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Four New Things to Learn This Winter

Four Things to Learn This Winter With Skillshare

Do you have any hobbies you love? The new year always feels like an opportunity to start fresh with fun interests. BUT! What do you do when it’s downright freezing out or you don’t have much free time? For the third January in a row, we dove into online learning with Skillshare, an awesome resource for building new skills from the ease and comfort of your sofa. Here are the courses we took and loved (plus a special offer from Skillshare)…

Four Things to Learn This Winter With Skillshare

Illustration Inspiration: Keeping a Sketchbook (31 Minutes)

Ashley: I always wanted to become good at drawing and painting like my dad. Unfortunately, I inherited roughly zero percent of his artistic talent, and I really hate being bad at things, so I stopped drawing altogether in high school. In an effort to get over myself, and finally do something I’ve always wanted to do, I enrolled in Leah Goren’s course on how to keep a sketchbook. Leah, a Brooklyn-based illustrator and pattern designer whose clients include Anthropologie, takes you through her own history as an illustrator, then onto simple tasks like drawing objects, drawing from life, and even drawing the space around you. By the end, I had drawn more in a day than I did in all of 2017, and shockingly, I didn’t hate my sketches. If you’re a beginner, like me, there’s a good chance you’ll love this class as much as I did. [Editor’s note: Ashley also teaches her own Skillshare course on creative personal writing.]

Make Your Video Look Like a Movie (39 Minutes)

Stella: With the Academy Awards just weeks away, I was curious to take a deeper look at the work that goes into movie masterpieces. One great place to start is this cinematography class taught by Ryan Booth, a filmmaker I’ve long admired on Instagram. In the video, he walks you through his straightforward creative process, explaining how he maximizes a location, uses natural light to his advantage and creates cinematic moments without expensive equipment. If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I make my little iPhone video look better?” this class is for you.

Four Things to Learn This Winter With Skillshare

31-Day Guitar Challenge (3 Hours and 36 Minutes)

Joanna: When Toby was a toddler, the idea of playing live music for him at home seemed like so much fun. Alex loaned me his guitar, and I searched a few YouTube videos, developed sore fingertips and… gave up. But when I found this great course, I felt completely inspired. I pulled out the guitar again and committed to learning more, without having to organize expensive in-person lessons. Nate Forrest, my Skillshare instructor, is a laid-back guy from Austin, Texas, who starts from the beginning, explaining everything from the anatomy of a guitar to tuning, chords, harmonics and scales. He has great analogies and tricks for learning guitar: “Glide your pick across the strings like it’s a paintbrush or broom,” he says; remember the order of your guitar’s strings by saying Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie; and use a free app on your phone to make tuning easy. The goal of the course is to watch one of the 31 short clips each day and practice twice a day, too. Within a month, he promises, you’ll be well on your way to really playing guitar. (Newly calloused fingers crossed.)

Four Things to Learn This Winter With Skillshare

Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth With Style (1 Hour and 49 Minutes)

Lexi: I’m a huge fan of New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, so it was a special treat to see her and hear her voice in my apartment, teaching me how to be a better writer myself. In this course, Orlean challenges you to write a three-page piece about the most mysterious person you know. (I picked my neighbor, who has the most massive collection of bonsai trees I’ve ever seen.) She leads you authoritatively and boosts your confidence through all the steps of writing a great story, including idea generation, pitching and revisions. But, the part I enjoyed the most was listening to her overall advice for better writing: It’s “an ongoing process,” she says. “It’s a state of mind, it’s a regular daily way of being in the world. It’s something you can work on all the time even if you’re not sitting in front of a keyboard.” Her biggest tip: Read more. Yes!

Bonus for all readers: Skillshare is offering new students three months of Premium membership for only $0.99 (Ordinarily, a yearly Premium membership costs $8.25 per month for unlimited classes, group discussions, and more.) Go here through February 28th to sign up. Please note: A credit card is required to sign up and $0.99 will be charged at the start of the trial. But you won’t be charged the standard price until the three-month trial period is up, and you can cancel at any time. Thank you so much, Skillshare!

