my quarantine challenge + masterclass ceo on being too cool for school

PLANT, BASED —

on my first day as a business reporting intern at the boston globe, a columnist came up to me and kept it curt: “please tell me you didn’t make the mistake of majoring in journalism.” i, approximately 2.5 semesters into my journalism degree, chuckled slightly and responded with my script usually reserved for inquisitive aunties: i’m concentrating in international relations!

now, i’m not going to spend today arguing why a j-school degree is important. mostly because i don’t know if it, at its core, fundamentally is essential enough for me to argue to the nearly 1,000 of you that trust me with a spot in your inbox. i do however know that the past 6 years, which includes my undergraduate experience and this dear columnist who shall remain unnamed, have given me some truly beautiful advice.

so, from time to time, i’m going to make this blog into a teaching vehicle for people interested in writing more. this time, let’s frame it as a quarantine challenge to remain hip, but in all honesty, it is truly a dream of mine to inspire others to write and support them through it. i’ll sprinkle these in between my usually overthinking posts, unless it completely fails.

more later, but first my words + reads,

my words: celebrity-taught classes! i wrote about masterclass’ $100 million series e fundraise, which confirmed earlier reports. the company’s valuation is “well over” $800 million, per ceo david rogier.

etc: masterclass flexes its comfortable spot on the intersection of both entertainment and education with its celebrity content. learn tennis from serena williams! learn how to be funny from david sedaris! the name drops matched with high documentary-style content makes masterclass “cool.” but, i think sitting in the edutainment category puts masterclass at risk for two reasons: 1) wtf is edutainment 2) no hollywood-style productions are happening right now due to covid-19. so i wonder if masterclass, which needs to continue providing content to its users that pay $180 a pop annually, is now in a tough spot. it has new funding, which is good, but unlike other edtech platforms, it has been very quiet about surges in usage or active user numbers. regardless, the optimist in me wants to see masterclass completely school me on the cost of being cool.

learning lesson: moocs, rejoice in your nerdy and low quality bandwidth.

unorganized tab time:

so about those coronavirus commercials

south korea’s first day back at school

thoughts on the life and death of college towns

teaching reading was hard before the pandemic

tech job listings harden

my favorite newsletters atm: maya, nisha, tanay, sam

anyways

the piece of advice that started this newsletter came from no other than my former editor, holden page. after deciding to join the substack train, i came to him with a 30 minute calendar invite and approximately 3 different newsletter outlines (which were a mix mash of my favorite traits from the ones i’ve been reading for years, and oddly all turned out like really bad versions of og The Skimm, or my really shit attempt at recreating erin griffith’s magic).

(as an aside, this was the time i realized that i will literally never be a gif person. because i am just not that kind of funny, i have accepted it, moved on, but i did want to come clean about it).

once he saw that i was trying to find a format or a reason or a catchy title to give me permission to write — aka, i was trying to answer the question of why in the world would i start a newsletter, and more importantly, why in the world would someone ever subscribe to receive it — he put some advice simply: you don’t need a gimmick to start writing. you are your competitive advantage. the fact that you just moved across the country to join a small startup is a compelling enough reason to begin.

i heard that, and all of a sudden it clicked: i don’t need to reason my way into being interesting. in fact, i’m a brown, young, female professional who has made her dream into a career and moved across the country to do prove it.

holden’s advice led me to post my first newsletter, and i think i’ve been getting better ever since. every time someone tells me that they feel a little more heard from one of my pieces, it reminds me how silly i was to overthink starting this in the first place.

so that’s my tip #1: you don’t need an excuse, or a life-changing event to start writing. sometimes, you just need someone to tell you that your story is enough.

to your first draft,

n

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