Binge-watching the Masters by @EdenBaylee

At the start of December 2019, I gave myself a gift of learning. I'd seen numerous ads for MasterClass while searching for interesting gifts for the holiday season. 

If you're unfamiliar with MasterClass, it's a streaming platform of online courses that started in 2015 with a simple pitch: Famous people teach you about the thing that made them famous.

At the time, the courses that interested me most were from writers: Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, Joyce Carol Oates, just to name a few. MasterClass, however, includes instructors from all walks of life—from Dr. Jane Goodall who teaches Conservation to Helen Mirren who teaches Acting to Annie Leibovitz who teaches Photography. 

You can either purchase a specific course along with its instructional videos and workbooks, or buy an annual membership which gives you unlimited access to all the classes, including new ones that are added during the year. 

I decided to pick up an annual subscription and a second one for a friend. At the start of 2020, I'd already begun prioritizing the courses I wanted to take. My goal was to finish a course a week—entirely possible given that each instructor presents an average of 25 brief lectures that run 6-8 hours in total. By the time I left for holidays end of January, I'd already completed classes by Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. I was on track to take all the writing courses and numerous self-interest ones as well.

Then March rolled around, Covid-19 slapped us with a new reality, and my focus shifted in a major way. I was caught up in the day-to-day news of the pandemic. If it were not for a reminder email from MasterClass that my subscription was ending shortly, I would've completely forgotten about it. 

It put me in a panic, really. How the hell did eight months fly by so quickly? 

Of course, I can't do a thing about the time that has already passed, but I want to watch all the courses that interest me before my membership comes due. Talk about learning under pressure! In the past week, I've gained insight into the art of negotiation by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator. I've watched one module by Thomas Keller on how to make Aglio e Olio and decided to skip his course. He made a simple dish much more complicated than it had to be. Joyce Carol Oates was delightful as a teacher, and I really enjoyed her series. I finished Malcolm Gladwell's course and loved it (best one so far), and now I'm in the middle of David Baldacci's class. 

Taking a course as part of MasterClass is a complement to, not a replacement for other kinds of learning. It's not a post-secondary level class. What you're paying for are experts in their fields talking about the creative process, their techniques, art, mentors, and more. If this inspires you or gives you insight into your own process to do better, then it might be worth the investment (approximately $180 USD/year). 

Overall, I'm enjoying the learning and will continue to binge-watch over the next weeks!

Stay well, 


Peter Leyland said…
Very interesting Eden. This came into my inbox just as I need a pause from writing an article about academic research journeys!

I like your description of how you crammed in all the courses on learning from famous people. I'm especially interested in Joyce Carol Oates having read her fiction in the past. As luck would have it my wife has just asked me whether I would like an online bibliotherapy course for Xmas as I'm so keen on reading and know a bit about the subject...

Thanks for your good wishes.
The Neil Gaiman course looks interesting - must investigate!
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Peter, Joyce Carol Oates has been a prof for years at Princeton, so she's extremely diligent in her lectures. I really enjoyed how detailed she was.

Not all MasterClass courses are created equally, but I think the writers have been very good so far.

You can probably get a deal on the annual subscription for the holidays if you're interested. Stay healthy and hope your wife gets you a Xmas gift you will enjoy!

Eden Baylee said…
Hi Katherine,

Neil Gaiman is terrific. His classes were helpful and inspiring.

I hope you'll enjoy if you decide to get the subscription. There should be MasterClass sales during the holidays!

eden :)
Reb MacRath said…
I'm glad you shared your good experience with Masters. I've been skeptical about the idea, a bit bummed out by literary agents making big bucks for their 'boot camps' for new writers--99% of whom they'll never represent. But Neil Gaiman's course sounds like the real deal. And I do like the sound of the courses for improvement in areas other than writing
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Reb, thanks for your comment. I just finished all the writers currently part of this program. They were all very good, but some definitely stood out for me.

Surprisingly two of the best were James Patterson and Dan Brown. Yes, they sell a ton of books because they write mass fiction, but they also give concrete examples of what to do and not to do. It's a bit formulaic, however, it doesn't mean anyone can write an engrossing novel even if you have the blueprint to do so.

I read all of Dan Brown's books many years ago and enjoyed them because of the fast pace. What I enjoyed about his course is he doesn't take himself seriously at all. Yet, he takes his craft seriously. For me, that's important.

I watched some filmmakers and musicians as well, but I won't be renewing my subscription. It was great to access it for a year, and now it's time to get back to reading and writing. It was inspiring and time well spent.

Thanks for commenting and hope you are well,

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