On Reality Shows and Writing

I have a guilty secret:

I LOVE reality shows.

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of show where people eat rats on desert islands or take part in silly competitions and then vote each other out of houses.

Nor do I appreciate shows about “Real Housewives” of any kind (because I think we can agree there’s nothing “real” about them) or about celebrities I’ve barely heard of (what exactly IS a Kardashian and why would I care about keeping up with it? Just kidding. Sort of).

The reality shows I like are the kind where experts evaluate suffering businesses and help improve them—programs like Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, Bar Rescue, and Hotel Impossible.

I’ve had people tell me that reality shows are too negative and that, by watching them, I’m bringing down my (generally already sour) mood.

Those people are totally wrong.

Sure, sure, I DO get a little peeved watching drunk idiots do things like try to run foot races on Slip and Slides if I happen upon a show like Big Brother, but when I watch Hotel Impossible (which is now on Amazon Prime—score! I’ve watched it twice already since discovering it), I’m grinning from ear to ear.


Because reality shows like the ones I prefer are a lot like my own job as a writing coach.

I can hear your “Huh?” echoing toward me even through cyberspace.

But hear me out.

Shows like Bar Rescue and such focus on people who aspire to be something: bar owners, hoteliers, restaurateurs.

And as a writing coach, I deal with people who aspire to be published authors.

My favorite reality shows point out that not everyone who wants to run a restaurant or hotel actually has the skill and dedication needed to be successful at it.

And I often have to work with people who seem to think that all you have to do to be a writer is declare yourself one (without necessarily WRITING a single word or learning anything about the craft or business of writing and publishing).

The expert hosts of shows like Restaurant Impossible cut through the bullshit and tell it like it is: You have to work your butt off and learn your craft if you want to make your business a success.

And I do my best to do the same to help my writers find success. It’s definitely not always easy.

So, once in a while, when I have a spare moment away from manuscripts and computer files and editing, I appreciate being able to kick back, put up my feet, and watch experts—veterans of their trades (like me)—teaching people how to succeed.

It feels a little like being in the trenches with a fearless warrior. And sometimes that’s just what I need to get back out there and be a fearless warrior for somebody else.

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