Why Practicing Your Craft Makes You Successful

Sandy Franks

Remember that movie with Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers? If you haven’t seen it or to refresh your memory, the film is about two serial killers who become tabloid sensations. The movie implies they were born killers.

I don’t know how true it is that killers are born, but I can tell you that in pursuing a writing career, there are not people among us who are natural born writers. Yet, we hear it all the time “born to play basketball,” or “born to play music,” or “born to write.”

Now I’m sure some people will disagree with me, but let me suggest you read The Genius in All of US by David Shenk. David lays out a great argument, filled with tons of scientific proof that natural born talent is nothing more than a myth.

You see, over the past several decades, tremendous strides have been made in genetic science. Shenk says that science is showing is that environment and other facts make people great at what they do, not their genetic make-up.

Take Mozart for example. Everyone assumes he was born with natural music talent. But dig a little deeper and you realize that his surroundings played a huge part in his music greatness. His father was a superb teacher and developed a highly effective teaching system that allowed Mozart to master music.

Or there’s Michael Jordan, who’s college basketball coach would intentionally put Michael on teams with weaker players so that he would have to work harder not to be like one of them.

Or even golfer Tiger Woods, who began imitating his father’s golf swing at age six months. By the time he could walk, his father had him on the golf course, swinging at balls.

If there isn’t natural born talent, then how do people such as Mike Palmer, Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, or Richard Armstrong (by the way, all of them were here at Bootcamp this week) become great copywriters?

Practice my dear reader, practice. When Mike Palmer made the decision to become a copywriter, he “practiced” his craft by writing reports, articles, white papers, and essays … whatever he could to learn everything about writing for financial publishing.

Porter Stansberry, Mike’s boss and the founder of S&A Research, now the largest financial publisher in the country, started his career out as an editor for a financial newsletter. His big break came when he wrote a promotion for a newsletter bearing his name. But that big break didn’t happen overnight.

If your desire is to become a writer … whether it’s copywriting, web writing, or business-to-business writing, one of the best things you can do is practice writing.

Doesn’t matter if you don’t have a paying client. Just start writing and keep writing. That’s going to help you reach your goal of living the writer’s life.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences with you in this week’s issue of The Writer’s Life. I hope you’ve benefited from each one. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Please drop me a line below.

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Published: October 16, 2015

22 Responses to “Why Practicing Your Craft Makes You Successful”

  1. Excellent article. I agree that environment, desire,and practice are far more important than hereditary traits.
    Tom Drummond

    Guest (Tom Drummond)

  2. I remember the movie way to good. The only part is where they used Rodney Dangerfield as a bad father, and killed him. This was the only part I didn't like about the movie, because Rodney was and still the best Comedian ever! I Enjoyed watching all of Rodney Dangerfield's movies, and yes this movie Natural Born Killers was really not the greatest hits, but it's what some would say is happening now.

    Guest (RodsBadMovies)

  3. Hi Sandy, Welcome to AWAI. I just introduced myself and spoke to Paul Hollingshead this afternoon at Boot Camp. We talked briefly about why I was at Boot Camp. Paul's letter of "If You can Write a Letter Like This..." is the why...he said that there is a need for a new letter...I aim to write it. I will look forward to meeting you at Job Fair this evening...Loving creating my Writer's Life.

    John Paul

  4. Dear Sandy:your daily insights on the skill of writing have been most helpful,especialy the one on Tuesday about how you started out with the company and how you practiced reading sales letters and looking for the structure of the sales letter,and how you recommended looking at successful sales letters and and analyzing them-that is most helpul.The best analogy I could compare it to would be: its like working your writing muscles-it felt like a work out of sorts.I would recommend it to all aspiring writers:to those who want to write but don't know how to get started this is a good place to work those writers muscles.Thank you for your time and have a great day.

    Guest (Dan Daugherty)

  5. Hi Sandy, Thank you so much for your e-mail... It has given me a new perspective about this new job of becoming a writer. I indeed agree with all you said, practice is the most powerful tool to master a specific goal or assignment. Ever since, I was a little kid I have worked really hard to accomplish all my goals such as my Professional Surf Career, BA's degree, multiple languages learned, and travel experiences... I know to become a master of a specific task you must practice 24/7. Thanks

    Guest (Jorge Alexander Kamkoff)

  6. I want to write, either online or short stories, but don't where or how to start. I used to make web sites so a natural progression is to be a content contributor.


    Guest (Bob-pa)

  7. I thank the Creator for AWAI, I plan to use it to finance my dream of having a group home filled with babies. Your articles inspire me to keep reaching for the stars.