What class would you sign up for? Did you make any resolutions to learn something new this year? Skillshare’s broad offerings, taught by experts in their fields, include thousands of courses on running a business, art, cooking and much more. You can browse them all here.

Four Things to Learn This Winter With Skillshare

(Photos of Ashley Ford by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Skillshare, the site we depend on for learning new things. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)

  1. Rossana Petreccia says...

    Joanna… I am currently taking acoustic guitar lessons at a local music store and my instructor who happens to own the store is a wonderful teacher and a talented musician, however this is a pricey endeavor to keep up with month after month. I am definitely interested in really knowing how to play the guitar. I see myself being able to one day pick it up and start to play either for myself or close family members at any moments notice with a handful of songs that I can just whip out of my back pocket. I am no where near this at this time. As far as the lessons you are taking with Skillshare, do you feel like you are at this point that I describe above or see yourself there one day?

  2. Diana says...

    When you sign up, do you have to pick just one class to take? Or can you try different classes? Thank you!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Diana,

      When you sign up you have access to an unlimited amount of classes.

      Enjoy!
      Lexi

    • Diana says...

      Thank you! I signed myself and my daughter up and we are both enjoying the classes we selected for ourselves! I am going through the arts videos and she is going through the creative writing videos. It’s so fun! Thank you for the motivation.

  3. I’m going to sign up this afternoon! I think I’ll start with some creative writing (both nonfiction and personal writing look great) and then do the illustration one. I’m also going to search for some photography. So much to learn!

  4. I am officially a Skillshare student now thanks to you COJ! Yay! I’m starting a new pretty scary entrepreneurial venture so I know I need all the help I can get. Thanks for the special offer! I’m excited. (Now…to schedule my class time…)

  5. Nicolle says...

    Knitting!!!! I can’t recommend learning how to knit enough. I learned a year and half ago and it has added so much to my life! It’s meditative, creative, and useful. There are so many interesting yarns and projects and people to connect with, and everyone loves a handmade, unique, one of a kind gift!!

  6. Alice says...

    I can’t recommend Skillshare enough. I joined through COJ’s link last Autumn, found a screen writing course, did it, and am now two thirds of the way through my own screen play. I have two pre-schoolers, I work from home, I’m busy as, but found a way to fit it in. I love it!

  7. I gave in as the first 3 months is almost free and see from there. My son is actually the one who is going to use the guitar lessons hehe so lets see how it goes!

  8. DIANA says...

    I try something new (roughly) every year! It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself. I joined a running club and made new, lasting friends despite often being the slowest runner out there. I took swing dancing lessons that I will never use again, except to demonstrate a proper Charleston at parties. I took up boxing with a girlfriend and we learned to throw proper hooks.

    This year I’m taking up volunteering with NY Cares – I did my first BINGO night at a home for the elderly and served food at the Gay Men’s Health Center. There is so much going on in the world, I feel like I can’t complain without doing my part to help.

    Everyone should try something new this year! Especially as a single person, it has helped me connect with people that share my interests and values while also gaining new perspectives and purpose.

    • Julia says...

      This is so lovely and inspirational!

    • Sydney Ramirez says...

      Wonderful advice!

  9. Emily says...

    Love the idea of learning something new from the comfort of my home, and at my own pace!

  10. My New Years resolution is to learn French (and to learn to drive a scooter in Bali)!

  11. Alright, nerdy doodler question here: Ashley, what kind of pens are you using?

    • Stephanie says...

      Yes, I’d like to know too!

    • Staedtler Double-Ended Fiber Tip Markers! They came in a set of 36 colors, and I got them from Staples :)

  12. Lauren says...

    I was cleaning my kitchen this morning, thinking about the rifle co house from yesterday’s blog, and feeling pretty bad about our house. It’s never clean for longer than an hour or so (I have a 2 year old), and we certainly don’t have enough money to decorate like the houses featured here so often (I’m a pastor).

    ASHLEY. Thank you for living in a house like mine. The background of your photos (which I know wasn’t the centerpiece of this post) brought me such encouragement today. Love your voice here!

