Friday Speak Out!: 6 Lessons For Writers From The Great British Baking Show

Friday, June 09, 2017

by Michelle Mach

Despite my minimal baking skills, I've been binge watching the entire new season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. On the (lightly floured) surface, it might seem like baking and writing have nothing in common. The skills needed to make a peach and almond trifle won't help you when it comes time to write that feature article--or will they? Here are a few similarities I've noticed:

1. Practice.

When Glenn admitted that he spent time grading exams instead of practicing, the judges didn't have kind words about the look of his apricot and pistachio tiffin. Some talented contestants (and writers) can wing it and stay afloat for another week, but to achieve a consistent level of success you need to do the work even if it means staying up late or working over the weekend.

2. Move beyond your comfort zone.

The technical challenge forces bakers to make creations they've never made (sometimes never even seen or tasted) before, often with minimal instructions. Your first short story or poem might not be perfect, but you'll likely learn something that will help you in the future.

3. Set limits.

Whether it's a time limit to make an angel food cake or a word limit for a blog post, restrictions nudge you to get started rather than stare into space forever.

4. Offer help.

One reason I love this TV show is that the competitors seem to actually like one another. If they can lend a hand to someone having a meltdown, they do. Similarly, the writing world isn't a pie with limited slices. Helping another writer doesn't lessen the chances of your own success.

5. Taste.

Ali admitted he didn't taste his apple and ginger pie while making it because he didn't like fruit pies. No surprise that he was eliminated! If you think that romance is stupid and you never read it, you're going to find the road to publication much more difficult than a genuine fan of the genre.

6. Learn from feedback.

If you hear the same comments and criticism about your work multiple times, listen closely. One contestant repeatedly heard the same phrases about her baking from the judges. After addressing their concerns and continuing to play up her strengths, she ended up being selected as the winner in season 4.

While I love The Great British Baking Show, I have no desire to stop writing and become a baking star. I prefer writing behind closed doors, not in front of TV cameras. I enjoy the freedom to revise my work to make it the best it can be, rather than tentatively stowing the first rough draft in the oven and hoping it turns out. I appreciate not having to measure out exact quantities of nouns and verbs for each essay I write. In fact, I believe writers have it better than bakers in every way except one: we can't eat our delicious mistakes.

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Michelle Mach's baking experience is limited to making brownies from a mix. She creates and sells handmade jewelry, bookmarks, and keychains for readers and writers in selected shops and galleries and online at Her essays and stories have appeared in many anthologies, most recently Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude. She is the author of Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Using Everyday Components. To learn more, visit her website at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Michelle--Yes, we writers cannot write our delicious mistakes, but unlike food, our writing lasts forever.

Whoops. Let me back up. If we eat too many of our baked goods, those too will last forever (on our hips and our butt and our gut).

I love that baking show as well. Thanks for making the connections between the show and writing. And if you ever want to elevate your brownies from a box, line the bottom of the pan with those jumbo candy bars, pour the brownie batter over the candy bars, and bake as usual. (I usually line the pan with parchment paper, to make it easier to serve.)

Michelle Mach said...

Yes, for better or worse, our writing does stick around! It's always funny to come across an old piece of my writing. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised and sometimes I'm really glad that it never got published anywhere.

Jumble candy bars! I love that idea to up my brownie game. Thanks for sharing!


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