"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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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?

BIO:
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

40 comments:

  1. Hi Jennifer and Karen .. great to see you here Karen .. I imagine for an author you can extract lots of information from people watching .. and I love your tie in with writing and the tv programme .. I watched our ordinary people first one .. and decided that was enough! But then I'm not people watching .. except cynically ..

    Cheers - have good weeks .. Hilary

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  2. Jennifer Brown BanksMay 23, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    Hi Hilary,

    Good to hear from you. Celebrity Apprentice really is an interesting show, with important dynamics on life, leadership, and even writing.

    Even though some viewers are not big fans of Donald Trump.

    Thanks for your feedback.

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  3. Karen, you are correct. Thanks for the insight, a new way of viewing Celebrity Apprentice.

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  4. Hilary,
    Great to see you here too. :) Thanks so much for your thoughts!

    Jennifer,
    Thank you for allowing me to share my two cents! I always feel welcome here.

    Linda,
    Thank you! Us writers are always looking for the angles, aren't we?

    Have a great day all,
    Karen

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  5. Great comparison, Karen! I haven't watched any of the Celebrity Apprentice shows (used to watch the early seasons of Apprentice). The whining one is a great one! It's one thing to vent to a few close friends, but not to the whole world (via camera on the Apprentice or via Facebook/blogs for writers).

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  6. Great Karen. Never seen the show, but sounds like you pulled something out of it valuable.

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  7. Sarah,
    Thanks so much! I agree, we all vent to an extent, as you say, but the public captured by camera thing really gets to me. How old are we?

    Carol,
    It's funny, I see and try to apply (for myself) character building lessons everywhere. I also trip over writing ideas wherever I go! Thanks for your thoughts.

    Take care,
    Karen

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  8. Karen, I will never watch taht show the same way again. :-)

    I love this: "Writers who talk and work like an adult get more work." Exactly!

    Whining never got anyone very far. (I oughta know.) Great advice, amigo. As always.

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  9. Don't whine, that's a good one.
    I don't know this show but I like your parallel view with writing! Thanks, both of you!

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  10. Did you say editing? I think I meant that, not taht. Taht isn't a word. :-) But maybe it should be, I type it so much.

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  11. Robyn,
    I do that, I mean taht, all the time! Funny how it trips us up. :) Yeah, whining is just so unbecoming to me too.

    Marja,
    Am trying to ban all whine-like comments from my lips! :) Thanks for your support!

    Happy Monday,
    Karen

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  12. Very well put, Karen! You covered all the ankles, indeed. It sounds like attitude is the big thing here, doesn't it? And I can always - always - use that reminder.

    Great job, my friend!

    Rhonda

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  13. And not only are they good for Celebrity Apprentice, writing, but they are great rules for living life too!

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  14. I think the ones with the most integrity shine through to the end. Either of them would be a great pick. :O)

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  15. Rhonda,
    Thanks! I think you are right - it's all about attitude. :) I can use that reminder too!

    Sandie,
    Good point! I can use some work in all of these areas, I'm thinking!

    Diane,
    I have to agree with you here. It struck me that both finalists played the game without stepping on toes or a bad attitude.

    Thanks a bunch,
    Karen

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  16. Number one is one of my personal favorites when it comes to historical fiction, both in reading and writing! The historical "voice" often belongs to wealthy, white males, so it's a treat to get to dive in to a perspective one might not find in a textbook.

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  17. Not whining, complaining or blaming someone else all resonate with me. Great post and thanks for the reminder to play nice!

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  18. Karen,

    You're like family here! You are "welcome". :-)

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  19. I have to admit I don't watch the show. I'm not much for reality TV. Yet, I love biographies and documentaries. So, I'm not sure what that says about me. I did watch the second season of the show. And you're right it is a good case study of human characters. I just couldn't stand the cutthroat approach to each challenge. Can you tell I raised boys. I hated the arguing.

    Nevertheless, it was a great post, Karen.

