Studying Away

Today, the trees outside my house are stiff with frost and almost shockingly white against the blue sky.

It’s cold.

It’s been cold for days.

It will be cold for many more days.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m sick of cold, but I’m definitely getting there. I want to go outside again. And not have to light a fire every time my house is chilly. 

But it’s December, Christmas is coming, and winter is not leaving.

So I’m trying not to be sick of cold. The trees are pretty, at least.

Since I can’t go outside without risking extreme frostbite, I have been focusing my energies in other areas. Writing is getting done, cookbooks are being read, I am nearly three quarters of the way through Les Miserables (which happens to be an excellent book, by the way), and—best of all—I am cruising through my MasterClasses.

They’re turning out to be a mine of information.

Thus far, I’ve finished Neil Gaiman’s storytelling class—which I highly recommend—and am now making my way through a screenwriting class by Aaron Sorkin, another spectacular writer with a long list of successful projects and awards in his back pocket.

I’ve been devouring his classes.

I don’t write for the screen. Radio dramas are not as popular as they used to be, and you aren’t likely to find a MasterClass—or any other kind of class—about how to be a successful radio writer. Screenwriting is probably the closest that I’ll get as far as classes, and thus far, it’s proved wonderfully helpful. Aaron Sorkin is known for his dialogue, which is an area that I always need help in, and between his classes and Neil Gaiman’s masterful approach to story, I am learning in leaps and bounds.

Also, I’ve been learning how to make Middle Eastern food with Yotam Ottolenghi.

Because my life is not entirely about writing.

Now I can make a fabulous hummus, and just try telling me that isn’t a necessary life skill. Everyone should know how to make hummus. Hummus is amazing.

I’m still trying to convince my husband of that, but I’ll get there.

What are you learning about these days, either from some kind of classes or just in life? Tell me about it in the comments!


Does anyone else ever get a weird urge to completely reinvent themselves and focus all their time and energy on a new hobby until you’ve perfected it?

Yeah, me too.

This week, it was drawing.

I can’t actually draw, of course. But I would like to someday. I would like to be able to draw and dance and sing and paint. I want to be a photographer and a fashion designer and a yoga master and a private chef and a master gardener. If I indulged every interest of mine with concentrated practice the way I wanted to, I would use every second of every day. I would have a new obsession every week, and I would never reach even basic proficiency within my obsessions.

So, I don’t indulge the impulse. I’m not an artist or a chef. I paint occasionally—and produce terrible work that I enjoyed doing—I cook for myself and my husband and sometimes a few friends, and I practice yoga in the mornings to keep myself in shape.

But I invest in my writing.

I take classes. I analyze scripts and books and stories that others have written to understand how they were created and what makes them powerful. I study humor and prose and story structure until I can’t sit down to a favorite show or movie without dissecting the plot, the jokes, and the motivation of each of the characters within the story. I practice daily, and focus my energy on becoming the best storyteller I can be.

Writing has always been my obsession. But obsessions, especially for me, are a dime a dozen. I can pick up anything and make it an obsession of mine. Obsession is easy.

And fleeting.

It never lasts.

So I invest when I don’t feel like it. When a shiny new obsession is beckoning, I’ve learned to ignore it. When I would rather draw or paint or cook or garden or learn to dance, I come back to what I know I’m good at. What I know is important in my life. My stories pay the bills, yes, but I write when I’m not being paid, because it’s important. Because it’s more than a job or an obsession or an impulse.

It’s a calling.

One I can invest in and know that, at the end of the day, my time was worth something.

Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself when my grasshopper brain is trying to convince me that I could drop everything I’ve been working on for the last nine years and learn to draw something better than stick figures so I can be an animator.

Because that’s a totally plausible outcome.

What kind of obsessions do you have? Tell me about them in the comments!

A Year of MasterClass

Christmas came early this year.

Mostly because of Black Friday, because who doesn’t love getting a good deal?

Neither my husband or I are big on gifts, so rather than running through the gauntlet and making him guess what I might like for Christmas, I made it easy and told him I wanted the all-inclusive subscription to MasterClass that was going on sale.

Now he has to play fair and tell me what he wants.

He hasn’t decided yet.

In the meantime, I get to play around with all my new classes! I’m going to fly through as many of them as I can in the next year, taking into account my somewhat limited time, and focus mainly on the writing classes, the directing course by Ron Howard, a gardening course by Ron Finley, and about ten different cooking classes, all of which I’m wildly excited about.


And the Art of Negotiation by Chris Voss.

Because it’s taught by the FBI’s most successful hostage negotiator and who wouldn’t want to take that course??

I mean, how cool does that sound?

I’m pretty sure I can use that information in my life.


In one of my books, at the very least. I’ll make something up.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress through the classes, give you shining reviews, and tidbits of information as I go along! I’ve started my first one already, and because I am a writer with a lot left to learn about story, I naturally jumped for Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Art of Storytelling’.

Because I love Neil Gaiman. His books are brilliant, his characters are everlastingly memorable, and I could listen to his accent for years. Seriously, narrating his own audiobooks was a genius move. I would listen to them just for his voice.

I’ll let you know how the MasterClass turns out! Thus far, it’s been very interesting and surprisingly helpful. I’m excited to see what else he has in store.

Have you gotten into any of the MasterClasses lately? Tell me about them in the comments!