Thursday, September 4, 2008

Copywriting Dojo

Thinking is the mother of all Martial Arts. It renders itself in countless ways. You see it in a Kung Fu kick, in a Karate chop, in a Judo throw , in a software program, in a public speech and in a written paragraph. These are all different levels of the same skill. It starts at the physical level and ends --for the sake of this post-- at the written word.

An explosive Karate kick can blow your brains out and change your consciousness for a few minutes. An explosive speech can blow your mind change your consciousness for ever. A Kung Fu master can overcome many opponents. An influential paragraph can sway the masses. Sometimes the whole world. Bodies overcome by Kung Fu are long gone. Minds overcome by speaking and writing live on and relay the messages, generation over generation.

The history of the written word goes back 6000 years. And traceable history of physical martial arts goes back 5000 years. It must have taken a thousand years for mankind to make writing powerful and meaningful. If that is true, then both forms became an “art” at the same time.

What does it take to learn learn Kung Fu and get good at it? Dedication, Attitude, the right school for the chosen style, the right teacher, the right number of practice hours. Incidentally you need the same stuff to learn to write and get good at it.

It is the teaching of these arts, which has diverged. And that is the point of my post today.

The teaching of physical martial arts has become a science. Its reliable, measurable, and repeatable. On the other hand, the teaching of writing as an art --after school and college-- is haphazard, not measurable, and a victim of quick fixes. As in “Write your mystery novel in a weekend” and “Writing killer sales letters in 24 hours,” “Write your breakthrough business book in 90 days or less.”

If you can’t learn to be a black belt Kung Fu practitioner in a weekend, how can you learn to be a black belt writer so quickly?

If I were to remodel the teaching of writing, I would do it like this:

Copywriting Dojo
Lets say I am a grandmaster copywriter who wants to teach his art successfully. I will model my teaching after the teaching of martial arts. I will never sell a course on copywriting. It will be an ongoing enrollment into my Copywriting Dojo.

Unit of work:
The unit of work will be a thousand page document. Lets call it Hazari Document. Or Hazari for short. One Hazari would be a single, one thousand word document, produced in one sitting.

A 10 Hazari student would be someone who has produced ten Hazaris in my dojo. Think of Hazari as a brick. The more you lay, the farther you get.

How I will teach:
There will be weekly 20 minute sessions on a conference call. I will provide the students with a very basic idea of what to do. Then give them their assignments. I will not check the assignments but let a smart computer program do the checking for me.

How I will not teach:
I will not drill writing into anyone’s head. Just show them their next assignment and let them do it.

Students will be able to enroll at any time, leave at any time and re-enroll at any time. But they will have to enroll in the right level for their skill set.

Since this will be an open enrollment program, I will verify past work on applicants’ blogs, google docs or printed papers. I will just count the Hazaris.

The levels will be setup like this:

White Belt:
In this level students will not work with me, see me or hear me. They will work with a Brown Belt assistant who will need to help them through their level.

The student in this level will have to produce 50 Hazaris and he/she will be awarded the white belt. The content of these documents is not important at this level. Just the ability to write about anything but produce the right quantity is enough.

Of course their Hazaris will have to be grammatically correct.

Yellow Belt:
The student will have to produce 50 Hazaris on subjects that I choose for them. These subjects will be unrelated to their core competencies. Quick internet research will be required for most assignments. Extensive self editing will be introduced.

Red Belt:
50 more Hazaris. This time they will be writing articles. I will give them the angles and the constraints. They will produce the body and sub headings. From this level on, skills acquired in one level will be applied to higher levels. This will be mandatory.

Green Belt:
50 more Hazaris. This time they will be writing short reports. Still a thousand pages each. I will give them a problem statement. They will think of a solution and outline it in special reports. They will have to make all paragraphs connect.

Blue Belt:
50 more Hazaris. In this level, I will provide the title of an article. The students will come up with an angle and write complete articles.

Brown Belt:
No writing. Be my assistant and teach other newbies to write 50 Hazaris and get their white belts successfully.

Black Belt:
50 final Hazaris. They will choose the content entirely and produce the documents independently.

At this point there will be a ceremony and the final belts will be awarded.

Dojo Transfers:
If the dojo concepts catches on, I will happily accept transfer students from other copywriting dojos.

Since this will be an open enrollment and “work at your own pace” program, the burden of discipline will be on the students and not on me. I would charge $100 per month. If a student can do each level in one month, he or she can get a black belt in $700.

My dojo will make much more than 700:
Although writing 50 Hazaris in a month is quite possible, most students will not be able to. But the goal is so finite and measurable that they will still remain with the program. Delays on their part will mean extra monthly income for my dojo. I’ve got bills too, you know.

And students who work hard to make their targets, hell, I would give them free scholarships. All in the name of goodwill and smart marketing.

Easy buy in.
The whole process is laid out upfront. The students will know exactly what they have to do, to get to the levels. They will know what they are getting into. If they go with the program, they will have produced 350 articles on various subjects.

If someone can write 350 articles on related and unrelated subjects, have acquired quality as a side effect. According someone very special, its like jogging. The more you do it, the better you get.

If someone goes through the program and says he or she didn’t get the value out of it, I will refund their money. If someone signs up and wastes their time, I will only have a note of consolation for them.

The first sale:
If something like this existed today, I would be the first one to signup.

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