Five Writing Lessons I Learned from Netflix's "Nailed It!"
Published on Oct 08, 2018 by Alys Murray
As everyone knows, we are living in the era of peak TV. With so much binge-able content available these days, there’s a perfect show for everyone. Whether you like the high fantasy you’ll see in Game of Thrones, the tear-jerking family drama you’ll catch in This is Us or the thrilling escapades of a regenerating Doctor Who, you can flip on your TV or computer and find something you’ll love in seconds.
However, it wasn’t until March 9, 2018, that I believe we truly reached the era of peak TV, because it was on this date that Netflix released their triumph of an original series: Nailed It!
For those who haven’t seen it, please stop reading this article and treat yourself to the first two seasons immediately. This joyful celebration of food and failure is hosted by the comedienne Nicole Byer and her renowned chocolatier assistant Jacques Torres, and across two rounds of competition, home bakers attempt to recreate stunning instagram-and-pinterest-perfect desserts. The results are often terrible and hilarious, but the spirit of the show is one of warmth and encouragement.
I’ve seen both the first and second seasons of this show more times than I’d care to admit, but it was only on my most recent re-watch that I realized how many wonderful lessons Nailed It! has taught me. I know I’m just a debut author who’s still very much trying to figure it out, but I’d love to share these lessons with you!
It’s okay (and even good!) to fail.
The entire premise of the show Nailed It! is based upon this fact. With so many cooking shows based around master chefs and world-renowned bakers, Nailed It! dares to tell the home bakers, the screw-ups, the folks who only know how to follow a recipe if it’s written on the back of the Betty Crocker box, that they’re valid and that their creativity matters. On Nailed It! you may mess up and you may not win, but missteps aren’t the end of the world and they might actually be good for you!
Laughter is the best medicine.
Nailed It! is one of those shows I revisit on my “bad days,” days when I’m bummed about the state of my writing or nervous about the future. On days when I just need a break from reality and some time to laugh, Nailed It! is my go-to show. Part of that comes from the show’s dedication to joy. On Nailed It!, Nicole and Jaques and their various guest judges aren’t afraid to poke fun at the worst bakes, and it’s all in an effort to get the baker to laugh along with them. Doing poorly or not living up to the standard, whether in real life or on a baking show, can be devastating, but Nailed It! shows that a little bit of levity and humor can help even in the worst of times.
Find joy in what you do, and do what you find joy in.
At the beginning of each episode, the contestants are given short introductions. These intros cover the basics of where they’re from, what kind of person they are (teacher, DJ, grandmother, etc.,) and, most importantly, why they’ve come on Nailed It! I love this particular segment of the show because it’s the segment that gives me the most hope. In almost all of these intros, the contestant says something to the effect of, “I love baking, but I’m so bad at it. And I want to learn how to get better and make something my family and friends can be proud of.” This sentiment has taught me that it’s actually not enough to just love writing, but to love it enough to find joy and happiness in it even when it’s bad. So often I find myself angry at the page because it’s not good enough, when actually, I can and should be happy that I’ve written at all and that I’ve had the privilege to write those words and share that story, no matter how bad it is. If you love something only when you’re good at it, that’s not really love, is it? That’s vanity. And writing, like baking and all of the creative arts, really, shouldn’t be about vanity. They should be about joy.
Always Be Learning.
Remember earlier when I said it was okay and even good to fail? Well, this is part of the reason why. While we can learn from our great triumphs, Nailed It! teaches us that we’re way more likely to learn from our embarrassing mistakes and failures than we are from our success stories. Indeed, I’ve learned more from the few hours of Nailed It! than I’ve learned from countless hours of watching Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen simply because it’s a show that highlights mistakes and advises you on how to fix them in the future. Nailed It! is a show that says, “feel free to fail! And when you do, inevitably, fail, make sure you learn from that mistake and grow from it.” As a writer, this permission to fail is liberating, because the knowledge that I’ll learn from the mistakes is a safety net.
Celebrate your successes AND your messes.
In the words of one of my other favorite products of Peak TV, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “you know it’s true, because it rhymes.” And to me, this is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned. In this social media day and age, we are basically trained to only show our best selves and the absolute best things that happen to us. We put our best-face forward on these platforms, hiding from the world our shames and disappointments. I’m definitely guilty of this, especially when it comes to my writing. I don’t want to tell people about the days when I wrote -345 words, only the days I wrote 7,000 words. I don’t want to snap a picture of my rejection letters, only my contract signings. I don’t want anyone to know about my messy, anxiety-ridden, tear-stained, migraine-inducing, so-scared-and-worried-about-my-future-and-my-career-that-I-can-hardly-get-out-of-bed days, only those few, perfect glorious days when everything is perfect.
But the contestants on Nailed It! don’t have the opportunity to hide their messes. No matter how bad they’ve failed at their assigned task, they have to show their creations to the judges, the cameras, and the viewers at home. And that’s actually an awesome thing. By showing off their messes and their successes, their good bakes and their bad bakes, their lopsided gingerbread houses and their beautiful floating tea party cakes, the contestants are forced to come out of their own heads and see their work for what it really is. Because what sometimes ends up happening is that the work they hate and are embarrassed by actually has merit and can teach them something. And even if it doesn’t, even if it’s garbage, the fact that they finished the work and the fact that they presented the work means they’re perseverant, brave, and inventive enough to create something in the first place, and that is worth celebrating!
If you want to judge these lessons for yourself, my debut novel, The Christmas Company is available for pre-order now from
Barnes and Noble, Indiebound,
The Ripped Bodice, and will be available in Target, Walmart, and Meijer stores. The release date for this opposites-attract Christmas romance is October 16th. Read the synopsis below!
She’s out to save her town
from a real-life Scrooge…
The small town of Miller’s Point is known across the country for their annual Dickensian Christmas festival. When the celebration is threatened by Clark Woodward, a miserly, big-city businessman, Kate Buckner steps up to save her hometown, their traditions, and her favorite holiday. But, along the way, she realizes that the man she’s trying to protect her town from might need some rescuing of his own.
With a lot of heart and a little Christmas magic, Kate is convinced she can teach Clark to love her favorite holiday. But can such different people learn to open up and love each other?