The Magic of Words
Mastering the magic of words should be the aspiration of every storyteller, poet and copywriter, every teacher and leader. Persuasive writers know how to make words take flight. Just consider what superior writing can mean for you in any walk of life. It’s beyond money and fame, it’s about connection.
Legendary copywriter, Clyde Bedell was the first name recorded in the National Retail Advertising Hall of Fame. He knew exactly how to string the right words together, spreading them out on his audience, catching their favorable attention, then hauling them in like bait fish caught in a cast net. Before they knew what happened they were reaching for their wallets and purses. Bedell was a master wordsmith.
In his book, How to Write Advertising that Sells, Bedell devotes an entire chapter, 31 pages, to the Magic of Words. Here’s a taste of his magic.
“Words can roll thunder from the very sky… rouse the sea to fury, or make it subside, and you will realize the writer can also make products popular and pry open purses. If you wish to make words perform for you, study them as they perform for the masters. Good poets are among the most remarkable of writers. They learn an economy and a preciseness of expression few copy writers ever acquire. They know that there are fat, lush words, astringent words, cloying and clammy words… words that walk, that run, that fly. They know words can color, scent, dignify, demean, or flaunt ideas.”
It’s pretty simple actually. If you want to think and write more effectively, and connect on a deeper level with others, be inspired by good writing. Read good books. Reading makes hours pass like minutes, comforts, and nourishes the soul, and it has the unique ability to push us up when we’re feeling down.
My Belief: Essays on Life and Art by Hermann Hesse
“If anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.” ~ Hermann Hesse on Why We Read and Always Will
The beauty and magic of words is they’re all around us, accessible lifelines for some, pathways for a greater life for others. We can tap into narratives, documentaries, biographies, histories, and fantasies with a click of a mouse or visit a local library. Free online classes on subjects of writing, reading, learning to learn better, among countless other courses are at our fingertips — right before us, waiting to be discovered. Imagine the joy of stumbling on a treasure chest full of gold coins and artifacts of significant value. By itself, this is no comparison to being exposed to the life-altering impact words and books can have on one’s life.
Among my favorite authors is Og Mandino. He was at the edge of suicide at one point in his life. But he found the inspiration to live and write his own books after visiting a local library. His books have sold over 50 million copies world-wide and they’ve been translated into more than twenty-five different languages. Here’s his story and how he turned his life around...
At one dark period in his life, Og Mandino found himself aimlessly wandering highways and working odd jobs. He was an alcoholic, broke and miserable. At his lowest point he contemplated suicide and nearly bought a gun from a pawnshop to end his suffering. But his willingness to live was stronger than he thought.
After walking past the gun in the window, Mandino visited a public library to avoid the freezing cold. He selected several books on self-help, motivation and success and began reading. He knew his life was on the line. He had to find A Better Way to Live and at that moment there was nowhere else to go… but up.
A Slave to Good Habits
The public library became Mandino’s haven. He continued his transient life, but wherever he went, he visited libraries and drank deep from hundreds of inspirational, sales, personal-development, and success books. His new habit of reading and studying gradually replaced his destructive habit of drinking. Over time, he experienced an awakening, a radical shift in his beliefs and actions.
Mandino realized, however, it took more than intellectual effort to rise from the depths of his despair. No doubt the books he read lifted his spirits, but the game changer for him was putting his inspiration into practice. Years later, he considered this principle of constructive habits that saved his own life and sanity as the first and most important axiom in The Greatest Salesman in the World:
“I will form good habits and become their slave. And how will I accomplish this difficult feat? Through these scrolls it will be done, for each scroll contains a principle which will drive a bad habit from my life and replace it with one which will bring me closer to success. For it is another of nature’s laws that only a habit can subdue another habit.”
By reading good books and putting their words into action, Og Mandino found a way through his self-pity, despair and failure. He wrote many of his own best sellers sharing his timeless principles with anyone else willing to do the same.
“Wisdom comes after information and knowledge. And books provide the scaffolding that allows us to build our own systems of thought.” ~ Dr. George Sheehan
He often quoted other great writers such as Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton in Spellbinder’s Gift in an effort to share the magic of their words with his readers. Here’s one example:
“We are born for a higher destiny than that of earth; there is a realm where the rainbow never fades, where the stars will be spread out before us like islands that slumber on the ocean, and where the beings that pass before us like shadows will stay in our presence forever.”
Then there's Coach Wooden...
Coach John Wooden won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row. No other team has won more than two in a row. His 7 point creed worked out pretty well for him, which included reading good books.
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Make each day your masterpiece.
3. Help others.
4. Drink deeply from good books.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
“A person who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over one who can’t.” ~ Mark Twain
Plunging into stimulating books full of insights, dreams and ideas can be a bit dizzying, forcing you to surface every now and then for a quick breath. The magic of words can carry you beyond your wildest imagination and back before dinner! Just ask Max in Where the Wild Things Are.
Brain Pickings blogger Maria Popova offers this advice on reading and writing:
“Read good books, have good sentences in your ears,” the poet Jane Kenyon counseled in what remains some of the sagest advice to write and live by.
But if literature is essential to our moral development, as Walt Whitman believed, and reading enlarges our humanity, as Neil Gaiman asserted, then attunement to good sentences is vital not only to our writing style but to our core sensibility of character.
Ten Books I Relish and Encourage You to Read:
1. Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World
A guide to a philosophy of salesmanship, and success, telling the story of a poor camel boy who achieves a life of abundance.
2. Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
A fable about a seagull learning about life and flight, and a thrilling story about self-perfection, self-actualization.
3. Seth Godin, Tribes
No one explains this concept better than Seth. A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. “Leaders lead when they take positions, when they connect with their tribes, and when they help the tribe connect to itself…”
4. Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody
When Hugh MacLeod was a struggling young copywriter living in a YMCA, he started doodling on the back of business cards while sitting at a bar. Those cartoons eventually led to a popular blog — gapingvoid.com — and a reputation for candid insight and humor in both words and pictures.
5. Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
The psychology of why people say “yes” — and how to apply these understandings. Provides useful tools for marketing to others and teaches how to resist the marketing efforts of others.
6. Clyde Bedell, How To Write Advertising That Sells
The first name recorded in the National Retail Advertising Hall of Fame was Clyde Bedell’s. Frustrated with the lack of systematic research, assorted intuitions and fragments of experience, Bedell wrote his own book (a text book) on the subject of writing good advertising — that sells.
7. Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point
Explaining and describing the “mysterious” sociological changes that mark everyday life.
8. Elbert Hubbard, A Message to Garcia
An essay about a soldier who takes the initiative to accomplish a daunting and difficult task without questions or objections. Often used in business and life as a motivational example to readers of applying a positive attitude towards achieving a successful life.
9. Robert Graves, The Big Green Book
A story of a little boy’s triumph over adult rules and regulations, illustrated by Maurice Sendak’s endearing pictures, first published in 1962.
10. Erik Wahl, UN-Think
Filled with extraordinary insights into rediscovering your creativity, and balancing your talent on the job with fulfillment at home. UN-Think demands that you think like a child again, with a grown-up’s sensibility of character.
Let the magic of words inspire and elevate you. But don’t get too comfortable there. Write your own verse. Connect on a deeper, more meaningful level with yourself and others. Make your own magic!