The Importance of “Deep Reading”
According to A.C. Nielsen, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That's 28 hours a week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year. In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.
Nielsen also points out that 48% of males between the ages of 18 and 34 are regular video gamers. And they play an average of 2 hours and 43 minutes a day.
This is a shame.
It is through books, chiefly, that we engage with superior minds. People who read regularly think better, speak better, and express themselves more clearly. They understand more and tend to be more interesting. They are also more likely to be promoted. No single factor correlates more closely with business success than a broad vocabulary.
As it turns out, how you dress for work is far less important than how you dress your thoughts. Wise men have always known this.
More than two thousand years ago, Socrates said, "Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writing so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for."
Copywriters, however, need to do a particular type of reading — deep reading. They need to familiarize themselves with the best writing in their particular field, both from a copywriting and an editorial standpoint.
If you are writing in the health field, for instance, you want to peruse the best-selling copy in the industry. But you also want to learn as much as you can about nutrition, diet, supplements, new medicines, new therapies, and the latest scientific studies.
When you sit down to write, you'll be surprised how vital this information becomes.
As you do your deep reading, you should always collect and save the best of what you discover. Create electronic files to store your Internet readings and actual files for newspaper and magazine articles and printed reports. When you get down to writing copy, you will draw on them often.
If you are writing in the investment field, you will need to spend plenty of time with publications like The Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Forbes, BusinessWeek, Fortune, and Smart Money. You need to know what the best financial analysts are saying and your potential audience is reading. You need to understand a wide variety of financial terms and jargon, not necessarily so you can use them yourself — the more unadorned your language, the better in the craft of copywriting — but because you need to know and appreciate what is being said and why.
I can't overemphasize the importance of reading broadly and deeply.
Very few writers have amazing ideas that simply leap from their heads. More often, events in the news trigger ideas based on past reading. And even then, you will still need to dig in and do still more research, something that is becoming increasingly easy thanks to the Internet and all the free resources available on it.
I estimate that a good copywriter needs to spend 15%-20% of his day simply reading in his field. You need to learn to recognize compelling ideas, relevant material, strong evidence, and credible quotes. These are the nuts and bolts you will use to write first-rate copy.
I've never known a successful copywriter who doesn't read deeply, intensively, and extensively. I can assure you it has been a big part of my own experience in the industry.
When a budding copywriter asked me a few years ago what was the single greatest key to my success, I didn't hesitate. "You may be smarter than me," I said. "You may be more knowledgeable and more experienced. You may be a better writer. But you know what? I bet I can out-read you."
Deep reading is what makes the difference.
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