  13. Essss says...

    Thanks for turning me on to skillshare last time you posted about it! I have been taking Mari Andrew’s class on drawing as self discovery, and I love it! I in no way would consider myself an artist, but her great prompts for reflection inspire me and the process of drawing and painting based of the ideas is super soothing. I’m excited to try something else creative next!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome, essss!

  14. Elise says...

    I can’t wait to learn sewing this year so I can make some of my own clothes – something I have always dreamed of doing but never thought I was remotely capable of… let’s see!

    • Sarah says...

      I taught myself to sew clothes last year. I had very little sewing experience and a very old machine. It’s something I always wanted to learn how to do. I assumed I had to take a class or know someone, but you know what? I bought a book and got online. Sewing clothes is SO rewarding! Just do it! You won’t regret it!

    • Lora says...

      One tip that might be helpful if you are new to sewing: try some of the indie pattern designers (Closet Case Patterns, Grainline Studio, etc…). Their patterns tend to be more expensive, but the instructions are more modern and comprehensive, making it easier to follow if you are new to it. Plus, they nearly always have sewalongs in their blogs so you have visual examples of how to do different steps. There are tons of great resources on sewing online! I hope you love learning about it.

  15. Alyssa says...

    Thank you for the amazing offer! I’ve always wanted to try, but I think I’m going to sign my boyfriend up for the three months as a gift as he loves learning new things :) I don’t quite have the time right now but also love to learn, so when I do have more time I will take a peak!

  16. A says...

    I notice Megan isn’t a part of this post and is no longer listed on the COJ About page….is she still a part of your editorial staff? I hope we’ll hear about this soon; it’s nice to be kept abreast of this sort of change!

    Wishing you luck as you continue to grow the COJ team! Even as the team has gotten bigger, this blog has maintained its authentic and compassionate voice. I have no doubt that Joanna + team will continue to do so.

    Sending love xxxx

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note! you’re right, megan isn’t working with us full-time anymore, but we love her and she’ll still be contributing. (she’s working on a beauty uniform and two house tours right now!) we’ll be hiring a couple more people soon, and look forward to introducing them, too. of course, i’m always around to answer questions and will be writing the same amount of posts myself. thank you so much, A xoxo

    • Joney says...

      Aw, I would love to see a farewell post when a member of the team leaves! :)

  17. jules says...

    I love the accessibility of online learning but it never stick for me. I log on once and never return. Even with at-home fitness vids. Nope. Maybe because laptop/screen = work and the Pavlovian is: “I should be doing revenue generating work.”

    I prefer the IRL experience of being in a different place and learning or practicing in community with humans, even though it’s hard to make the time with a biz and a toddler. I did a tarot class this fall and I loved it. One part that was cool was seeing how other people read things, not just me. Same with sketching. I was an art model in college and it was fascinating to see how different all the styles and interpretations were. But I also grew up in the analog era.

  18. Alex says...

    Is Megan not with Cup of Jo anymore? I always connected with her and enjoyed her input and posts as I appeared to be in similar stage in life as she was (just married with a newish job). I don’t see a course from her on this post, and am a little disappointed.

  19. C says...

    Ashley, yours is most inspiring to me! My grandma was artistic, and my dad is artistic, and I have always been a just-spreadsheets-and-books type of girl. I want to try the sketching class now!

  20. Sketchbook Skool or Mary Ann Moss for those inclined sketchers.

  21. French Girl says...

    I really think that you should make it clear from the beginnig when posts are sponsored…
    It would make it much less deceptive, at least for me :)

    • Katie says...

      It’s mentioned in the first paragraph that CoJ has teamed up with Skillshare, but does the fact that this post is sponsored make the stories or information any less compelling? I learned something new about everyone.

    • layla says...

      I actually really agree with this. I would have preferred a post that looks at various sites with cool classes to take. By only promoting classes on Skillshare it comes across as a bit disingenuous because the contributors likely did not have to pay to take these classes. If I’m spending my own money on a class I’m far more likely to really scrutinize and if I was recommending a class I paid for, I’m more likely to only recommend classes I truly thought would benefit others.

