Chapter 21 of 24 from Malcolm Gladwell

Working as a Writer

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Learn Malcolm’s advice for aspiring writers, including how to launch and maintain your career as a professional writer.

Topics include: Differentiate Yourself • Write Interesting Pieces • Get a Job to Support Your Passion • Draw From Your Accumulated Knowledge

Malcolm Gladwell

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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I always-- I think that if you're in the business of writing, then you're in the business of creating comparative advantage for yourself. So I always ask the question, what can I do to make sure that I'm different from everyone that I'm competing with? I-- that always should be the first question that you ask yourself, what is it about what I'm doing that will make me stand out, that will not necessarily be better-- I think that's way too high a bar. I don't even imagine that I'll be better than everybody else. But I do want to be different from everybody else. I want there to be a reason for people to turn to me. They are getting something they can't get anywhere else. So when-- when I emigrated to America, when I was 20, I was sort of aware that I was less typical, partly because I came from Canada, partly because I am biracial. And it matters more in this country. But more-- and I have consciously tried to defend my differentness now, because I realize it's very useful. I still-- I never became an American citizen, even though I've lived here now for 35 years-- in part as symbolic-- as a symbolic statement. Not because I hate America, but because it is important for what I do for me to continue to think of myself as an outsider. And so carrying a kind of Canadian passport is a symbol of that, that reminds me that that's necessary in the work I do, that people read me not-- because they want something that's unusual. They're trying-- they want to see a-- get a glimpse of a perspective different from their own. Now, not every writer, I think, necessarily represents difference in that same way. But that's what-- that's what I think the meaning of my writing is to people. And I don't think-- I think I-- I think that I can't change that. I think that's-- that is the identity I have established in the minds of those who read my work. And it's not something I should ever mess with. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was a history major in college. And the day I graduated from college, I swore that I would never set foot in another classroom again. I was done with school-- not done with learning, but done with school. And I, entirely by chance, got a job at a magazine-- a little obscure magazine in Indiana called the "American Spectator." And they sent a long form to fill out with all-- you know, essays about why this, and this is who I was. And the last question-- which you had a full page-- was, why do you want to work at the "American Spectator"? And I didn't know anything about it. And it was all a bit of a lark. So I simply wrote, doesn't everyone want to work at the "American Spectator"? And I got the job. So I went there. And I worked there for a couple of months before I got fired, because I couldn't handle the transition to a 9:00 to 5:00. Because in college I used to go to bed at like 4:00 in the morning, and wake up at 1:00 in the afternoon. And it just was too much-- couldn't. So then I went to Washington DC, where I vaguely...

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers devour 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 craft online for the first time. Write stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.

Learn Malcolm’s writing practices—including how he finds stories in unexpected places—through on-demand video lessons.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Malcolm will also answer select student questions.

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Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing