Deliberate Practice, the Myth of Talent, and Your Success
Geoff Colvin, in Talent is Overrated, talked extensively about the myth of talent and the value of deliberate practice. I think he’s right about both points, and I believe his ideas can make you more a more successful copywriter.
First, let’s talk about the myth of talent. It’s not that talent doesn’t exist. It does. But I don’t believe it’s a magical gift. Without this gift, says the myth, you can’t succeed; with it, you can’t fail.
I respectfully disagree. I’ve seen many people who never showed a particular gift for writing take up their pens and become very successful. I’ve seen others with buckets of talent fail to do the work required to live up to their potential and fail miserably.
What the unsuccessful writers left out, and what the successful writers knew and put to work for them, is that talent is raw, undeveloped potential. Talent is nice. Effort, in the form of deliberate practice, is essential.
In his book, Colvin discusses deliberate practice in some depth. This is not practice for the sake of it, as we may have practiced piano when we were 10 and not very interested in the process or the result.
Deliberate practice requires a goal of improvement. Copying ads by hand can be mundane practice if you’re doing it because the AWAI course suggests it and you’re doing what you were told. Copying ads can be, and should be, deliberate practice when you focus on the words and understand how they work to create winning copy.
Practicing deliberately means writing and studying with the intent of improving at every session. Michelangelo became famous at age 24 for his work Pieta. But the great artist knew what many others didn’t – that at age 24, he’d already been practicing for more than 18 years under the hand of a master teacher. Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”
This is the practice that turns talent into true skill, and nothing can replace it.
Whether you’re copying ads, reading other writers’ copy, working on course assignments, or building your swipe file, do it deliberately. Make every effort you put into your copywriting career a real effort.
If you haven’t read it yet, take a look at my article “Create a Writing Practice for Success,” in which I discuss this matter of practice a little more.
If you take nothing else away from this email, I hope you get these three basic ideas:
- Talent is great, but it’s not skill. Talent won’t pay the bills without practiced ability and technique to back it up.
- The key to turning talent into skill is deliberate practice.
- You should incorporate deliberate practice into every aspect of your study.
If you have any questions or comments for me, please post them in the comments section here.
I’ll see you tomorrow to talk about building a swipe file.
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