    • Haylee says...

      I think this line at the very end is particularly relevant: “Thank you for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.” Let’s keep these ladies writing, this is my favorite corner of the internet!

      On another note, I signed up for Skillshare when my interest was peaked a while back by a post here, and ended up writing and illustrating a children’s book! It was a fun little project that worked out great for one of my college classes (I ended up receiving credit for it). I’m obviously not going to be publishing anytime soon hahaha, but I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and would recommend Skillshare!

    • Sarah says...

      I think Cup of Jo does a good job with sponsored posts. Without saying exactly “This post is sponsored by Skillshare”, I thought it was obvious that they partnered with Skillshare for the post and were offering readers a deal. Other blogs I have read handle sponsored posts in a very “clunky” and awkward way that is not fun to read. One blog I used to read had sponsored posts from brands / products that I thought ran contrary to the purpose of the blog. I quit reading because of it.

    • Sara says...

      I disagree that the post seems “deceptive.” The very first paragraph mentions Skillshare. It’s even in a different color, which drew my eye to it immediately. And the cool thing about the wonderful humans in the comment section here on CoJ is that there have been several different platforms (free!) mentioned which we can all use to learn a new skill.

    • Laura says...

      Personally I find the sponsored posts to be super obvious that they’re sponsored, but that’s just me. And I think Jo & team does a great job of making them (almost?) just as interesting as the non-sponsored posts.

  22. Sara says...

    Does anyone know if the videos are captioned/subtitled? Have always been curious been need the accommodation! Thank you!

    • erin says...

      I looked into it last fall, and they don’t have equal accessibility for us. I was pretty annoyed by it because they’re a big enough company that they should be able to do it by now. but the problem is these courses are created by just about anyone, so not everyone’s going to take the time to make sure the courses have the same accessibility to everyone. I was so disappointed when they basically were like oh sorry. and gave me a month free, but i didn’t want that, i wanted access!

    • Ali says...

      A big part of my job is developing MOOCs for Coursera, and when we develop courses, we make sure they’re accessible. Of course, not all of the courses there are as creative-focused as the ones on Skillshare but there are some fantastic courses on there (virtual reality! ethical social media! indigenous canada! classical music!) and they all have subtitles/ captions as standard.
      Futurelearn, a UK based MOOC provider, also has really good accessibility guidelines for course developers and their courses are pretty great too.
      Hope this helps :)

  23. Crystal says...

    We (Santa) gave our five year old the gift of her dreams for Christmas – a purple guitar. We have done one YouTube lesson and it was not working for us at all. I think this 31 day challenge would be perfect for her & I to work on together (but we will have to go at a snails pace so it might just take us 60 days)…..

    Once again Joanna you have improved my life. Thank you.

    • Emily says...

      My 7 yr old also got a guitar for Christmas. We are learning through a free website called Yousician. It makes it so fun for kids, and my daughter has learned so much in only a couple weeks.

  24. shannon says...

    “in an effort to get over myself…” Hahaha yes! Love the candor!

    Has anyone tried skillshare for home projects or diy/renovation topics? (Upholstery, choosing a paint color, designing curtains, etc.) Not sure if they have these subjects but thought I’d ask.

  25. Terri says...

    I would like to learn to play the cello, and I would like to learn to knit. Do you think they have classes for either of those things?

    I think you can discover important things about yourself by trying to learn new skills, even if you aren’t good at something or don’t like it in the end. I love pottery, and I had been wanting to learn how to make pottery on a wheel for over a decade. Last year I finally signed up for a weekly class at a cultural arts center. At the first class I felt so overwhelmed, in a bad way. I hated the feeling of the wet clay on my hands. I was not good at it at all. I accidentally cut my hand opening the packet of tools at the very beginning, and had to try to wear a bandaid while continually immersing my hands in water and wet clay. I couldn’t get past the first step of centering the clay, no matter how hard I tried to follow the very patient teacher’s instructions. The whole process was so messy, and at the end I had this station full of clay-covered tools to awkwardly try to clean up in a sink. I had gone into the experience looking for something relaxing and soothing, after spending months studying for the LSAT. Instead it stressed me out. I felt like, as a mom, I already have so many messes to clean up. I didn’t like creating such a huge one with my hobby. Also, I just really wasn’t good at it at all. I decided to opt out of the remainder of the class, and the artists were so kind and gave me a refund. I don’t consider it a failure, though. I feel as if I learned a lot about what I want out of a hobby. Also, I now appreciate even more the handmade pottery I see, because I understand that it takes a lot of skill to make it.

