Writing, Arts & Entertainment

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.

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Topics include: Let Go of Your Ideas • Promote Your Story Until It Works • Learn From Your Reviews • Don't Mistake Critics for Your Audience


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 ...

About the Instructor

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.

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Malcolm Gladwell

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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