Join Shane Snow for an in-depth discussion in this video The Ben Franklin method, part of Shane Snow on Storytelling.
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- Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite people in history. We think of him as this great inventor, statesman and writer but there was a point in his life where he wasn't very good at writing. He came up with a technique to train himself to be a better writer. What he did, is he'd take the most prestigious magazine of his day, sort of like the New Yorker of the 1700's, called the Spectator. He'd take his favorite articles and put them down next to his notebook and sentence by sentence he would describe in his own words, the sentences and paragraphs of these articles.
Then he'd put the magazine away, wait a couple of days take his notes, take another notebook and try to rewrite the article from his notes. Then he'd compare his new article to the original article and he'd see where he made mistakes, where what he wrote was not as good as what the article wrote and he did this over and over and over again. Comparing himself, deconstructing the best writing of his day and reconstructing it until he, in his own words, said that, "Well I think my writing is actually better than this writing." He did this very deliberate method to improve his writing skills until he became one of the great writers of our time.
I discovered this method in Franklin's autobiography. And when I wanted to become a better writer, I used the same thing. I called it neurotic spreadsheeting. I'd take my favorite articles and in a spreadsheet, I'd break down the sentences, the paragraphs, the techniques, word counts, syllables and then I would reconstruct those articles to try to improve my writing chops. Most of us get to a certain point where we decide why they're not good writers or we're good enough writers and we don't actively work on our story telling skills. You may not consider yourself a great writer, but neither did Ben Franklin.
This method of deconstructing and reconstructing great writing will help you become a better story teller no matter where you are today.
- The science of great stories
- The elements of effective storytelling
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- Building and engaging audiences
- Using storytelling frameworks like the Ben Franklin method