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  20. It IS all about the angles, I totally agree! That's why we can all write about things that have been written about a million times before and still add something new to the world, just by writing about these things from new and different angles.

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  21. Oh, and I meant to add that this was a fun read! Who knew you could learn about writing from the Donald?

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  22. Those are great, Karen!! I especially like the last two: aim high and everything is better with editing.

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  23. Hi Karen -

    I'm so glad Marlee Matlin and John Rich were the finalists. Who won? I have rabbit ears, so I can't always get that station.

    No whining. No excuses. Get the job done.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  24. Jennifer Brown BanksMay 23, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Thanks, Nihara.

    This was indeed a fun read!

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  25. Jen,
    Thanks, what a great compliment. :)

    Jillian,
    I like your take on that. Glad you shared your thoughts!

    Victoria,
    Thank you! Yes, playing nice is the key; that's what my Mom always said anyway. :)

    Joylene,
    Stepping back, I wouldn't think I would watch the show! lol Not a huge TV viewer, but for some reason this one snags me. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Doing Too Much,
    Thanks so much! It never ceases to surprise me how we can all see things differently. It's great being a writer and expressing it too. :)

    Jennifer,
    Thanks! I'm all for aiming high, and ever so grateful for editing!

    Susan,
    John Rich won. I was kind of rooting for Marlee, but they both played the game well. So it was a good finish in my book.

    Thanks all, for your input and thoughts,
    Karen

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  26. I thought the finale was good. I was glad that John and Marlee made it to the end- they fought so hard for their charities, which was so inspiring!

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  27. Super post! I don't watch the show much but when I catch an episode or two, it always amazes me how these celebrities think so high of themselves and their skills. They don't listen to others. I think as writers we need to always listen to our readers and editors. It doesn't matter if we've written one or fifty books. We want to keep our loyal readers in mind.

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  28. Cheryl,
    I was glad that they made it, too. They seemed to be among the most personable and level headed of the group.

    Clarissa,
    Thank you! I know, some of them seem such "interesting" people, and I think I sit and watch sometimes, thinking "you're kidding, right?"

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Karen

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  29. All of these resonate with me! I think I will now tune into the next season of Celebrity Apprentice.

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  30. Lynn,
    I'm glad! I know these are things I need to keep in mind, like on those days there's a lot of whining going on in my head. :)
    Thanks a bunch,
    Karen

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  31. Don't whine and be respectful are lost on many people.

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  32. What a great analogy!! I have never watched it but you have given me reason to:)

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  33. Diane,
    Yes, this is true! Working hard to not be one of them. :)

    Terri,
    Thank you! I love comparing these kinds of things.

    Thanks for reading,
    Karen

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  34. great post, esp. b/c i love love love this show. it has real meat to it and i always learn from it. i did learn from nene's tirades ... my emotions can get the best of me when i don't get paid by an editor and the last time instead of threatening to blog badly of them, i tried to be understanding and told them i just wanted some communication, that i understood if they had hard financial times or if their ap person quit. i got a much better response than if i had gone in with guns blazing. i wish CA was on all year long!

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  35. Hi Kerri,
    Thanks so much! Glad I'm not the only one picking up lessons from CA. :) I'm still thinking about different things and how they can be applied.

    Good to meet you!
    Take care,
    Karen

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  36. I never watched, but who knew that so much relevance existed for little old us? Great post!

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  37. Lydia,
    I know, I think that makes us all celebrities! Thanks a bunch!
    :) Karen

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  38. Karen, I have found that I watch TV more for the writing than for the entertainment value. As for your story, aiming high is always a goal. For each small victory, you just know you're getting close to your goal. You don't know when it's going to happen, just know that it will. Now, if I can find those angles to get into Parade and Chicago magazines, I'll be a happy camper.

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  39. Marcie,
    You have a point! I'm always getting ideas from movies and tv, too. Thanks for your thoughts. Cheering you on to get into those magazines!
    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  40. Jennifer Brown BanksJune 4, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Thanks, everyone, for making Karen feel so welcome as a guest here. :-)

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