  8. Thank you Sanday for your article about natural born writers. It is a relief to know that my doubts about wanting to write at such a later time in my life are just doubts and I need to let them go. I really want to write. I try to write at least one a day for a couple of hours. Doubt keeps popping in my head telling me I am too old to write, even though I know yours never to old to write. I have the time to write now. I'm retired and I have the time. Since I have signed up with AWA, I have read some great articles from some really great people like Bob Bly and yourself. But this article has renewed my faith in my writing ability.

    Thankyou Bee

    Guest (Bee)

  9. Nice article, but oops...you meant to write "whose" college basketball coach in the paragraph about Michael Jordan, not "who's." Just a small mistake. :-)

    Guest (Guest)

  10. Hi, Im really excited about this group I have joined. I woke up on morning after having a dream of being a writer, writing childrens books because of becoming a foster parent and wrote 17 chidren books. Never wrote a single thing my whole life but I have self published my first book and am working on my next one. The only thing is it cost so much money to self publish, so I am really looking forward to seeing what is out there for me to write next, I have taken a childrens litature class and have written a few things through there other than that I am a newbe wish me LUCK!!!


  11. Hi Sandy, Yes , you are absolutely right about "keep practicing in writing" I am a new member of AWAI . I did applied for some companies .All they want is experienced copywriter.
    So in the mean time , every day I keep writing and writing.I still have a full time job. I hope I can get a copywriting job some day.
    Thank you for your tip. God Bless jennie AWAI, ITWPA, Barefoot Writer Club


  12. Sandy: You make a compelling point that environment has a huge influence, and I agree completely. Where we differ, I'm afraid, is your advice to practice writing. I hear this advice over and over again and I still disagree. This correlates with the axiom of "Practice makes perfect." I believe better advice would be, "Perfect practice makes perfect." For you see, writing badly thousands of times does not help. You need to improve as you practice. So, for one example, using a mentor to point out your mistakes and providing instruction on how to improve is one method that could be used to better your writing, as I see it.

    Guest (Wally Mountz)

  13. I feel writing shouldnt be seen as work but a passion via which one enriches the lifes of others whom one may never ever come across. Personally I place writing on the same scale with nursing as words are balms and salves in their own rights too.

    Guest (bobola yinka)

  14. Hi Sandy, Congratulations and Welcome.
    Your articles are interesting and almost "comfortable". I agree with everything you said. I am also a newbie, but couldn't make Boot Camp this year. Hope to meet you next year.

    Guest (Robert)

  15. Thank you for your words, specifically.. Your writing wisdom, and your time. I write in a journal everyday! I use techniques learned from AWAI personnel. Again.. Thank you!


    Guest (Doug the bugMassey)

  16. I didn't make it to bootcamp, but it is a goal of mine to get to attend. I will buy my material next month to start being a copywriter. Right now I'm lost in all the wonderful words from all the great copywriters here at AWAI.

    Guest (Laura Trotchie)

  17. What about Charles Dickens? What about RL Stevenson? Dickens was born in poverty and pulled himself out through his writing, Stevenson's parents didn't want him to become a writer, and tried to discourage him! So I must disagree that ALL people are not natural-born writers. I would agree that MOST people are not, and that practice can help us aspiring writers very much.

    Guest (Dorothy)

  18. I have just signed up for barefoot writer and I feel am on my way! I'll read this this weekend.

    Guest (carol shier)

  19. Hi Sandy, I really enjoyed your first four posts.

    I think on day five, you violated your rule of research, research, research.

    Good research will reveal that natural aptitudes are the foundation for developing ones natural talent abilities and learned skills.

    Writing is first and foremost an aptitude strength of communication which can be developed into a functional ability for copywriting.

    I look forward to learning and improving my writing skills from your years of writing success.

    Guest (Richard)

  20. I doubt very much Coach Dean Smith EVER "intentionally put Michael Jordan on teams with weaker players" for ANY reason, Sandy. Unless it was for that idiotic four-corner stall of UNC's, back before the shot-clock was finally introduced to college basketball.

    Guest (Chris Morris)

  21. Mischa Elman, renowned violinist, was approached in the street by a couple of tourists looking for directions. 'How do we get to Carnegie Hall?' Without a moment of hesitation he answered: 'Practice'. True story.

    Guest (Roy)

  22. Never seen the movie,not really into that sort off thing. But what you got across in your message impressed me. I am just getting started,and I am reading as much as possible to see how pros write. Being in my downhill years I found out that life is short and I want to experience for myself what it would be like to something I have always loved to do-write.You are so right,because I am a so called golfer so I can relate to what have said.Kudos


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