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"The Suck" (Learning Anything by Writing It Out by Hand... Word-for-Word)


Scott P. Scheper

Downtown San Diego, CA




Friday 3:11 p.m.

Dear Friend,

What I really should be doing right now is chasing down high-resolution versions of thirteen images in my forthcoming book, Antinet Zettelkasten.[1]

You see, my book's typesetter did a wonderful job of designing the interior of my book (it's freaking beautiful). However, there are thirteen images that were low-resolution, and they'd look like shit if they were printed. It's been on my plate all week to find high-resolution versions of these images.

But other things came up during the week, and other important tasks crowded out my time. Things like creating a video presentation for my Neo-Intellectual Institute members, as well as my private coaching of Neo-Intellectuals![2]

OK, I'll cut the bullshit. I have no excuse. I really should've gotten the high-resolution image stuff done this week, but oh well.

This morning I originally planned to chase down these images, but I decided to spend my morning reading about how learned physicians used notebooks in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to manage their knowledge (Jesus Christ, I'm never going to get this book live!)[3]

Oh well, I'm not going to beat myself up too much. Maybe I'll get it done right after I finish writing this email.

Speaking of which, I've decided to do something a little different in this email.

You see, normally I write these emails by the seat of my pants. I aim to have these emails be more along the lines of "infotainment." Meaning, they aim to contain brief bits of information while also being entertaining. I explicitly try not to "teach" in these emails, nor do I try to share developed knowledge. Sharing developed knowledge is what my upcoming book is for, and it's also what my course material in my Neo-Intellectual Institute is for.

Plus, you really don't want to be reading fully-developed knowledge on your small ass phone via email. You may think you do, but you don't. Plus, research shows "reading comprehension is reduced when reading from an electronic device." [4] So there.

Now, with that said, allow me to completely contradict myself…

You see, in this email, I've decided to do a little teaching (hopefully in an entertaining way).

What I am going to teach you is something called The Suck.

The Suck is a term coined by the late great copywriter Gary Halbert. A copywriter is a form of writing that seeks to inspire someone to take action. Typically this action is in the form of purchasing a product or service. This is why copywriting is mostly synonymous with the practice of writing advertisements or sales pages.

These days, the vast majority of Sapiens is composed of dimwits who don't read. And thus, advertisements are presented in the form of video (TikTok, YouTube, television commercials, etc.); still, behind the scenes of most effective video advertisements, you can bet your ass that there's a good copywriter creating a script that inspires one to take action.

OK, now, with that preamble out of the way, we can get back to the matter at hand: "The Suck."

You see, when the great copywriter Gary Halbert trained people in the art of copywriting, guess what he did?

He would make his students write out the best advertisements and sales pages ever written… by hand!

This practice requires a lot of time and attention, which is why he called it, "The Suck."

Why did Halbert train his students this way? One reason: because it worked.

When you write out a text, word-for-word by hand, you're "imprinting" the idea on your memory. Don't take it from me, take it from Benjamin Franklin:

"You should read with a pen in your hand and enter… short hints of what you feel… may be useful; for this be the best method of imprinting them in your memory." [5]

The concept of learning something by imprinting it on your mind is something I refer to as neuroimprinting. It's a concept I talk a lot about in my forthcoming Antinet Zettelkasten book. The phrase is, again, inspired by Gary Halbert who wrote, "I believe in neural imprinting. And writing out in your own handwriting a really excellent piece is the very best way to achieve this imprinting." [6]

Want to become a great copywriter?

Then write out the best advertisements of all time, word-for-word, by hand.

Want to become a better writer?

Then write out the best book you've read, word-for-word, by hand.

There's several sections in my Antinet where I store my neuroimprints of various texts.

I have over 300 cards of the best advertising headlines of all time.

I taught myself the programming language Python by writing out python scripts by hand.[7]

Recently, I wanted to improve the style of my writing (specifically using colorful language and prose). So what did I do? I began neuroimprinting The Great Gatsby. I'm only fifteen pages in and I've already seen growth as a writer in this area.

