Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I Learned from Chopped

Dude, you guys, if you haven't seen the Food Network show Chopped, you're really missing out. In a nutshell, there are four chefs and they get a mystery basket of ingredients. They then have a certain amount of time to create a dish. If theirs isn't good enough, chop! They're gone. If they make it to the end, they win ten grand.

So I love watching this show, because it marries two of my favorite things: reality TV and food. And who knew I'd learn a lesson while watching? But I did. I think it applies to life, but it most definitely fits writing/publishing as well.

So I'm watching, and there's this one chef who is supposed to be fabu, and he works for a world-renowned chef. He got pretty slammed by the judges during one round, and afterward, in the back room all the other chefs were chatting while they waited for the judges to decide who was getting chopped that round.

Fabu chef: "I've had people screaming in my face. That [critique] was nothing."

Other chef: "How do you deal with that?"

Fabu chef: "What do you mean how do you deal with that? You put your head down and work harder."

I jerked my attention back to the TV (I usually fast-forward through these parts, but I was all caught up with live TV) and rewound the clip to listen again.

"You put your head down and work harder."

That's what you do with your writing too. Every critique. Every time you get notes from someone. To get better, you put your head down and work harder.

Oh, and the Fabu Chef got chopped. It just goes to show that everyone has bad days, dark times. Doesn't mean you quit. It means you work harder.

What have you been working hard at? Could you work harder?


One more thing: Nicole Zoltack was drawn to win the Personal Demons swag package from Lisa Desrochers! Congrats! Nicole, please email me so I can get some info from you, okay? Okay. (elanajohnson(at)gmail(dot)com)

Oh! And I have a giveaway up on the WriteOnCon site today!! *squee* Go check it out! I'm excited and terrified in the holy-cow-I-might-puke kind of way. So yeah.

68 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

That is great advice. And remember that for most of us if we keep working hard and are persistent, we will succeed.

Maggie Stiefvater was talking about queries recently and she said you have to choose courage. I think that's so true too.

Christina Lee said...

What a great analogy. Yes sometimes you need to just suck it up and move ahead! I LOVE that show!

Renae said...

What a great example and so true! All of us face rejection at some point and that's the best way to deal with it. Work harder and fix what needs to be fixed. See...reality television can be useful!

Theresa Milstein said...

Imagine, you learned something about writing from Chopped. I thought all they taught was to take three disparate ingredients, and cook something that doesn't make us want to throw up. Usually.

That is really good advice. Writers are often fragile, but chefs have to deal with shouting and belittling all the time. I watch every cooking reality TV show and I've read several chefs' memoirs. I never thought to apply their absorption of critique and their dedication to writing before.

Liza said...

Chopped also forces the particiipants to use their imaginations...you know, create something that tastes delicious out of the figs and eels and mincemeat. They all come up with something. It would be interesting if, as writers, we had our backs forced against the wall like that. What stories would we invent?

Lola Sharp said...

I confess, I watch zero reality TV. I'v never even heard of that show.
BUT, I DO appreciate the comparison/lesson. :)

Happy Humpday!
Love,
Lola

Megan K. Bickel said...

Oh I heart Chopped! And that is fantastic advice. Working on my first revisions from my new critique group, so very timely advice for me too!

kellyhashway said...

This is very true. I love getting critiques, even when they make my head spin at first! I like to take a few minutes to freak out a little bit and then sit down to figure out what I need to do to improve the scene. That's what critique is for--to make you work harder and become a better writer.

kellyhashway said...

This is very true. I love getting critiques, even when they make my head spin at first! I like to take a few minutes to freak out a little bit and then sit down to figure out what I need to do to improve the scene. That's what critique is for--to make you work harder and become a better writer.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Great analogy. Something to remember - critique is an opportunity to make your work better.

Matthew Rush said...

What a great point and analogy! That's the toughest thing about feedback, and why the most astute can be so discouraging: because it means you have a lot more hard work to do.

Congrats Nicole!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

At first I didn't want to read this post because I'm hungry and there's no food in the house, but I put on my brave girl panties and read anyway. So glad I did! Thanks for the smack of inspiration. I really needed it today. ;)

(And thanks for not describing delicious meals in great detail.)

Robert Guthrie said...

harder = time

Christine Fonseca said...

Love this!!!

Michelle McLean said...

awesome post! Sort of like my "just suck it up and do it" mantra, but put much nicer LOL I may have to put this one on a post it note too :D

P.s. - I haven't seen chopped, but I do watch Next Food Network Star and Next Iron Chef which basically are the same type of show. Love them! :D

lynnrush said...

This is awesome. No, I haven't seen chopped. :-( But I love this, "Put your head down and work harder."

It's like, Bam, blunt, to the point, and soooo true.

Press on, my friends.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That IS great advice. (And I love that show too! And the FoodNetwork in general) :)

Quinn said...

I love watching Chopped, too. Or at least I did until I moved to Korea and stopped getting the Food Network.

Anyway, I love that guy's answer. It really is true.

Kay said...

it's true. not every dish is going to be the best, not every piece is going to outshine the last or the next...

that's why feedback is so important. an objective opionion always the wisest. (even if it is being yelled to you from across the room with flying pots) hehe

Lynn Colt said...

Great lesson. It's one I remind myself of over and over when I get down or discouraged. And yes, I could (and should!) work much harder. That's one of my goals this fall, since I want to write an entire 100k draft of a new book by the end of the year (so far my shortest draft time is 5 months, so if I can make it in 3 I'll be very happy with myself!)

Jonathon Arntson said...

I could work so much harder, but it's hard to work harder when you don't even know what you're working toward. I think I need to work more focused.

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, I love that. Isn't it almost a listen and ignore technique? Listen to what helps, and ignore the meanness.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

"Put your head down and work harder." Preach! It's something I try to do daily, and it's definitely not easy. But, as Prince sang back in the early 90s, after he went all Crazy Symbol Man but before he lost me in his complete and utter dissolution into what's basically smooth jazz, "there's joy in repetition." And what's repetition, if not head down, work harder, lather, rinse, repeat??

Jess said...

I love Chopped, though it's a guilty pleasure. My husband is a "Top-Chef-is-the-only-reality-food-show-worthy-of-watching" kind of man. Now I can pass on the writing tip you learned from watching, and maybe I can gain some leverage during tube time. Thanks!

Dolly said...

That's definitely interesting. I am not a big fan of reality TV, but I do like to watch Masterchef :-) But never quite picked up this wisdom from there.

Michelle Walkenhorst said...

I love Chopped. After the mystery ingredients are revealed we pause the show so Jake and the boys can say what they would do with the items. Jake's ideas sound delicious. The boys' ideas are quite comical, but have improved over time because they keep trying.

The advice is great.

Patti said...

Great advice for any part of your life. Just work harder.

Anna said...

I love Chopped! It's amazing to see what they do with such random ingredients. And it's always the chefs who are willing to listen and adapt who do the best. Life lesson right there.

Nichole Giles said...

LOVE that show! We watch it, like every night practically. That's great advice, too. So thanks for the reminder.

Tamika: said...

"Put your head down and work harder." Who can argue with that!

I love Chopped too:) Food and fiction, my other children.

Claire Dawn said...

What beautiful advice. I should try it someitme :)

Meredith said...

Haha, this is an awesome lesson. I'm going to watch Chopped now :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I like Chopped, too. I totally agree with the work harder concept. I'm working harder on the never-ending-revision and on some advanced dog training where I've been told I need to be tougher. Sigh.

Sara B. Larson said...

Great advice! Wow, I'm shocked it came from reality TV. ;) So true though, the only way to succeed, especially in the face of criticism/critiques, is to do just that.

L.T. Elliot said...

I could work harder at a lot of things. So I'm going to!

So excited about your giveaway, Elana! You're awesome!

Jude said...

Snap! That sounds intense. What a great quote though. I should print that out and tape it on my cubicle wall.

Jen said...

*Runs to DVR to record Chopped, hoping to pull life lessons from reality TV just like Elana*

This rocks! I haven't seen it but you bet I'll have seen it the next time we chat!

I've been working hard at writing, but as usual could always work harder, this evening I plan on putting together a chapter outline for one of my current works in hopes to help myself through this revision problem I'm having. Wish Me Luck!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Yes - that is a fabulous lesson. I think I'll print it and put it on my computer. And maybe the wall of my classroom! :-)

Melissa said...

I have to watch this show now!

Great analogy! It's difficult to get a tough critique, but working harder is the only way to make your writing better. I'm having to rewrite the first few chapters of my WIP. It's not all sunshine and roses, but I can definitely see how much better it's getting.

Carolyn V. said...

Ohhh, I haven't seen that show before. Interesting.

I have been working hard on revisions. I need to work harder on revisions. =p

Danyelle said...

I love this, Elana! The ability to put your head down and work harder is what separates those who dream and who live their dreams. :D

Bish Denham said...

That is such an excellent piece of advice! Currently I'm doing research. But I have to be careful not to let doing the research get in the way of putting my head down and working harder.

Larissa said...

That is a great quote! :)

Susan R. Mills said...

Amen, sista! Put your head down and work harder. Heading off to do that now. :)

Shallee said...

What an awesome bit of advice. Whenever I get a critique that makes me feel a little down, I take time to remind myself, "this is going to make it better!" But it only gets better if I put my head down and work harder. :)

lisanowak said...

Probably the one thing I have going for me is my ability to work harder. Now if I could just get a side-order of luck to go with it, I might get somewhere. ;)

gargimehra said...

Reality TV and food combo? That has to be Top Chef for me! Seriously, though, that’s a great quote. Should print it out and stick it on the wall in front of me when I write.

gargimehra said...

Reality TV and food combo? That has to be Top Chef for me! Seriously, though, that’s a great quote. Should print it out and stick it on the wall in front of me when I write.

Jackee said...

I LOVE that--put your head down and work harder. :o) I'm using it from now on my kids... er... in my writing, I mean. Thanks!

And thanks for the wonderful drawings on WriteonCon! So very sweet of you all. :o)

Happy Wednesday!

lbdiamond said...

Been putting my head down and working harder for the past two years. Just about ground my nose off. ;)-

BTW, the strategy is totally working.

Lisa Potts said...

I LOVE Chopped! I'm so happy the champions series has started!

Lisa_Gibson said...

I think sometimes we all need that nudge too. Something that says, 'hey, I know you're capable of better'. That always puts a boot to my butt and gets me moving.
The other day I was trying to come up with 25 (or less) profound words for a msg. for my son's yearbook before he heads off to highschool next year. I wanted something lovely next to his little baby picture. I looked over some quotes and decided to use part of one of them. John Neal said, "Kites rise against, not with the wind." Sometimes we need that little bit of adversity to carry us higher. :)
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Nicole Zoltack said...

Yay! I'm so happy I won! *jumps up and down*

Ahem, back to blog commenting: That's an awesome line. I'm going to write it down and tape it to my monitor for when I get discouraged. Because we all tend to get discouraged in this biz. Unless your name is King or Rowling....

Jennie Englund said...

This reminds me exaclty of Bob Greene's short story "Cut": when you're told you aren't good enough, it's an opportunity to work harder.

"Chopped," "Cut," it even sounds the same!

(And super congrats on your win, Nicole!)

Holly Ruggiero, Southpaw said...

You can find inspiration anywhere.

Stephanie said...

We never miss Chopped!! We even made a game out of it...we earn points for each round our chosen chef makes it int he competition!! I'm in the lead, btw! ;)

Right now it's Chopped Champions...love it!

And great writing advice!! Well, great advice for anything actually!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent advice!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Yes, I could work harder. Give me a 40-hour day and someone else to take care of my mother and I'd be good to go.
Wow, that doesn't sound very Spunky does it?

Hannah Kincade said...

I do my best to keep my head down and work harder but sometimes I get distracted by shiny things, like a pan of brownies. Why are you looking at me like that? Brownies are to shiny!

Mary Brebner said...

Love how they just come right out with it--Deal with it, baybee! :)

And I totally entered to win your giveaway. How very cool! I can't wait to read your book (exciting!!).

ali said...

I love that quote! Perfect, perfect. I have been working harder at revisions, carefully choosing just the right words. It's actually pretty darn awesome!

Jenna said...

My dad's a chef, and I hear things like that from him all the time--and nine times out of ten, I can apply it to writing. Just another way writing and food go great together!

C.E. said...

that show sounds great! how am I missing this!?

Mariah said...

I love that show! And that is really good advice no matter your job or situation!

Tess said...

ha! I did a post a while back about what I learned from Gordon Ramesy's Master Chef...much the same concept. Being real, working hard. All good stuff.

Erin MacPherson said...

LOVE chopped. And, I could work harder. I think a lot of time I spend the time but I don't really put the effort I should into my writing.

Julie Musil said...

I haven't seen that show! I used to watch Throw Down with Bobby Flay, but it made me so hungry at 9 at night!

I love that advice...so simple yet so important! Off to writeoncon right now!

Tessa Quin said...

You founders are too cool to be true!

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