I’m Daniel.

Thank you for joining this series.

This quick course will help you establish a powerful writing habit: copying the greats. 

Each day, until the series is complete, I’m going to send you a quick writing exercise that will combine two things: your real life and a passage from a famous work of literature. 

The situations you’ll be writing about will be familiar, everyday, personal — like an argument with a friend or a description of the weather. However, the words of the author you’ll be copying will help you elevate that experience into vivid, memorable, surprising language.

There is something magical about copying. Simply by writing out another author’s sentences, and then adjusting them, altering them, one’s own artistic brain seems to be stretched, tested, strengthened. 

You’ll either be copying another writer’s theme, or their sentence structure or their specific word choices, pulling out phrases and vocabulary from Mary Shelley and John Keats. While this process takes very little time each day, it can permanently improve your writing ability.

Being a creative person is a bit of a weird thing, when you think about it. Each time you create something new, you have to sit down at your desk and hope something good emerges from the dark reaches of your mind. We don’t know where the words and ideas come from: on a good day, they simply rise up into consciousness, and we gratefully write them down. 

In other words, we don’t have conscious access to the artistic source. We can’t simply instruct ourselves to “write something great today.”

However, even if we can’t talk to that artistic source deep within us, we can feed it. We can encourage ourselves to try out new techniques, new constraints, and by that practice slowly develop new ways of seeing a sentence, a paragraph, a blog post. 

Think of this simple training course as an enjoyable, easy-to-follow workout for your artistic mind. 

The exercises will show up in your inbox each day — until the course is complete. Let me know what you think of each assignment. And when the course ends, let me know if you would like more.

Get ready: the first challenge will be coming to you soon (in a few minutes from now).

PS One quick note: for this course, all my examples will be drawn from works of literature in the public domain. This means that I’ll be entirely using nineteenth century writers for whom copyright has elapsed. This is obviously not an ideal situation, but I hope that you will take the techniques I share in these emails, and apply them to authors much closer to you in time and space.

Best wishes with your writing,

Daniel David Wallace