    • Meghan says...

      Check out craftsy for how to knit courses!

    • A.K.R says...

      Terri- I did the exact same thing a few years ago! What I found was that trying to center the clay on the wheel caused all the grit to spin around and grind into the fleshy side of my hands (pinkie side)… it was so unpleasant and I, too, was looking for relaxation. I actually left midway through the class- complained of sudden illness or something, I was so embarrassed. I did not get a refund and felt so bad about myself for “quitting”. My husband was super supportive which helped a bit, but now a few years later I also feel like I have a better idea of what works for me. I try to think through what an experience will be like to look for dealbreakers, but I also am more comfortable with trying something and deciding it’s not for me. And not berating myself for it ;)

    • Agnes says...

      Terri, I learned how to knit years ago and I LOVE it. It’s a moving meditation of sorts and I feel very accomplished after completing a project. Look and see if there are any “Learn to Knit” classes in your area (if nothing is available on Skillshare). If you happen to be in NYC, I highly recommend Purl Soho for a class (+ patterns/yarn/projects). They even have a “knitting for beginners” kit but if you’re anything like me, I needed to physically learn in person with someone else present. Good luck!
      https://www.purlsoho.com/learn-to-knit-kit.html

    • Yes! Crafsty is good for knitting – I learned on Youtube. Also check out Ravelry for inspiration if you haven’t yet.

    • Jessica says...

      this makes me nervous as, after a decade of wanting to, I am finally starting a pottery course next Wednesday!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s awesome, jessica!

    • Molly says...

      Me, too, Terri! I have a very similar story. Your thoughts about learning a lot about what I want out of a hobby are helping me reframe my pottery experience, which I’ve been trying to block out! Haha.

    • gillian says...

      I took a pottery class after wanting to take one forever. I was nervous about the difficulty of being an absolute beginner, and worried that the expense would make me feel like I was wasting money if I couldn’t make things that I loved. One thing that my teacher really helped me with was not taking it so seriously, and remembering to breathe while I was trying to center and throw (it’s so easy to tense up and hold your breath!). In the end, I did three-month classes for about a year and a half, and only stopped because my life got crazy with other things. In the end, playing around with mud was really fun and relaxing for me, and i totally zoned in on what i was working on (distraction is something I struggle with generally). It taught me a lot about looking at pottery, and I did make progress with my understanding of the material and process over time. Learning is slow but so fun and worth sticking with!

    • Terri says...

      I just want to say thank you to all the people who shared similar experiences. Even though I do feel I learned a lot from it, I started to doubt whether I should have posted my comment.

      To Jessica, I want to say that your experience might be completely different from mine. You might end up loving making pottery, and I think it’s great that you are going to try it! I hope my comment doesn’t discourage or dissuade anyone from trying something.

    • india says...

      You should look up some knitting videos on youtube. I taught myself to crochet this way. First I looked up something like “learning to crochet for beginners” or “how to crochet” for the basics and then when a pattern had a certain stitch I would look up how to do that stitch. Maybe it’s not the best way to learn all the technical things but it made it easy and I could look up whatever I wanted, when I wanted with the ability to stop, rewind and pause as I was going and not feel like I was being rushed. Good luck!

    • gillian says...

