Your Masters’ Words: Using Copywork to Strengthen Your Craft by LA Bourgeois
Let’s welcome back LA Bourgeois as she shares with us “Your Masters’ Words: Using Copywork to Strengthen Your Craft.” Enjoy!
When I visited the Louvre back in 1999, easels occasionally popped up as I walked the grand hallways.
The Louvre enclosed not just the works of master artists, but also the work of students copying these great paintings, embedding brushstrokes and other techniques directly into their fingers.
Following the Master’s Footsteps
We often think of copying the masters’ works as something only fine artists do, training their muscles to swirl paint in just the right way.
However, copying the masters’ works deepens your connection and understanding in other artistic pursuits like writing as well.
What? Copying their writing? Isn’t that plagiarism?
Well, no. It’s called copy work, and that’s how people used to get copies of books before the printing press was invented. As long as you aren’t saying the copied words are your words, it isn’t plagiarism.
The Practice of Copywork
Maybe it seems crazy to think that copying the words written by a magnificent writer will translate that talent into your fingers. After all, it’s not like changing how we handwrite or type will change the look of the words on the page.
However, your brain processes words produced by your hand through different paths than when you read, speak, or hear them.
Writing by hand slows you down. As you take the time to write down every. single. word. those words fall into your mind in a different way.
The construction of each sentence reveals details of the story in a manner that simple reading doesn’t uncover.
My Own Copywork Experience
I had my own doubts about this practice when I first learned about writers like Jack London writing entire books out by hand. Copy work seemed just, well, busy work. What could it have to teach me?
Of course, curiosity overtook me, and I grabbed one of my favorites, Persuasion by Jane Austen, to give it a try.
With pen and paper in hand, I began to hand write these words that had so entertained me over the years.
And, as I did, my understanding of the brilliance of Jane Austen transformed.
By the end of only a couple of pages, I could see how the vain, self-important uselessness of the father complements the utter competence of the daughter. How the intricacies of English society dictated the lives of this not-quite-illustrious family.
My understanding deepened as each word fell from my pen and Austen’s humor paraded across my journal. Giggles erupted as “he could read his own history with an interest which never failed” inked its way onto my pages.
Give this a try by copying this bit of writing by hand:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”
Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice
As you handwrite each word, does your curiosity emerge? How does handwriting the piece change your view of the scene? What do you see now that wasn’t there when you just read the piece? Is there anything that feels different about the words now that you’ve taken the time to copy them?
While I don’t have the dedication (or the arm strength due to tendonitis) to handwrite entire books, doing this exercise with the occasional passage transforms how I see the words hit my own pages.
Now, go exploring in your own bookshelf for a passage to copy. You’ll be surprised what your favorite author has to teach you!
ABOUT THE BOOK REVIEWER
As a creativity & business coach, she believes that exploring your creativity invites joy into your life, embracing your creativity infuses your life with joy, and manifesting your creativity gives you a joyous purpose. Writing and knitting are her non-negotiable mediums, and she can usually be found with a pen or knitting needles in her hands.
Find her free guide, Tricking Yourself into a Creative Habit online at labourgeois.biz and start writing those words today. She can’t wait to read them!
Also by LA Bourgeois