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Faking It: How copywork can help in all areas of your life.

August 28, 2012

“Just be yourself.”

We say this a lot to others in our words of advice: “Be yourself.” But sometimes this is not always the best path because even though you are always “yourself,” trying to be someone else can teach us a heck of a lot.

I have been exploring the method of teaching kids to write using copy work. This is the oldest way of teaching. If you want your student to write like Shakespeare, make him or her copy Shakespeare. Have your 2nd grader copy Wordsworth when working on handwriting. Get the words of great authors into his or her brain by copying word for word what the writer said and how he or she said it. Copy. When you are learning to do something new, you don’t just try and do it your own way from the start. First, you watch someone do it and then you copy him or her. After you imitate, you can start tweaking the project according to your style.

If you want to learn to build a table, find a good table maker and copy him. You get the picture right? Copy work applies to much more than writing. It is how we used to teach kids all the important skills they need for life.

I am betting my artist readers are freaking out right now  and feeling like this structured copy work will crush a person’s ability to freely express themselves. Coloring inside the lines is bad right? Free expression is where it is at! Maybe…except then you have a bunch of kids who have these great inspirations and no tools to express them properly. You have to learn all those proper painting techniques to get what is in your head onto the canvas, and you have to learn how to do grammar, punctuation and varied sentence structures to get those thoughts in your heart out to the world as well. If you are going to learn how to write, I think it is way more interesting to copy the styles of Poe and Jane Austen rather than doing a grammar workbook. People who read good writers are usually good writers themselves and this is because they are copying. The words of the great authors are ingrained in their minds and they naturally follow the style of their mentors. Copy work is good and recognizing that we will copy subconsciously what we put in our heads is also good. Be careful what you read and watch because you are by nature a copying creature.

This brings me to copy work in other areas of your life. We all have areas that we struggle with in dealing with daily tasks. I am a terrible housekeeper and I am not very kind to my husband. I need to work on these and if I just “be myself,” I’ll keep having a messy house and snapping at my poor hubby. I know people that are great housekeepers and I know people that are kind and loving spouses. What if I just copied them? What if I just watched what they did and did that? I mean….sure….at first it will feel really fake. I would be pretending to be excited about household organizing tools and methods that I seriously couldn’t care less about. I would be smiling and saying sweet things to my husband when I want to tell him how annoyed I am that he didn’t do the dishes. I would totally be faking it. I think it would be hard at first. Eventually, however, I think I might actually enjoy the benefits of my well organized house and who I am may change a little from being a mess maker to being a home maker. And I know that words of kindness are always good for my marriage, especially when I feel like spewing words of criticism. When I want to be critical, I don’t think I can ever go wrong with being kind instead. In order to do these things, I have to find mentors to emulate.

I love the word emulate.

Definition of EMULATE


a: to strive to equal or excel

I think I love it because you start off trying to be like someone else but then you get to excel past them. You know why your version will end up being better?  Your version will be unique to you! You will be able to “be yourself” but a better version because now you learned some amazing tools from a fellow human being that was better than you in one area and you add that to the core of unique, God given awesomeness that is you and become you improved.

Copying people that are better than you is not a sign of weakness. Smart people learn from other smart people.

If you want to by a world changer like Mother Teresa or Ghandi, study what they did and do that.

If you want to be an excellent mother, find a great mother and copy her.

If you want to be a loving and kind person, surround yourself with loving and kind people and copy what they do.

And then….once you have the skills of the great teachers, surpass them. Be better at changing the world than Ghandi, a better mother than your own, and more loving and kind than your Aunt Betty.

Copy the good teachers; stear clear of the bad ones! And then…”be yourself”-improved.


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