TIM URBAN IS the co-founder of the Wait But Why website, where he publishes his long-form pieces on deep and complex ideas. His work has also led to him getting featured widely, including numerous article mentions, appearing on Y Combinator’s podcast as a guest, and speaking on the famous stage at the TED conference.
In this exclusive interview with First Round Review, an editorial by venture capital firm First Round Capital, Urban is quizzed to share his thoughts on how difficult concepts can be best presented to others in an easy-to-grasp and memorable fashion.
Urban’s writing has proved itself to be of interest to many over time, having come to receive visitors to their website numbering in the millions. He’s also known for his distinct and memorable writing style, conveying intricate topics using a combination of writing and doodled illustrations. Mixed in with healthy doses of wit and humour, the result is an essay that’s uniquely Wait But Why’s.
The Main Takeaway
In order to begin trying to lay out the idea to be communicated to the audience in words, Urban first endeavours to fully comprehend the subject matter at hand. He throws himself fully into the topic, immersing himself in information on the matter, and absorbing everything he can to help make sense of things.
Only after educating himself on what he’s trying to write about, can he then effectively explain the topic through writing. He estimates that this learning process is 80% of the work in being able to produce a presentation of a complex idea.
Obstacles and Difficulties
It’s not easy taking a complex idea and translating that using plain language to produce something deemed accessible to the average person. Getting the information across in a structured way sometimes takes Urban weeks of toil before he’s able to come up with a skeleton that fits.
Using an Outline
When it comes to presenting a copious amount of information to a reader in trying to explain a concept, Urban deems the structure of the writing as crucial to transcending beyond just being a functional laying out of facts and figures.
When communicating an idea to the reader, attention should be paid to the sequence in which you choose to unravel the details of your story, so that it’s easier for the reader to pick up on. Structuring your research is key to this.
This helps your writing make better sense for your readers, forming that much more of a lasting imprint of the topic’s ideas in their minds.