I have been writing since I was 13 years old, but I never really thought of using writing as a career. Two months ago, I made my decision in my life to pursue a career in writing, that’s why I have to improve myself to become a better writer, this is when I started to apply the Feynmann technique to improve my writings.
The first time I was introduced to the Feynman technique is when I had the chance to speak for elementary school students back in my college years. Teaching elementary school students was quite a challenge for me because I had to simplify my words in order to make them understand. Later did I know, the same method also served me well in my writing.
What is Feynman Technique?
In a nutshell, the Feynman technique could be simplified within this quote:
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
This method of learning developed by Richard Feynman, this method basically tell that in order to get a better understanding of something, you have to explain it with a very simple language that speaks to all ages — even to a six-year-old. By developing your own words when you’re trying to explain something, you gained more understanding rather than just remembering what you had read.
How to Use Feynman Technique
- Pick one subject that you want to learn, then begin to read and absorb the information, until you understand well enough.
- Explain what you had learned as if you were teaching a class, use your own words, and simplify your language to make your students understand better.
- Review your explanation, and find the weak spots — Where your explanation seems to be unclear, or not detailed enough.
- If in your explanations, your words seem to feel like a text-book — Where it might be hard to understand. Re-write your sentences, simplify your language, and explain it again.
Using Feynman Technique to Improve Your Writing
After I had finished my writings, I always sent my drafts to my friends to be reviewed, I told them to give the most honest opinions — Even if it’s harsh. The purpose of me doing this wasn’t to tell if my writings are good or bad enough — Since good or bad writings are really subjective. But the purpose was always to see if someone could understand the ideas that I was trying to explain in my writings.
Remember That You’re Not Writing for Yourself
Before I seriously took real efforts to improve my writings, the most common critiques that I got from my friends are:
“I’m sorry but it felt that you’re not writing this for me as the reader, it felt that you’re writing for yourself”
The thing was, just because you understand some ideas well enough, and you tried to write down those ideas, it doesn’t always mean your readers will get what you’re explaining.
Lots of writers have really good ideas, and I’m sure you have lots of them too, I never really believed that we could ever run out of ideas. The real challenge lies when we’re explaining those ideas — Writing it down on that blank piece of paper. Feynman's technique taught me an important lesson to build a connection between the writers and the readers and to overcome the challenge.
After you finished writing your first draft, review it, and put yourself in a reader position, ask yourself whether as a reader, did you find your writings understandable enough? Because when your writings connect with your readers, that must be a writer’s greatest gift.
Remember the second point of the Feynman technique:
Explain what you had learned as if you were teaching a class, use your own words, and simplify your language to make your students understand better.
Sometimes Fancy Words Aren’t Good
Back then, I used to write frequently on my blog, I have always wanted to be a good writer, whenever I was writing something, I used the synonym of a simple word to make it fancier. The problem with using too many fancy words is that makes your writing unreadable — And that is the last thing we wanted to do.
Simplifying your language could help your writing. I’m still sending my drafts to my friends, and I could see the improvement from their opinions, beyond all the reviews that they gave, one of the opinions that I love was:
“I like it, even for me, this is very much understandable”
I think that’s the main job of a writer — To be able to connect with your readers — to explain even the most complicated topics with a simple language that could be understood by all audiences.
Remember the fourth points of the Feynman technique:
If in your explanations, your words seem to feel like a text-book — Where it might be hard to understand. Re-write your sentences, simplify your language, and explain it again.
Using Relatable Examples
Back when I was teaching elementary school students, I was given the mission to raise awareness and the importance of reading. I could talk a lot about marginal improvement to raise the awareness of reading, but even for adults, that topic is hard enough to understand. Then I tried to simplify my language and create a relatable analogy that speaks with the children — I put myself as a child. I asked them:
“Who is the superhero that you love?”
Then some kids began to give their answers.
“Batman”, “Superman”, “Wonderwoman”, and any other superheroes that they mentioned. Then I said to them, “Well, what if I told you that reading could help you become a superhero?”
I could see from their expressions, they were curious how reading could make them superheroes? That was my cue that they were interested in a topic that I was about to bring. Then I explained to them that by reading books they could make cool stuff as Batman did, by reading they could be as smart as Hulk or even Superman.
In writing, it is practically the same, you’re offering the ideas that could benefit your readers, but in order, you’re able to deliver your ideas, you have to make them interested first. Using relatable examples has served me well to got my cue to make my potential readers interested in reading my article.
If I just wrote “Feynman Technique” on the title, I’m sure that you’re going to skip this article, but since I mentioned “One Method to Help You Become a Better Writer” then you said to yourself “I’m a writer, and I wanted to become a better writer, this article is for me” and somehow you have read this far.
Using relatable examples in your writing — Something that the majority of your readers had experienced — is a great method to make your writing feel more personal for them.
Remember the third point of the Feynman technique:
Review your explanation, and find the weak spots — Where your explanation seems to be unclear, or not detailed enough.
Applying the Feynman technique could help you become a better writer, could help you deliver your ideas to your readers. You have to think like a child, put yourself in the same position as six years old and read what you had written, do you think you would understand what you had written? do you think your explanation is understandable?
Feedbacks are important, I’m grateful that I have friends who are willing to read my drafts from time to time, harsh critiques doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it means that you’re growing, the only person who never got the critiques is someone who never wrote anything.
I have always believed that writers are storytellers, just like teachers, we are giving insights to the readers, to connect our minds as a writer with the reader’s minds, and applying the Feynman technique could be the right method to achieve that.
Thank you for reading.