Learning from the Masters

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin I developed my own method of improving my writing.

We all walk our own paths.

I would like to share with you, how I have recently attempted to learn from the masters. I picked one of my favorite novels: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

While reading Benjamin Franklin’s biography by Walter Isaacson I learned that one of the Founding Fathers of the United States used to try to remember magazine articles he liked, and attempted to reproduce them a few days later without looking at the originals. He used a special kind of notes to help the recalling. This was his way of learning to become an accomplished writer.

Inspired by Benjamin Franklin I developed my own method. I read only half a page of the novel a day, but over and over, let’s say about ten times. Then I translate this half a page from the original English language to my mother tongue – Slovenian. Then I close the original hardcover Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and feel awe at having held a masterpiece in my hands. I turn to the computer humbly, read the half a page of my translation and without peeking into the original I try to reproduce the half a page in English. Or in other words: I translate it back to English trying to come as close to the original as possible.

Then, naturally, just like Benjamin Franklin did, I check my words with the original. I correct my half a page using track changes in Word. I go over the text again and strive to remember my mistakes for later.

In a few days, when I have reached the end of a chapter, I re-read the chapter about ten times, close the book and struggle to re-write the whole chapter without looking at the original or my translation. I usually remember about half to two thirds of the content. The exact wording differs from the original of course, but I manage to capture the basis plot.

I must say it is a very difficult exercise and since I am not a genius like Benjamin Franklin was I end up being quite exhausted. Sometimes I even doubt I could do the whole thing, because my concentration is not at its high. But I plod on anyway, and, although on days with lower concentration I make more mistakes, the feeling of completion in the end is heartwarming.

Take care,

Helena Smole, author of:

– a fantasy novel with romance Vivvy and Izzy the Dwarf: A series about relationships

Balancing the Beast, a book offering a bright view of schizoaffective disorder ˗ bipolar or manic-depressive type

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