Thursday, August 5, 2010

Revisions and Kitchen Nightmares

I know this sounds random, but I swear it isn't. And I also know that I've kind of blogged about this topic before, but not with such an awesome analogy.

This morning, my fiancĂ© and I watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, and as I watched some of these people who clearly knew they needed help (otherwise, why did they try to be on the show?) refuse to see the problems Gordon Ramsey pointed out to them, I thought, this reminds me of something. What was that something? Revisions.

The restaurant owners know they are struggling. They come on the show on the brink of having to shut down. There are few (or no) customers. Usually the reason for this is pretty obvious. Their food tastes like regurgitated cat food. Their kitchen is effing disgusting. They are unable to communicate properly with each other and get food out in a timely manner. etc. Watching it, even knowing nothing about how to run a restaurant, usually these things are glaringly obvious to me right from the start. And they are very obvious to Gordon Ramsey, who is experienced and knowledgeable enough to be in a position to give these people excellent advice. Some of them are dying for it, are eager to take his advice and improve their restaurants.

And yet.

Almost always, someone doesn't want to listen. The chef refuses to believe his food isn't The Best Food Ever. The owner refuses to accept that they don't need 147 items on their menu. Or pretends they just cleaned the walk-in fridge last week, despite the rotting food inside it. And as an outside observer, it's so hard to understand why. You think they're just being arrogant or stupid or both. At least, I always have.

And then today I thought about it.

Truthfully, I tend to take suggestions from betas (and my lovely agent!) pretty well. Sometimes there are suggestions I decide not to take, and sometimes suggestions feel overwhelming at first, but I can't remember the last time I got truly pouty over a suggestion. Most serious writers are like this, I think. We are the people who get advice from Gordon Ramsey our agents/editors/betas and do the best we can to keep our restaurants from failing make our mss sparkly perfection. Some of us have trouble accepting the truth at first and call Gordon Ramsey horrible names gripe about how much work we have ahead of us (privately, I hope). I think this is fairly normal. Sorting through all the advice for what we can and cannot use is sometimes quite a feat.

But then, others of us diva out entirely and tell Gordon Ramsey he is an idiot and we are perfect before slamming out of our restaurant *forever* passive-aggressively attack agents/editors/betas/human-kind via twitter, forums, or other public venues while refusing to take any advice because our manuscript is perfect and everyone Just Doesn't Get It. These last people are the ones who keep shows like Kitchen Nightmares on the air. Some of you feel bad for them (I usually do, unless they're an epic douche), some of you just roll your eyes at them, all of you are oh so glad you don't work with them.

So I guess what I learned this morning was that criticism pops up everywhere in life, and that learning how to use it is valuable whether you own a restaurant or write a book. Or maybe I already knew this. But until today, I had never so clearly seen the parallel. We writers aren't so unique in our struggles after all! Which is kind of a nice thought.


Sumayyah said...

SO. TRUE. I like to think I take criticism very well, but not gonna lie. When something I think is perfect is commented on, I obsess for a while before getting over myself. This usually includes muttering and rereading the comment over and over and telling myself how wrong they are.

Then I eat chocolate and move on. XD

Kristin Miller said...

Omg, this is a brilliant blog post. How many of us watch any self-destructive reality show and think "I would never act like that!"? It's tough to take criticism, but man is it helpful.

Sarah Enni said...

1) I love kitchen nightmares. Was it the BBC version? So good.
2) The analogy is SPOT. ON. I agree with Kristin -- we'd all like to think we wouldn't react like that. But who can know? When you're faced with brutal truths, it's hard to say how you will react at first.
I also think this is a great example of reasons everyone needs to find the right betas. I wouldn't want FOX Gordon Ramsey giving me critiques. But BBC Gordon? Sure!

Awesome post :) (also, my word verification was, straight up, "wigga." baller.)

Anonymous said...

This analogy is just beyond perfection.

Anonymous said...

sorry, the previous comment was mine.

hit the anon button by accident :/

Amanda Hannah said...

Excellent post. I think taking criticisms and being able to look at them objectively is something every writer has to do if they want to succeed.

KO said...

so interesting-- i always look at those folks and think "what is your problem!" but when i think of the ideas or scenes that I hold onto way past their expiration date... it makes much more sense.

Christina Lee said...