      Terri, you can’t love everything you try!! I love that you want to learn the cello. Perhaps that will be the skill that calls to you and it will resonate with you! I’m trying calligraphy now, and have a guitar sitting in a case that is just waiting for me to learn to play it! :)

  26. Laurel Hammond says...

    Can you do a post on learning a language -specifically Spanish? I just had a son and it is my goal to learn Spanish with him. I am always on the lookout for books, youtube songs and workbooks. Actually, I think best resources for language learning would be a great series!
    PS I sent the guitar series to my husband who is learning the guitar. Thank you! Your blog is the only blog I still read everyday!

    • CB says...

      My local library has Mango available for free to everyone with a library card! I found it to be a great way to brush up on the Spanish I learned throughout high school.

    • I’m learning French through the app Duolingo. With advertisements it’s a free app or you can upgrade to the ad-free premium version for a monthly fee. I’m really enjoying it!

    • Laurel Hammond says...

      Thank you CB and Jess! I need to get back on duolingo! I get frustrated with it because I can’t go back when I answer incorrectly. Just my learning style I guess. I have not used Mango but I will look into it! Do either of you know good youtube channels or apps for kids?
      thank you for your responses – I appreciate it and I hope you see this comment :)

    • Dee says...

      Beware the duolingo Owl though! That guy is tough!

    • Laura C. says...

      I wish I could help you, I used to be a Spanish teacher years ago since Spanish is my first language! I love languages and I would like to learn more English. What helps me the most is listening to YouTube videos like Ted Talks, and reading CoJ and writing comments. Of course I make mistakes, but my English gets better every day! Buena suerte!

  27. Elizabeth says...

    I can’t believe it’s already been a year since you did a skillshare post. I am really intrigued by the Susan Orlean class. I love her writing, and I love the idea of writing about the most mysterious person I know; it jolted me to realize that for me, that person is my mother. I think I’ll do it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so fascinating, elizabeth! i’m sure your writing will be thoughtful and compelling.

  28. Stacie says...

    I actually took up knitting last year…I can’t remember the last time that I learned a new skill and stuck with it. The sticking with it is the hard part, even through the frustration of messing up. It’s a great feeling to get to the other end of a washcloth and realize that you actually made something from nothing!

  29. I’m an artist and was SO EXCITED to see Ashley sketching! Looking good! She also might be interested to know that there’s a New York urban sketching group that meets twice a week, once on a weekday and once in a weekend (free except when we meet in a place with admission, like a museum, and you can also come and go as you please.) All skill levels are welcome!

    Nyc.urbansketchers.org

  30. just signed up for the 3 months! so excited! xx

  31. I LOVE Skillshare and try to learn new skills or build on my existing ones every day – even if it is just 10 minutes of watching an instructional video like these you mentioned. I already have a bunch saved on my list to watch, but added most of these as well! I am an artist, writer (amateur), graphic designer, musician (amateur), a wannabe film/video maker, AND an avid craftsperson, so Skillshare has so much to offer me. I highly recommended it for the reasons you mentioned. It is so much fun to learn new things, or hear another artist’s perspective.

    Love your blog, too, by the way!

  32. Erin Kelsey says...

    this is really cool! Although I’ll mention many library systems have databases like Lynda.com and GaleCourses that offer very similar things and it’s free with your library card! I know skillshare is a blog sponsor but wanted to rep the public libraries access for those who might not be able to afford a monthly fee. :)

  33. Denise says...

    These are all so great and I’m seriously considering the guitar class if I can get my hands on a guitar. I’ve always wanted to learn. And photography is my favorite hobby but I haven’t been spending much time on it recently so there’s classes in photography I’d take too. Also .99 cents for 3 months is just SILLY! Thanks for a great offer.

  34. Sara says...

    That photo of Ashley is gorgeous! Love that beautiful happy smile of hers!! Have a great day, Team Cup of Jo!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      me too! :)

  35. Melanie says...

    You got me. I’ve got sketch books and water colors and colored pencils and crayons and markers – all gifts from my sweet husband – that I have NEVER cracked open for fear of being ‘bad’ at it. But I want to dive into my creative side (in more ways than just rearranging my open shelves for the 126879th time) so tonight. They’re all coming out. Thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is awesome, melanie! and you don’t have to be good. it also takes a while to figure out your style and everything. will be fun to experiment!! xoxoxo