Copying the Words of the Masters

Many great artists learned their techniques by copying the masters. Students still set up their easels in the Louvre (at least, they did when I was there in 1999). We often think of copying the masters’ works as something only fine artists do, swirling their paints over canvases. However, copying the masters’ works deepens your connection and understanding in other artistic pursuits like writing.

Maybe it seems crazy to think that copying the words written by a magnificent writer will translate that talent into your fingers. However, writing by hand slows you down, making you take the time to read every, single, word. Your brain processes words produced by your hand through different paths than when you read, speak, or hear them.

Give this a try by copying this bit of writing by hand:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

As you handwrite each word, can your curiosity emerge? How does handwriting the piece change your view of the scene? What do you see now that wasn’t there when you just read the piece? Is there anything that feels different about the words now that you’ve taken the time to copy them? What have you learned?

Now, go exploring and find another paragraph!