Mitch in New York City. Photo by Larry Busacca.

How to Take a Massive Leap Forward in Your Writing Through One Simple Exercise

As a historian of alternative spirituality, I strive to understand people who lived by unusual and sometimes misunderstood ideas. I study figures, from occultists to Satanists to positive-thinkers, whose inner lights, depending on your perspective, can seem bizarre, brilliant or some mixture of the two. Navigating this unsettled terrain requires a balance of respect and critical judgment.

Heinrich Harrer, a swashbuckling explorer who told of his magical life of conquering the world’s highest peaks and tutoring the young Dalai Lama when Tibet seemed as exotic as Mars, only to have news of his Nazi past mar his final years, died Jan 7 in Friesach, Austria.

In copying Martin’s piece, I could see his diplomacy of tone (not one histrionic word), his use of dramatic yet graspable imagery (“exotic as Mars”), and his fearlessness of the long sentences necessary to capture the switchbacks of Harrer’s career.

Some highbrows may look down their noses at The Digest, charging it with superficiality and over-simplification. There is a modicum of justice in this charge; you can learn more about the Congo if you read about it in Foreign Affairs Quarterly, and you can learn more about Abraham Lincoln in Carl Sandburg’s books about him. But have you time?

I believe Ogilvy’s work should be studied today by anyone engaged in any form of written communication, whether artistic or advertising-oriented — and the two forms overlap more often than commonly thought. Earlier I mentioned flap copy. This is also true for fundraising appeals, grant applications, book proposals, and exhibition catalogues.

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China

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