Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Write Short, Crop Well a Matter of Practice

I'll admit I've thoroughly enjoyed How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark, and it's served as a great refresher course in copywriting. (Actually, it applies to all forms of writing. Copywriting just happens to be what I do the most.)

But How to Write Short isn't a breakthrough method or a new spin on anything - rather, it reminds you of the rules, and how experts employ them.

If you're a copywriter, it's a definition of the tools you use daily. Without thinking about them. Maybe, it reminds you of a few of those tools you don't use often enough. Probably, it will occur to you that you overuse a few of them. Almost certainly, it will teach you that those tools actually have names.

Whether you write novels or catalog copy or blog posts, your writing improves with practice. (I'll wait while you file that under Well-Duh or Obvi.) And the thing is, you learned by being taught in boring classrooms and by seeing your first efforts marked by a red pen. If you became a professional writer or copywriter, your practice paid off - and you forgot how you do what you do. You just do. (Hello, mastery.)

Aside: I don't want to draw the analogy out to brain surgeons and nuclear physicists; 
I'd like to think they regularly re-read all of their college textbooks. 
(Oh, the great luxuries of a Liberal Arts degree...)

And so I believe it is with photography. Practice of the basics becomes your "natural instinct." What you forget - or the rules you fail to follow - becomes your "artistic signature." Of course I'm not knocking photographers; I kinda consider myself one. I bring it up because just after I'd begun reading How to Write Short, I was sucked in (I meant that in a good way) to an article titled "How to Crop Images Like a Pro."

Honestly, I thought it would be a great example of an SEO-grabbing headline backed up by disappointing content. It wasn't. Instead, it's a solid article listing the basic tools that professionals employ in framing, cropping, and restyling images.

My point? Professional communication and writing, like photography and many other things a person is supposedly "talented in" - or not - are greatly improved by, and probably even made through, excessive practice.

So write on, my friends.

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