound like the original artist, the better you learn their style.”
“Eventually, you know the style so well, you can make things up yourself and sound just like the original.”
“I know all their songs. Every word. That’s how I rap like this.”
And when I asked him how he created his own style, he had an equally simple answer.
“I just took what I liked from everyone else, and copied it.”
“Once I copied enough little things from enough artists, it didn’t sound like them any more. It sounded like me.”
That’s a profound lesson, and it’s been applied in nearly every discipline…
For example, as I learned to produce music, one of the first things I did was start copying.
I’d dig into different songs that I really liked, and try to replicate them myself.
Maybe it was a particular rhythm. Maybe it was a particular synthesizer sound.
Finding out how to copy all the different sounds in any given song became my challenge. And as I matched the different sounds, I taught myself the many different aspects of making the styles of music I liked.
Now, everything I copied has become an ingrained skill. It’s no longer copying. I’m drawing from my own experience, as I seek to recreate the sounds in my head.
Copying taught me the skills that I now use to create original works.
Painters do the same thing.
Most truly great original painters didn’t start out creating great original works. They started out by copying. They’d copy the techniques and styles of other painters, learning the process behind a final result.
It’s only once they internalized all these processes that they started to apply them to creating original works.
And because they’d internalized all the processes by copying them in the first place, they had the capabilities to express their creativity in unique and interesting ways.
It goes on… But how does this apply to learning copywriting fast?
While you could apply this to learn nearly any skill, you’re reading this because you want to get great at copywriting.
Well, this same process is one of the most time-tested ways to get great at copywriting, fast.
If you name a copywriting guru, I can bet they’ve recommended it before.
And yes, I followed their recommendation as I was learning copywriting — and it worked! I even occasionally follow this recommendation to this day.
In short, if you want to get great at copywriting, you need to copy great copy!
Sit down with a successful advertisement or sales letter, and copy it yourself.
The old gurus always said you have to do it by hand. And I certainly did my fair share — filling up yellow note pad after yellow note pad.
I know for a fact that your brain treats handwriting differently than it does typing. So maybe there’s something to that.
And I know if nothing else, for most of us having to hand-write something actually slows us down. And in the extra time it takes to hand copy a piece of great copy, you can think about what the original copywriter was doing with every sentence, and how you can apply that to your own writing.
But even if you’re not going to write out great ads by hand, type them into your computer. I’m guessing if you go this route, it’s because you do everything on your computer. Well, it won’t hurt to train your typing fingers to type great copy.
Either way, try it.
What you’ll be doing is training both your conscious and your subconscious mind what great copy is…
What it feels like… Its cadence… Its rhythm… Its pacing… Its stories… Its proof and credibility… Its voice… Its promises and offers…
You’ll be internalizing all the processes and tricks and X-factors that go into writing great copy.
And the more you do of it — from the more different copywriters — the better off you’ll be.
You’ll find yourself internalizing all their different styles and quirks and skills… And when you go to write your own copy, it’ll all come pouring out in a mashed-up way that’s uniquely you.
Again, if you want to get great at copywriting, fast, this is one of the single-best ways to do so.
Most really good copywriters I know today have done this. Some did it a lot starting out, and have fallen off. Others still do it religiously, like exercise.
Either way, they did it. And most also-rans and never-weres of copywriting never bothered. Which would you rather be?
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets