Friday, April 22, 2011

I love the Food Network or How Cooking Compares to Writing

I am going through withdrawls.
My husband and I are of the frugal sort and have recently decided to disconnect our cable. So that means no Food Network for me. And no ESPN for him. We're even.

I have ADD when it comes to food. I get bored with it quickly and so I spend a disgusting amount of time watching cooking shows and searching recipes on the Internet. The Food Network puts all the good stuff on one channel and so I park it on the couch, make like a sponge and absorb.
I especially love the competition cooking shows like Iron Chef, Cupcake Wars, and Food Network: Challenge. I'm mostly obsessed with the ability of these chefs to create beautiful works of art (and yes, food is art) within crazy time constraints or even crazier ingredients. While I'll never be the next great chef, I can apply the same principles to writing. Promise I won't eat the paper.

Chopped is a competitive cooking show on the Food Network. Four chefs are each given a basket with mystery ingredients. Then they must use said ingredients to make an appetizer. After judging, one chef is chopped and must leave the competition. The three remaining chefs receive another mystery basket and must make an entree. The final two battle over dessert and then the winner is takes home a cool $10,000.

Despite what anyone tells you, writing is a competitive activity. You have your basket of ingredients: compelling characters, gripping plot, goals, motivation, conflict. You have your skill set: voice, world building, scene setting, realistic dialogue. What differs in each author's basket is talent, experience, and ingenuity.

Writing, like cooking a mastery of skills using the ingredients in your basket. Take four writers of the same genre, have them write the first chapter of a novel given the prompt: David wants to surprise his girlfriend for their anniversary. He sneaks into her apartment and finds the place overturned. There is blood splattered on the carpet. His girlfriend is missing.
I guarantee there will be four completely different starts to the story and four different styles of storytelling. This is where talent, ingenuity, and experience will set the four apart. And that's even before their creations reach the judges (or agents).
While Judge #1 may not like the Asian cuisine you prepared, he thinks it was well made. Judge #2 may hate what you made, but admires your creative use of "thinking outside the box." Judge #3 wanted a little something more, but enjoys what you have presented.

It is the subjective nature of the beast. Even though you have created a masterpiece, you may still receive rejection letters. It may take time to find that agent who digs your cuisine.

But until then, stay in your happy place and write. Use your basket of the greatest ingredients on earth (or in your head). Master your skills to create a tasty, can't put down, pièce de résistance.
Tasty dish or delicious reading, there's a palate for that.
Bon appetit!


SmiteRite said...

Now you've done it... I'm totally jonesing for a gourmet treat. And while I'm a tough critic, your literary creations still get 5-stars!

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