Few books on writing ever deal with the mental game of writing, but getting your mental game right is crucial. Today’s post gives you one of the most powerful and far-reaching tools I’ve discovered for getting better at anything.

It almost sounds too simple, and in some ways it is simple, but in other ways it can have profound and surprising effects on your work.

The technique is called Modelling (also known as Cognitive Profiling if you like scientific-sounding terms) and it comes from Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), although it is based on something every single one of us did as a child and probably still does without knowing it.

The basic idea is that as we grow up we  learn from copying the people around us – parents initially, then other role models – friends, celebrities, pop stars, footballers, artists…

This is fine as far as it goes, and it can go very far.

The trouble is that we have no choice in our earliest and most influential models, and by the time  we find out what a mess our parents and other relatives really are it’s too late.

We’ve taken on their strengths – and also their weaknesses.

However if you want you can go on finding better and better models throughout your life.

If you want to be better at anything, first find someone who has done what you want to achieve. A writer you admire. Or a director, producer, actor…

Then study them deeply. The trick is (a) to get hold of everything you can find – books, articles, interviews, web sites, podcasts, TV documentaries. Read material written by your model, and also written by other people, who will give you a different perspective.

(b) Focus on the period when they are doing the thing that you want to do next. Most people focus on great artists when they are at the peak of their career, but if you are still to sell your first script you will learn more by modelling your favourite screenwriter when they are at that point – selling their first script.

The very act of studying them will already have far-reaching effects – you will pick up ideas, beliefs, strategies and techniques that will be immediately of use in ways you will never have thought of otherwise.

And there are further ways you can deepen your understanding, as you get to learn more about your mental game.

If you want to strengthen your mental game even further, you can search for techniques such as those taught by NLP and other psychological schools on the net, you can buy books on the subject, and you can come to workshops such as my Mental Game for Writing Success. I have one coming up on March 26.

Naomi Campbell notwithstanding.