How To Become Master At Copywriting? Here Are My 3 Secret Techniques
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
I’ve created a million dollar company, brought someone on Forbes and wrote a book that turned a bestseller.
Using the power of the word. Oh words, the drop of the ice berg, the tail of a shooting star, the breath of the nightingale.
To be a writer is a curse. "Best" looks always within the grasp, but you can never quite get there.
And so you struggle.
Here are my three techniques for competent writers looking to become great:
1) Write love letters
How does it work?
Imagine you are in love with someone. Or better yet – fall in love with someone.
Then write a love letter to them.
No email, no instant message but a love letter. I’ve practiced this technique with some students of mine, girls and boys.
Then you will ask – You actually manage to fall in love repeatedly?
I say, Yes. Because it is not about the object of love, but the act of love itself. And admiration. I would admire her flowing hair.
Or his eyes, blue cylinders of surprising depth – and emptiness.
Then writing comes easy.
So, I would let love overtake me and to that person I will write the most sublime love letter I can think of.
And then I will instruct her to write back to me. And then I will write back. And then I will instruct him to write back to me.
Perhaps someday I will publish the love letters on those I loved and on those I never said I do.
But is this technique right for writing for the web? Short, crisp, SEO friendly?
It is right for writing. Learn to write first before choosing the platform.
Adjusting yourself platform-wise is easier. Building pathways between unlikely islands is where everyone struggles.
How do I write a love letter?
Get overwhelmed. Fall in love over and over again.
Then lighten up with desire, a want. Want it and want it really bad.
Then practice. Perhaps one day you and I will get close to the exquisite love letters Emily Dickinson wrote to Susan Gilbert …
To own a Susan of my own
Is of itself a Bliss —
Whatever Realm I forfeit, Lord,
Continue me in this!
2) Read .. The right way
We copywriters are often told to read more in order to write more.
But what makes for a good read?
The masters of copywriting are great at one thing – establishing links between the most unlikely sources.
They build a network where no one could have imagined one. They mix stuff. They perform Idea Sex.
They make that possible through cross reading various genres. They expose themselves to things, sometimes things that wreck them and the pain that comes with recovery.
Or as Truman Capote puts it in Infamous:
Life is painful. It's the one experience that unites rich and poor. I suppose I'm able to endure it... ...because I can galvanize what wounds me into art.
Read stuff that wrecks you. Allow dominion of feelings that make you uncomfortable.
Read not to find an answer to a problem but to feel something new.
And then whenever you find something it does, make a note of it. Keep it. Get that fragment out and save it.
If you wonder how to do that mechanically, use Ryan Holiday’s method of remembering, using and organizing everything you read.
A poem or part of it moves you? Take it down.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
-- from Kublai Khan
A lyric quivers through you? Dig it out:
When the earth was still flat,
And clouds made of fire,
And mountains stretched up to the sky,
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs.
They had two sets of arms.
They had two sets of legs.
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked; while they read.
-- from The Origins of Love
You wish those lines dripped out of you? They didn’t but you can still keep them:
Moloch in whom I sit lonely!
Moloch in whom I dream Angels!
Crazy in Moloch!
Cocksucker in Moloch!
Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
(-- from Howl, Alan Ginsberg)
You wish your mother whispered this to you before you fell asleep? She didn’t but you can still note it:
Less possessing – less possess
More possessing – more possess
More possessed – Less assessed
Less possessed – More assessed
-- from The Book of Myrdad
You wish you had told this whenever you pitch investors about StayUncle? You didn’t but you can still mark it and tell them the next time you meet them:
So tell me... what makes Queen any different from all the other wannabe rock stars I meet? I'll tell you what it is. We're four misfits who don't belong together, playing to the other misfits. The outcasts right at the back of the room...who are pretty sure they don't belong either. We belong to them. We're a family.
-- from Bohemian Rhapsody
3) Write…. Things that you will never publish
Someone asked me few days ago – what do you do when you don’t build companies or make money?
I let darkness crawl back in. I let the in-between moments step in.
And then I write – things I will never publish.
For every one piece that goes perhaps ten never will. Like my 108 Tales of India, a 150+ pages draft, which consists of exactly that, 108 quick stories on India. Well, I’ve reached to 97 to be more precise. And never resumed it. That’s okay.
Has it ever happened that the temperature in this wretched city goes beneath 40 degrees Celzius? No. Never! Few months a year, fog comes which they call Winter. They actually get to put jackets on themselves during that time and cough and get influenza. It’s a lie. It’s not winter at all. It just some yetis getting on their mating season up there in the snowy Himachal. Soaked in hormones, they snowball, they scream loud during orgasm and their strong freezing breath reaches Delhi. But the fart of the drunk Punjabi still warms it. If only Delhiites knew that!
What are those – things that you will never publish? How are they different from things that go for publishing?
Things that you publish disgust others. Things that you never publish disgust yourself.
Write love letters. Then write some more of them.
Read. Read something that is not you. Practice idea sex, creating links where there were none. Note, classify, reference.
Then write things you will never publish.
Originally published here