Posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken
All right, I admit it. I'm a "Survivor" junky. I've never been all that big on television, and for a long time I didn't watch much at all. That changed when my older daughter's kidneys failed and she had to undergo dialysis at a medical center twice a week. There is very little to distract anyone sitting in the center for hours on end, after you've paid the bills, written the Christmas cards and letters, and done the taxes. You can't even read; there's too much activity and constant alarms ringing.
But each station has a tv set. At that time there was no cable access, so we were stuck with the hospital's offerings (including The Rosary Channel, because it is a Catholic center, and we're not), the dreaded Yankees winning the World Series, or the regular Boston channels.
One evening we came upon a new reality program: "Survivor". My daughters had watched "Road Rules" and "The Real Life" (hah!) but otherwise we'd looked down our noses at reality television (partly because I'm a writer and if I'm correct the whole reality scene exploded as an antidote to a threatened television writers' strike). We never lied, though, or insisted we only watch PBS and nature programs.
So in our hours of dialysis boredom, we started to watch "Survivor", which took place on a lovely, isolated island called Pulau Tiga. That's off the Malaysian side of Borneo. I looked it up. Pulau Tiga was chosen because, although it was part of a national park set up to protect it, it was a deserted island. Now, of course, it's been "discovered" and there is a low-key resort there.
We have now watched about half of the show's "seasons" and thought we'd seen it all. But "Survivor: Fiji" was a real eye-opener. Shifting alliances, backstabbing, lying, kindness and treachery: it was all there. The finale saw the favorite candidate dumped by his new "best friend", who subsequently won the $1 million. I hope they can all sleep nights.
Multi-tasking while the show is on helps to mitigate my guilt over such an apparent waste of time. I might be knitting, sorting mail, paying bills, or I might be making notes on some upcoming project. Like the Writers' Plot blog.
I realized that there is a parallel between the "Survivor" shows and the life of a writer. At first I hesitated to blog about the it, presuming that our readers are far too highbrow to watch it. But after several years, the "Survivor" jargon has made its way into the mainstream, so I trust what I have to say will not be too arcane.
1. The tribes: Critique Groups.
2. Reward Challenge: The manuscript is polished to a high shine and sent off a query to a publisher. You win: Editora Newyorka calls and asks you to send it "on spec".
3. Exile Island: The writer gets the manuscript back from Editora, who says the plot doesn't work, the characters are stereotypes and the dialog wooden. Within the negativity, you spot one word of encouragement, so you barricade yourself in your office, emerging only to take nourishment and use the facilities.
4. Immunity Challenge: Editora pummels your rewritten manuscript while you try to cling to your immortal phrases.
5. Tribal Council: Editora Newyorka presents your manuscript to the dreaded editorial meeting at The Big Publishing Company.
6.The tribe has spoken: your manuscript is rejected.
7.Those who make it past triblal council "Outwit, outlast, outplay": As I read on a blog recently , there is a word for writers who work and work and work, year after year, and refuse to give up: Published.
8. The Survivor (chosen by a jury of those who have been outwitted, outlasted and outplayed) wins a million bucks. The writer's book is published to great acclaim, fame and fortune, and she lives happily ever after on the royalties.
In your dreams, dear writer. Unless your last name is Rowling.