Fight Copywriting Flab:
How to Tone Your Writing Muscles

Muscle

My flabby, jelly-like gut is not, as it might first appear, due to an excess of cake and beer. It is in fact due to a simple and chronic lack of exercise.

What was once washboard tight is now better suited for collecting belly button lint. The only six-pack this body sees comes in cans.

What has this gruesome image of manly imperfection got to do with writing, you ask?

As we all know, under-used muscles atrophy while exercised muscles grow bigger and stronger. What I’m talking about is exercising your writing muscles.

As with any exercise, first you need to practice. But you also need to diversify your training so you don’t over-focus on one area.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you write every day?
  • Do you always write in the same style?

To be a good writer you must write every day. Plus, if you want to be any better than so-so, you really need to stretch yourself and train for it. This means mixing up writing styles, alternating between longer and shorter pieces, trying short stories and then switching to tutorials, etc.

You’ve got to push your limits. That being so, here are some training tips for you:

It’s so easy to do the minimum, to simply churn out what is routine and friction free. Push against resistance and your writing muscles will grow, and you’ll avoid results resembling my under-exercised and over-stuffed frame.

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Comments

  1. So do I have the honour to guest blog on copyblogger?
    =P

  2. Great article, I should definitely look into keeping a journal for my daily activities.

  3. Aw, come on Chris. You’re just trying to make us all feel better. You can admit that it’s you in the picture ;)

  4. You caught me. Yes, that is me. I am an Adonis … who am I kidding, I *wish* ;)

  5. Hei Chris.
    Good reminders – thank you!
    I do mix various styles of writing all along: comedy, ‘serious’ writing, poetry, reporting style and so on. It does make it more interesting for oneself in writing as well as to the readers in reading to mix the styles.
    Take care. Rii :)

    PS.
    Nice 6-pack all right, so tis.

  6. Chris you are everywhere I look! Great article, writing is just like any other hobby. It’s more than just ‘practice makes perfect’, the practice has to be challenging.

  7. Sorry Matt, I will stop stalking you now :) Yes, you are right, it is about pushing yourself and testing your limits.

  8. Great post Chris and I can definitely agree with you. Everytime I take a break from writing, my vocab and grammar definitely deteriorates and I find myself making stupid typo’s.

    Nice abs as well btw ;)

  9. Writing copy clients are paying you for helps too!

  10. It does providing you are not always working in the same markets :)

  11. Nice post. I can vouch for keeping a log. I keep one in a notebook where I keep other notes. The older I get, the more I need to take notes! Funny the way this happens!

    Don

  12. I guess a blog does allow us to practice our writing every single day, which will allow us to become better writers in the long run. I never thought about it that way, perhaps thats why so many colleges are encouraging their students to start blogs about their school work.

  13. fantastic post, thanks
    i have to get back into the gym

  14. What about writer burn-out? I’m finishing up a 250 page book, I blog at myshingle.com, Legal Blogwatch (www.legalblogwatch.typepad.com) and RenewablesOffshore (www.carolynelefant1.typepad.com/renewablesoffshore), plus in my day job as a lawyer I write briefs and memos. Sometimes when I write a brief, I have to stop myself from turning my sub-headings into a catchy blog-bite. Writing this much doesn’t tone my writing; it squeezes me – and I don’t have time to even experiment with new techniques because I’m so burned out.

  15. Carolyn, as a former lawyer who now occasionally counsels lawyers on better legal writing, I’d say don’t resist the temptation to spice up your subheads when briefing.

    Other than that… take a break, and then come back to it rejuvenated. :)

  16. great post, hot pic! this is why i keep coming back. thanks for reminding me that my writing skills (muscles) constantly need toning.

  17. Good advice.

    I did a photo blog for the first time a couple of days ago and I got a few new readers because of it.

    At the same time though I am wary of the fact that my original style is what gets me readers in the first place. Do you really want to change style and alienate the people who read you in the first place. It’s a tricky one. look what happened when Dylan went “electric”?

    My parents are still whining about that, forty years on!

  18. Brian, how can I be a former lawyer? Just kidding. Your blog really helps me when I write legal memorandums. Because, what I’m really doing is “selling” my opinion to the client. Great and concise writing certainly helps in persuading.

    Anyways, I write a blog about Columbus Ohio to help me mix up my writing style. Great post Chris.

  19. @MisssyM – You don’t have to write in different styles in your primary site/blog/work, have a side diary/journal/personal site where you can exercise, like a blog-gym :)

    @Alvin – It’s funny how many lawyers want to be former lawyers, I spot a pattern ;)

  20. I agree that writing in different styles and at different lengths flexes those writing muscles just as free writing, brainstorming, and editing your third draft work various parts of your brain. The whole thing needs exercise to work well.

  21. Chris, maybe it’s just further proof of evolution.

  22. Love those writing workout tips! Isn’t it funny that the same thing that works for building good-looking bodies; changing your routine, bursting between slow and fast pace, etc., are the same things that work for creating powerful and “sticky” copy?!

  23. Another good opportunity to write everyday is to carry a notebook around with you. It’s something recommended to creative writers and budding authors but I think it’s useful for anyone who writes, regardless of the field.

    Use the notebook to jot down thoughts, poems, ideas, snippets of content, journal-type entries, and so on.

    I think not having to adhere to a specific format might encourage us to be a little freer with simply writing for the sake of it.

  24. Hi Brian, I just linked to your post from the SquareSpace blog. I am hosting a Carnival of Blogging today and some of your posts would be perfect if you would like to enter!

  25. As always, your advice is just great; some times, hard to heed. So far, many of your tips have helped me. Thanks!

  26. Excellent advice… I started blogging for that reason over 3 years ago and it’s definitely had an impact.

    -eliesheva

  27. Good post Chris, great content! I definitely felt I was given solid instruction on how to develop writing ability.

  28. Hi,
    I am a beginner blogger, but I have always enjoyed writing. I am going to try the tips suggested by Chris but I feel that when I write in a different style, I am somehow being false.

    My mentor, Alex Jeffreys, encourages a natural style – “write the same way you speak”, which is relaxed and quite engaging on him.

    I will keep trying with different styles, for now keeping them to my notebook though!

    Best wishes,

    Ruth

  29. This is extremely helpful info!!! Especially since you guys are offering it for free!! Very good listing. Everything is true. Thanx.

  30. First I’ve heard of a ‘swipe file’ before. Nice.

    You wrote that it’s easy to do ‘the minimum’ – doesn’t that grow as your muscles grow?