Courtney brought up a good point in her response to my Project Runway post. [And, no, Jenny, I wasn't talking about you.] She talked about how some of the contestants freak out when asked to step out of their comfort zone. Same thing happens on Top Chef. Courtney's argument was that chefs, designers and writers need to be able to step outside their boxes once in a while.
Folks, that's why you see prompts and challenges on this and other blogs from the Pirates. That's why UGWP does round stories. That's why we have played a card game where you pick the cards that you will build the story on. Not because we think that one day Jenny will figure out how to market a Top Chef kind of show involving wrters (although that would be groovy), but because we all get those stray ideas that don't fit into our usual genres. Or maybe we realize that one of our story ideas would work better as a screen or stage play than a novel. Or we really, really want to enter that short story contest with the big prize payout. If those muscles are already warmed up, it's easier to engage them when the time comes.
There's another aspect to what Courtney said. That the contestants are freaked out by the twists the shows throw at them. On more than one occasion, I've said, "Don't they watch this show?" Because they always have twists, often the same ones from season to season.
Which comes back to research. I know I've talked about it before, but it bears repeating. DO the research. Want to submit to the Super Groovy Magazine Contest? First, read the guidelines. Second, look at a recent issue. If they only publish hyper-literary stories between 3,000-5,000 words, don't submit a 7,000 word fantasy piece. Same goes with agents.
Two reality shows about seemingly unrelated jobs that are both, apparently, unrelated to writing. But I've been able to adapt lessons from both into my writing. Are there other shows that have given you insight into your craft? Movies? Music? Something else?