Sunday, September 25, 2022

View from a sidewalk café. Amsterdam. (Part 2)

People walking with determination. A purpose. Somewhere to be.

I’ve reached my destination. My only purpose to be where I am.

Amsterdam Cafe - Scott Frothingham

Not only is the boy enjoying riding on his dad’s shoulders, but he gets to wear his dad’s bucket hat, too. It’s too big for him and is continually being pushed back from slipping over his eyes. An insignificant inconvenience for a glorious moment.

A gold watch catches the sun and, on a swinging arm displaying an elaborate sleeve of Asian inspired ink, appears to be more decoration than precision instrument.

The bald head and forehead boast many battle scars. He remembers the origin of every one. Does anybody else?

A pregnant cyclist peddles past. One hand on the handlebars. The other cradling her swollen belly.

The hot dog approaches her mouth from the side. Her partner aims his straight in. Their attention divided between food and footwork has thrown off their stride. They’re followed by a patient pigeon nabbing bits of bun and relish on the first bounce.

A delicate flower highlighted by soft blond hair moves each time the brawny calf pulls a short man’s filthy Nike from the cobblestones.

His tortured body is strapped into a mechanized wheelchair controlled by his twisted left hand. On his T-shirt, Speedy Gonzales yells, “Ariba! Ariba!”

Round dark sunglasses sit under a black leather cap and on top of a black mask with two prominent vents. The face is totally obscured. WW1 gas mask? Visitor from another galaxy?

His arms don’t move when he walks. It’s unclear if the seams of his pants will hold as his massive thighs bulge with every stomp-like step. He could toss a Honda over a hedge.

It’s unclear if she’s trying to answer the question: “How many earrings does one need?” or “How many piercings are possible on a standard issue human ear?”.

Big man walking a tiny dog. The dog dances forward leading his lumbering companion.

The two note bah-bah, bah-bah of a European police siren is a reminder of past trips, countless movies, and that I’m not where I usually am.


View from a sidewalk café. Amsterdam.
Part 1

View from a sidewalk café. Amsterdam.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Free Copywriting Training

23 Free Copywriting Courses

"What course should I take to learn copywriting?"

When I'm asked that question by someone starting out, I suggest that they do a lot of reading* and a lot of writing.
I also suggest that before they invest in training, they access free resources to help advance their basic knowledge and skills. 

That being said, there are many writing courses that are well worth the investment, typically offering greater depth of training and hands on advice than what's available for free. And if someone is more comfortable with that as a starting place, they will get the tools they need to be successful. Some folks, however, may get more out of a paid course if they have some basic knowledge (and practice) from the no cost training.

Here are 22 free online copywriting courses/articles/exercises to consider:

NOTE: Many of these offerings are "light versions" offered for free to encourage you to buy additional training.


YouTube is loaded with “How To” videos on myriad subjects, including copywriting. Here are 16 Free multi-video copywriting courses on YouTube (for those offered through Class Central, you can set up a Class Central account or just click the > to play the video):


Gary Halbert's Boron Letters A series of letters written by copywriting legend Gary C. Halbert that are considered by many to be one of the best sources of copywriting knowledge for aspiring copywriters.

And speaking of Gary Halbert, here's his suggestion on how to become a copywriter in 30 days if you have at least a modicum of talent, and much more importantly, the ability to follow directions and an appetited for very hard work



Gary Bencivenga's Marketing Bullets  A collection of essays written by the person who is often described as "the greatest living copywriter". This archive is billed as Gary's "best secrets tor boosting your response and conversion rates ...and beating any control."



What you get out of any training, free or paid for,
is based on 
the commitment (time, attention, practice, etc.) 
you put into that training.

Education without action is entertainment.

You can take all the courses and read all the books,
but if you don't put that information into practice,
you're not going to get where you want to go.


 With the exception of The 40 Essential Skills and Traits of Top CopywritersI am not affiliated with or compensated by any of these courses/books/guides/articles/exercises, their authors, websites, or corporate entities. They are not listed in any particular order.

Monday, September 12, 2022

12 Books (not about writing) Writers Should Read

12 books (not about writing) that writers should read

When I started writing this blog post, I had planed on telling you why you, as a writer, should read each of these books that isn't about writing. Then I realized I was doing you, as a writer, a great disservice.

These are great books. You don't need my "why" they're worth reading. 

Once you've read them, maybe you'll have your own reason for suggesting writers read them.

Maybe your reason and mine will be the same.

Perhaps not.

Doesn't matter.

Here's the list. Enjoy.

The Things They Carried – Tim O'Brien

Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor E. Frankl

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez

Maus – Art Spiegelman

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

Sixty Stories – Donald Barthelme

A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson

The White Album – Joan Didion

The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

Beloved – Toni Morrison

Here are 6 more, because ... well, because a dozen is just not enough:

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash – Jean Shepherd 

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – Cal Newport

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear  –  Elizabeth Gilbert

A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

And, finally, here are 6 more that you've probably read, but deserve to be reread now that you've put in some time as a writer: 

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck 

This was a tough exercise. Consider trying it yourself. 

List 12 books to recommend to writers ... but none of the books can be about writing.

You'll force yourself to make uncomfortable decisions, 'cause making a list of 250 books is easier, but not really that helpful.

Difficult decisions like how do I pick only one from Hemingway? Or how do I leave certain authors off the list altogether? Like Twain. And Austen. And Haley. And Faulkner. And Baldwin.

Told you it's a tough exercise.

But it forced me to think about writing. And reading. And my approach to my craft.

I found it worthwhile.

Hope you do, too.


Of course, I also suggest you read books about writing: 17 Books Writers Must Read

And you might be interested in  Ernest Hemingway's suggested reading list for aspiring authors

Tuesday, September 6, 2022


Miles Davis quotes for writers
           Miles Davis (1926 - 1991)

Miles Davis had a lot to say about his music
With a slight shift of thinking (and maybe changing a word or two), his observations could apply well to writing. 

Always listen for what you can leave out.


Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.


Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent.


 First you imitate, then you innovate.


There are no wrong notes in jazz: only notes in the wrong places.


  It's not the notes you play, it's the notes you don't play.


If you're not nervous then you're not paying attention.


You have to know 400 notes that you can play, then pick the right four.


Don't worry about playing a lot of notes. Just find one pretty one.


Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.


Play what you know and then play above that.


Miles Davis (1926 – 1991) was an American musician (trumpet), and composer. One of the top musicians of his time, Davis repeatedly changed the course of jazz in the 1950’s through 1990’s. He is considered one of the most influential figures in 20th-century music.


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