by Steve Kellas

Recently, I have taken short afternoon breaks from my duties as a copywriter to go around to the local school and teach 6 year-old children to play chess in an after-school club. It’s wonderful to see how learning the game has improved their skills in other areas, especially in concentration and strategic thinking.

While watching two players go through an entire game for the first time, without my input, it occurred to me that chess is valuable for anyone to learn, especially copywriters.


Yes. Chess. Here’s why.

(Re)learn concentration skills

I don’t know about you, but when I’m on a computer my concentration skills disappear faster than a Viagra email goes to the spam box.

There are so many distractions and so much multi-tasking, that it has become quite difficult for me to concentrate on many things I enjoy doing off the computer, such as reading novels or learning to play a new song on guitar.

Playing chess requires you to fully concentrate and keep your mind on the game. If young children who naturally lack concentration skills can sit down for 30 minutes and play a full game of chess, then it will benefit any copywriter who wants to recapture their ability to focus deeply on an assignment.

Think strategically

I think chess is a lot like copywriting. Before you begin, you know all the facts (the pieces and how they move), you outline the basics of what you need to accomplish (strategy and opening gambit), and you work through the plan to get the conversion your client needs (taking your opponent’s king).

The thing is, in chess, your opponent often sees your strategy and effectively blocks you. This requires you to constantly let go of your previous strategy and to continually create new ones.

The act of facing an opponent and having to develop new strategies ‘on the go’ is a practical skill to have as a copywriter. You constantly face client updates, feedback, changes to the brief and the whimsy of your own creativity. In other words, you must strategically adapt your copywriting as the project unfolds.

Simultaneous activity

Copywriters are sometimes solitary animals. I know several writers who simply cannot write when others are around. Still others must listen to music to drown out the sounds from outside their mind.

It’s easy for copywriters to get stuck in one-track thinking.

Chess is a fabulous remedy for this kind of single-mindedness. It forces you to think about both attack and defence, and you must do so simultaneously.

By forcing your brain to look at ‘the big picture’ you are actively training you brain to do the same with all problems you face, even the copywriting ones.

Chess is a wonderful pastime and a great tool for training the mind. If you’re a copywriter, it will expand your mental abilities to concentrate and multitask. Better still, teach chess to someone who has never played before and watch their minds develop.

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