The Ben Franklin Method

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, founding father of the USA, was once a poor writer?

Now recognized as an important politician, inventor, scientist and writer, Franklin was not always this way. In fact, he considered himself a poor writer but took an active interest in improving his writing capabilities. The poems and articles authored by Franklin are the fruits of his labor; he worked on his storytelling skills by deconstructing and reconstructing what he considered “great writing.”

He did this by taking a magazine of the time – The Spectator (equivalent to the modern day The New Yorker), finding an article he liked and as he read the article he would highlight arguments and write down key points and data. When he was finished, he would write the article himself using the notes he had taken. Later, he would compare his article to the original and see where his writing was weak, where it was better and what writing conventions he needed to work on.

After much practice, he soon got “better” than the best articles and went on to write poetry, prose, rhetoric etc.

The moral? The Ben Franklin method works – if you want to get better, consider looking at the best and deconstructing then reconstructing the work of art, project, plan,…whatever it may be. The term “neurotic spreadsheeting” has been used to describe this method but the story of Ben Franklin is always sure to inspire us to take action in actively improving our storytelling or other skills.

-EMC

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