You may have heard of MasterClass over the past few years–the online learning platform has grown quickly and is now a market leader. The first time I noticed MasterClass was when I saw that one of my favorite writers ever, Malcolm Gladwell, was teaching his own class on writing.
In this article, we’re going to look at Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass on writing. But first, we’ll take a closer look at the platform, MasterClass.
(Note: the links below are affiliate links which didn't influence my review and won't increase your price)
What Is MasterClass and How Much Does It Cost?
MasterClass is an online learning platform that’s open to the public to register and become a student.
MasterClass includes the very best at their craft with well-known names like:
- Gordon Ramsay teaching cooking
- Serena Williams teaching tennis
- Steve Martin teaching comedy
- R.L. Stine teaching writing for children
So yes, you could say that MasterClass only gets the best of the best. Every course is small enough to watch on a rainy day or spread out over a few days–with length from 2-5 hours, most of which are in the 4-5 hour range.
Each MasterClass is condensed into a bunch of smaller lessons. There’s usually between 20 and 30 lessons per MasterClass. The classes each have a lengthy PDF Workbook (the Gladwell one is 76 pages!) full of notes and activities to cement the lesson content.
If you’re wondering what it costs to take a MasterClass from writers like Gladwell, it's probably less than you think. You can grab an all-access pass that gives you all courses for either $10 a month for an annual membership. Really affordable for an online writing class even if it was the only one you took in their library.
What I like about the way MasterClass organizes its content is there are no island topics. That means that every basic topic has at least two similar MasterClasses you’ll probably want to take with it–this makes the all-access pass well worth the money. A couple that would pair well with this Masterclass include those by Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman.
Who Is Malcolm Gladwell?
Malcolm Gladwell is a writer who is best known for being the author of six New York Times bestsellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, David and Goliath, and The Bomber Mafia. Gladwell has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since the mid-90s and wrote for The Washington Post before that.
Gladwell also hosts the popular podcast, Revisionist History which looks at topics that have been misunderstood or overlooked as time goes by. It’s a great listen, FYI.
Will You Benefit From the Course?
In his MasterClass, Gladwell focuses on writing nonfiction with a lean towards using journalistic tendencies — mixed with a lot of the skills fiction writers use to hook in an audience.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, or a fiction writer who is interested in Gladwell’s books, I’m confident you’ll enjoy the course. But let’s check out the full course review before we make any decisions.
My Review of Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass
Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass on writing includes:
- Twenty-four lessons about all aspects of writing nonfiction, ranging from how to build characters to making sure that you’re using the right language and storytelling techniques to get your point across. Gladwell also uses plenty of examples from his work during his lessons, including case studies on some of his most well-known pieces.
- Full copies of the pieces are used as examples. This is great because, if you’re only familiar with Gladwell’s novels, you’ll learn a lot from The New Yorker pieces included.
- A workbook that has lesson notes, excerpts and activities that can help you put each lesson into action.
- Access to a forum of other learners.
What I Loved About Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass
There’s a lot to love about Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass.
Some standout features and lessons from the MasterClass are:
- Malcolm Gladwell as a presenter. First thing’s first. Gladwell is a great presenter. He’s personable, clear, engaging and puts his message forward well. Coming from a background as a successful podcast host (and an author who narrates his own audiobooks), Gladwell is able to show off his chops as a presenter.
- The case studies: Gladwell gives exceptional examples of a range of points by using case studies based on some of his most famous pieces. This is a great teaching resource because Gladwell talks about his intention when writing and the decisions he made to fulfill that intention.
- The PDF workbook: Easy to download, and full of great activities, the workbook is something you can go back to at a later date if you don’t want to listen to parts of the class again.
- A “Class Project”: Your activities throughout the MasterClass are positioned toward writing a New Yorker style piece.
- How to be a good reader: Rather than just focusing on what it takes to be an outstanding writer, Gladwell also examines what it means to be a good reader. By being a “good reader,” Gladwell refers to being able to properly analyze and appreciate writing.
- Embrace jargon: Rather than try to get rid of all jargon, learn to embrace some. Often, jargon is used as a kind of ‘shorthand’ by people in the know to save time. So, rather than explaining everything in basic language, explain what some of the jargon means (usually with a memorable story involving the word) and use those phrases throughout. It’s a great way of getting your reader to feel as though they’re a part of this new world they’re reading about.
- Check out your inspiration’s inspiration: A cool little trick you can do to reconstruct an author’s mindset is to read the books they use as sources. Then, you can even study the sources those books used! This is a great way to look into the inspiration of some of your favorite authors and see material the way they saw it.
Overall, most nonfiction writers will get a lot out of this course, and everyone should pick up at least a few new ideas.
What I Didn’t Love
I did enjoy a lot about Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass. However, it certainly isn’t for everyone.
You shouldn’t buy the course assuming it’ll be Gladwell “teaching” you how to write. Instead, the classes are more just the instructor discussing each lesson’s topic. While I found this great as an experienced writer, if you’re a newbie, some of this may be pitched over your head.
While the workbook has lessons and a ‘Class Project,’ the activities are never mentioned in the actual videos. Not once does Gladwell mention the project or the accompanying lesson for that class. This isn’t unique to just this MasterClass either, it’s common in all of the classes on the platform. This is most likely because the activities were written by the MasterClass team and not the expert themselves. There’s nothing too wrong with that, but the user doesn’t know if the expert thought of these activities as the best way to solidify learning or the employee at MasterClass chose it. Also, the activities being so separate to the classes hurt because I’d love to see the expert explain how they’d go about completing the activity. I’d love to see Gladwell model some of the tasks mentioned in the workbook.
All in all though, these are relatively small nits I’m picking off of what is, overall, a great course.
My Verdict: Is Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass Right for You?
When you consider the price of MasterClass all-access passes, the $180 is pretty cost effective considering there’s about half a dozen writing classes — with more on their way.
On its own, Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass is full of cool insights into how one of the best nonfiction writers on the planet goes about his craft. There’s a lot to take in, but luckily, with MasterClass you can keep going back and re-visiting lessons.
If you’re a writer with some experience, you’ll pick up some great pointers here and it’s certainly worth the investment. On the other hand, if you’re just starting out, it’s still worth the money, but you’ll want to watch the classes again at a later date when you’re more established.
Ready to take Malcolm Gladwell's MasterClass and transform your writing?
Thinking of joining Masterclass? Check out our other Reviews:
- The Best Masterclass courses for writers
- Judy Blume Masterclass Review
- Aaron Sorkin Masterclass Review
- Dan Brown Masterclass Review
- Joyce Carol Oates MasterClass Review
- James Patterson Masterclass Review
- R.L. Stine Masterclass Review
- Neil Gaiman Masterclass Review
For today's practice, imagine you have an hour with your favorite author. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Write out what you would like to learn from them, including any questions you might ask them. If you still have time on the clock, research interviews the writer has done, and see how many of your questions they have answered!