Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Teachable Moments - Lessons on Writing From Celebrity Apprentice
Guest Post by Karen Lange
The Celebrity Apprentice grabs me every year about midway through the season. It always surprises me a bit, as television viewing usually gets trumped (no pun intended!) by my first loves - reading and writing.
Pondering this, I realized that I enjoy watching the challenges play out between the celebrities. Their interaction is a fascinating study in human character. The tasks are interesting and provide ideas, as my mind is always on alert for a different angle for my writing. It is refreshing too, to see the importance placed on charitable giving in a world wrapped up in the “me, myself, and I” mentality.
If you aren’t familiar with the show, Donald Trump invites celebrities to compete and raise money for charity. Trump divides the group into two teams and assigns a task that focuses on product marketing. The teams choose a project manager and put together an advertising package. Mr. Trump and other professionals choose the winning team, whose manager wins money for their charity. A member of the losing team is fired. Teams are whittled down to two celebrities who face off in the final episode for the title of Celebrity Apprentice.
While contemplating my interest in the show, it struck me that there were parallels between The Celebrity Apprentice and writing. See if you agree.
1) It’s all about the angles. The week’s task is the same for both groups. Each group, however, pulls it off using a different approach. Similarly, we have the opportunity to put our unique spin on our work. Writing a piece on the Civil War? Why not write it through the eyes of the women and children left at home? Pitching a travel article? Highlight out of the way, yet fabulous destinations.
2) Don’t whine. Not only is it unbecoming, it is immature and unprofessional. When the limo whisks the newly fired celebrity away, who earns your respect, the celebrities who point fingers and complain? Or the ones who say they are grateful for TCA experience or comment on "how cool is it to be fired by Mr. Trump?” Editors and clients don’t want griping or excuses. Writers who talk and work like an adult get more work.
3) Be respectful. This should be a given, but when emotions run high, judgment can be impaired. Was NeNe Leakes’ angry tirade at Star Jones productive? On the contrary, it may have cost NeNe’s team the win. The old adage, “Do unto others…” goes a long way in business. Respect and good etiquette are professional. Period.
4) Learn from mistakes. To help determine which two make it to the finale, Trump has the 2008, 2009, and 2010 TCA winners interview the last four celebrities. Trump weighs his decision heavily on these interviews. The celebs who were cut may be rethinking what they said during this process. Once those words were launched, though, there was no taking them back. Real life offers few do-overs, but there’s valuable insight gained for next time around.
5) Everything’s better with editing. The creators of TCA wade through lengthy footage before an episode airs. Editing provides a balance for an appealing show. Thankfully, we can tap into good resources such as word processing programs, books and articles, editors, and critique partners to polish our work.
6) Aim high. The stars look to win challenges and ultimately the title of The Celebrity Apprentice. This year’s final two – Marlee Matlin and John Rich – made it that far because they set their eyes on the prize. Their determination and hard work paid off. We too, can set high, yet realistic goals by being teachable and polishing our skills to reap first-rate results.
We may never gain quite the fame as The Celebrity Apprentice gang but we can have a rewarding and successful writing career. Are you up for the challenge?
Thoughts? Which lesson resonates most for you?
Karen Lange is a writer, blogger, and online writing instructor at the Coffeehouse for Writers. Her articles have appeared in parenting, educational, and writing publications. Visit her blog at karenelange.blogspot.com.
Image Michal Marcol