Thursday, February 12, 2009

Limitation is Strength

I have lately become obsessed with the Bravo show Top Chef, where chefs compete in all sorts of cooking challenges. (Hey, no calories if the food stays on TV!)

Anyway, there is really an interesting dynamic evolving this season. Several episodes, one or two chefs faces some disaster that would seem to doom the effort. For example, one time, Hosea's food was kept in a broken refrigerator and spoiled overnight. So he had to deal with that handicap as he cooked for the challenge the next day... he had to improvise, start over, work around. And he won the challenge, over all the chefs who had a much easier time and could cook exactly what they'd prepared.

Last night, the incomparable Fabio, he of the adorable Italian accent, broke his finger while starting to cook. This obviously is a great handicap when you have to chop and mix. But he somehow managed, and... won the challenge.

The corollary too-- whenever a contestant says, "Oh, piece of cake," because this is a seafood dish and she's a seafood chef, she always loses. It's as if strengths are dangerous because you get complacent!

I'm sure this connects to writing somehow. :)


Ian said...

I'm finding-both to my surprise AND dismay-that some of my best writing has surfaced in genres I normally avoid, or even have no experience in either as writer OR reader. It's been an eye-opening experience for me.

Edittorrent said...

"Limitation is liberation."

Riley Murphy said...

You say:
It’s as if strengths are dangerous because you get complacent?
I think this is so true! I also suspect that we learn more from our weaknesses than we do from our strengths.
In your example it would seem to me that the chefs who thought they ‘had it in the bag’- did, and that’s all they had in the bag...where Hosea's bag was empty and he had to go and search for something different to fill it with. The disaster forced inspiration and made him work even harder to create. Maybe as writers, we should consciously identify our weaknesses(the disaster) and spend more time trying to improve upon these (the force) - and we will be better inspired to create something different in the process?

Julie Harrington said...

I'd agree with this. Sometimes going outside your comfort zone can yield surprising results. I participated in a FanLit contest a couple of years ago (romance genre) and even though I'd never tackled the regency era romance the contest featured, I figured I'd give it a go. I ended up coming in 2nd for the first round. I was surprised by the comments and the positive reception and it really made me rethink what I could and couldn't write based on my own perception of what I "could" and "couldn't" do. Now I'm much more open and don't find myself saying things like, "Oh, I could never write something like that."


em said...

To be inspired beyond our norm? As Murphy says, "to create something different," by not only examing our weaknesses but playing to them. I think it is about rising to the challenge and just doing it!:) I can see where focusing too much on your strength can make you complacent. Great topic!

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Conflict! Complications! High stakes! Nah, doesn't connect to writing at all. ;c)

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes! I do some of my best work, in any field, under pressure. I think being forced out of our comfort zones not only forces us to find new strenghts, it just might help stave off Alzheimer's.

Cathy in AK said...

A football analogy came to mind for me. One team stomping the bejeesus out of the other thinks they have it in the bag. They get complacent, miss a catch here, a tackle there. No worries we're still up. Next thing you know, the other team is within a hair's breadth of taking the lead or OMG! just pulled ahead! Why? Because they had nothing to lose by taking chances and putting everything into their play.

Right now, I'm "behind" in the writing game (that is, unpubbed), but I'm willing to toss a few Hail Mary's out and see what story comes up with a completion ; )

Edittorrent said...

Yeah, I wonder if when you're desperate and think there's no hope, you can innovate more.