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When Your Story Enters the World

Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 7:23 min

Once your story is published, the world will respond. Learn Malcolm’s tips for promoting your work, dealing with critics, and what to do when readers misinterpret your intent.

Malcolm Gladwell
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.
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Once you've written something, it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to your readers. When your readers buy your book, they really buy your ideas and your ideas become theirs. And you can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about how they use your ideas, but you shouldn't because they're not yours anymore. So when I was writing "Outliers," I ran across this bit of research about trying to estimate how long people have to do something complicated before they master it. And this is the literature that is described as the 10,000-hour literature because the notion is that you need to have 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be good at something. So I wrote this in an article-- in a chapter of my book, "Outliers," and thought nothing of it. I didn't think it was that significant. It was in the service of another point. I was trying to make the point that if it's really that long, then no one can do-- can prepare for something hard by themselves. So 10,000 hours is-- it takes you 10 years of practice to get up to 10,000 hours, roughly speaking. So it takes you 10 years to be good at something. You've got to have help. Parents, a spouse, government, I don't know. Somebody has got to help you out. You can't do 10 years of preparation on your own, right? That was my point. And then I just kind of went on with the book. And then the book comes out. And there was a time when it seemed like the only thing-- not the only thing, but the chief thing people got from the book was that 10,000 hours was necessary to be great at something. And then as that kind of took off, the argument that I made was simplified, and further simplified, and then distorted until it came-- there was a version out there at one point that said, and Gladwell thinks that talent is unnecessary for being good. All you need to do is to practice 10,000 hours, which is not what I said, even remotely. And I had this curious sensation of reading people attributing a position to me that I had never taken. Now, part of you is like, that's a good problem to have, that you're widely enough-- in order for your work to be misconstrued, your work must first be read. So it's better than being ignored, I suppose. And then I went through a period of where I was constantly trying to correct the record and say, I never said that. Blah, blah, blah. So I was irritated by the way-- and then I realized, well, if you're misinterpreted, it's probably your fault. Right? I should have written it more clearly. And then ultimately, I took the position that I am not the police of my readers. If my readers would like to construe an idea certain way, that's entirely up to them. [MUSIC PLAYING] I wrote my first book called "The Tipping Point," and I had no expectation that it was going to be successful. I was just thrilled that someone wanted to publish something that I was-- that I had written. I cut my-- I was at "The New Yorker" and I ...

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I had not really read Malcom's work before; now I want to consume it all; I'm a fiction writer, with a background in journalism. I found a lot of information and insights during this series that I can use in my fiction writing. It was also a lot of fun.

Malcolm Gladwell is so generous with his knowledge and process of writing. Tricks that have probably taken him years to master, he shares freely, and I cannot thank him enough. My writing will be so much richer from the advice in this course.

Excellent manner of presenting techniques for improving one’s writing Mr. G is so creative and humorous yet able to clearly define where to focus.

Learnt a couple of simple hacks to write an interesting chapter.


A fellow student

Very much! It’s helpful to hear his story about how he worked to promote the Tipping Point!

A fellow student

A person might think that a critic just destroys your work, but like Malcom said, some of it is right and helpful, other criticism is not constructive. Cool to make the distinction that critics are your audience and you shoudlnt write to please them

Jennie C.

Malcolm keeps you focused and grounded "When Your Story Enters The World." Good advice about creating distance and knowing the difference between helpful criticism and just "nasty" words. We as writers embrace growth through various forms of feedback. I so agree that it's not always about the writer's clarity but how someone (mis)interprets words.


My remarks keep disappearing. It is not clear if the problem lies with my computer or the site. Anyway numerous remarks Gladwell said are useful. e.g. Take distance and time from what you've written so that when you return you'll see the problems with the text and be able to correct them. The writer is not responsible for readers misconstruing the writer's thoughts. The writer does not have to police his readers interpretations of his works nor take pains to correct them. Bad reviews can be both painful and instructive. Malicious reviewers reveal their personal malice and need not be taken to heart. Readers of malicious reviews see that and it will not necessarily put them off your work.

Matt G.

There is an error in the workbook for this lesson. It says: "Malcolm’s first book, The Tipping Point, didn’t become popular until after he’d worked hard to promote it for years. Since then, it has become synonymous with the idea that 10,000 hours of practice makes you an expert. That’s a misinterpretation of what Malcolm wrote, but, regardless, it’s an idea inextricably tied to The Tipping Point. " The 10,000 hours comes from his third book, _Outliers_. _The Tipping Point_ refers to what happens once a certain number of people embrace an idea -- regardless of long it took that many people to embrace the idea, once a threshold is reached, nearly everybody embraces the idea. The popularity of his book had its own tipping point, reached no doubt as a result of his multi-year promotional effort.

Ekin Ö.

This lesson gives some suggestions on how to deal with the process after publishing the article or the book. There are useful tips though: Don't try to control everything after the process, do your best to reach out to a greater audience.

Donovan Y.

I love how he talked about going on tour around the country to promote his book. I'm in the process of writing a book. Hopefully a publisher will want to publish it, and I guess I will have to do what he did: go around the country and promote the book. Also I loved how he talked about he would do his writing in the morning and go to office in the afternoon. It's nice of him to have that job that allows time flexibility.

A fellow student

It's a remarkable power a writer shares with his audience when either the audience or critic becomes our teacher.

Tina K.

I really liked the concept that a critic is not your audience. If they write the review well (or in the spirit of improving the writer's skill), they can be of tremendous help.

Jana J.

Wow - I just grew up in important ways and finally "get it" for understanding MG to say: once people buy your book they own the ideas you imparted. My "fatal flaw" in my career has been how I hated that others profited from my ideas without even thanking me privately or publicly for what they gained, as if they stole credit from me (at worst), or neglected to treat me reasonably (at best). I saw them as users. What MG describes of the relationship between author and readers reminds me of being in an ad lib comedy theater class or group. An idea expressed takes on a life of its own in the next person to receive it, and what each person does with it is *their* contribution to the world. In an ad lib group, it is easy to see who the best contributors are ... the trick for any "ideaist" is to share his or her idea in the best forum, ya?