The concept of learning by neuroimprinting ideas by writing them out by hand is not new.

In fact, it's really damn old.

The scholar Francesco Sacchini (1570–1625) cites ancients who copied down texts. He explains they did such a practice not in order to have copies of them, but in order to better retain the knowledge.[8]

Demosthenes copied down Thucydides eight times in order to understand the ideas more thoroughly.

Saint Jerome (342–420 AD) wrote many volumes by hand, "not due to the weakness of his library but out of desire to profit from the exercise." [9]

In ancient times, the practice of writing down passages was a "form of mental training," notes Alberto Cevolini (pun intended).[10]

The New England preacher Richard Steele wrote in 1682: "The very writing of any thing fixes it deeper in the mind." [11]

In fact, at Harvard College in the late seventeenth century, students were taught in the following manner. They were given the assignment to write down textbooks bought in England, by hand.[12]

It may sound like a lazy way of teaching; however, there remains a serious argument for the power of teaching students by making them write out knowledge by hand. We have moved away from the practice in modern times, but it's something that may warrant revisiting.

Anyway, as you head into this weekend, I want you to think about this. Think about something you've always aspired to learn (or even something you've always aspired to be).

If you want to learn poetry, pick up a great book of poems and write them out by hand.

If you want to write beautiful JavaScript, search Github for the most beautiful repo you can find and begin writing out the files by hand.

You get the point.

Hopefully you enjoyed this piece, and hopefully your eyes didn't glaze over when I entered "teaching mode" (and began pulling out references and quotes out of my ass to support my point).

Actually, I didn't pull the references and quotes out of my ass. Rather, I pulled them out of my Antinet and from my book. At the end of this email is a picture of the cards I used to write this piece).

I hope this idea inspires you to neuroimprint something soon.

Godspeed, and good luck neuroimprinting ideas on your mind.

Oh, and one last thing: it's called "The Suck" for a reason. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Have fun and don't knock yourself out.

Stay crispy, my friend,

Scott P. Scheper

"A Man Who is Now Going to Chase Down High-Resolution Images for His Upcoming Book (or Head to Balboa Park to Hang Out With His Fiancé and Two-Year-Old Daughter While Sipping Chardonnay Tough)"

P.S. Here's the picture of the cards I pulled from my Antinet to write this email:

  1. Because this piece is also posted on my website, there's a chance people may read this who have no idea what the hell an Antinet Zettelkasten is. If this is you, then here's a link to the free and beautiful 63-page eBook I recently released, "Getting Started with an Antinet Zettelkasten": ↩︎

  2. If you want to learn more about the Neo-Intellectual Institute, visit the website: ↩︎

  3. Here's a tweet from this morning's knowledge dev session: ↩︎

  4. Motoyasu Honma et al., "Reading on a Smartphone Affects Sigh Generation, Brain Activity, and Comprehension," Scientific Reports 12, no. 1 (January 31, 2022): 1589, ↩︎

  5. Dan Allosso, How to Make Notes and Write (Independently published, 2022), 44. Emphasis added. ↩︎

  6. Halbert, Gary. The Gary Halbert Letter; See also: ↩︎

  7. I recommend: Zed Shaw, Learn Python the Hard Way: A Very Simple Introduction to the Terrifyingly Beautiful World of Computers and Code, 3rd edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Addison-Wesley Professional, 2013). ↩︎

  8. Ann Blair, Early Modern Attitudes toward the Delegation of Copying and Note-Taking, 277. ↩︎

  9. Blair, Early Modern Attitudes, 277. ↩︎

  10. Alberto Cevolini, ed., Forgetting Machines: Knowledge Management Evolution in Early Modern Europe, Library of the Written Word, volume 53 (Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2016), 3. The pun being "…_notes_ Alberto Cevolini". ↩︎

  11. Ann Blair, Early Modern Attitudes, 277. ↩︎

  12. Ann Blair, Early Modern Attitudes, 278. ↩︎


Friday 4:49 p.m.



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