Career Lessons from “Julie and Julia”

Over the holidays, my wife and I watched JULIE & JULIA, which is based on the true story of how a blogger found fame and fortune with a simple gimmick: she would cook hundreds of Julia Child’s recipes within a year’s time and write about the experience. Eventually, the NY Times did an article on it, and voila — Julie the blogger is offered book deals and sells her story to Hollywood.

It’s a pretty good movie. Especially the parts about Julia Child, played by Meryl Streep. Amy Adams did an adequate job of playing Julie Powell, except she’s a bit too pretty and perky to accept as someone who has to “struggle” or experience real failure… whereas Meryl’s character is overweight, bigger than life, and actually does have to overcome publishers’ rejections.

According to the movie, Julia spent something like eight years learning to cook while working on the book with two other women who initiated the project. But the first attempt was too big in scope — the women were creating an encyclopedia-sized French cookbook series! The publisher turned it down.

However, a pen pal of Julia’s loved the draft that Julia later sent to her and the friend showed it to the publishers she worked for (against Julia’s wishes), who saw the business potential in it. On top of that, Julia’s husband encouraged her to go on TV, which was a novel thing to do at the time.

In short, Julia Child was no overnight sensation. She had to revise her life plans (went from office work to cooking); revise her book concept after years of working on it; and was willing to take a chance on TV, even though Julia’s looks and voice would make her worthy of lampooning on television.

By contrast, Julie’s “experiment” in blogging/cooking had some bumps in the road, but landed her in the limelight in a matter of months thanks to the insta-fame nature of today’s entertainment and news media biz. Did she earn the attention? Sure. Clever concept. Good execution — if her blog wasn’t entertaining, she wouldn’t have the following she garnered. And she kept at it until she got the NY Times coverage that put her over the top.

But in the long run, it’s Julia Child who we will remember and value precisely because of all the time, effort and love she put into her recipes, books and TV shows. Her success was a byproduct of doing something she was passionate about — fame and money weren’t her real goals.

Yet we can also learn plenty from Julie… experimenting on the internet through blogs and web sites can yield success stories like hers. Coming up with clever gimmicks isn’t as easy as you would think — believe me, because I’d love to come up with one myself!

Got a blog idea you think might be a hit? Post it here. Maybe we can collaborate or other readers might have suggestions to make it work. In fact, this post is an experiment. I’m trying to find topics that will generate more readers and comments. And I’ll keep tossing stuff out there until I find my niche, just as Julie did… but I’ll continue working on my “recipes” for movie screenplays that stand the test of time, the way Julia Child has.

Bon appetit!

The French eat frogs -- how about geckos?

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