That time I appeared on Jeopardy!


I appeared on Jeopardy! yesterday.

And even though I was excited to share the news, I was also hesitant.

After all, I lost.

I didn’t just lose, I was blown out of the water by the reigning champ. I got creamed. It was a shellacking.

So, I very seriously considered not telling anyone.

Just a few hours after I shot the episode, as we were driving home, I could hear a voice in my head saying,

What is the point of telling everyone you got steamrolled on national television?

I didn’t have an answer at first. Luckily, I have a supportive partner and friends who all said the same thing when I told them I was embarrassed.

“Nonsense! The point is that you were on the show! We are so proud of you!”

When I got home from the taping, my 5-year-old said, “It’s OK you didn’t win, Mommy.”

Even the host Ken Jennings, who gave us contestants a little pep talk before rehearsal, said, “Every one of you should be very proud of yourselves. Over 100,000 people applied this season, and no more than 450 will appear on the show. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”


So, yes, I could have kept it to myself, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to tell you that Ken Jennings gave ME a pep talk.

Or that he has a delightfully dry wit. (Hit reply and ask if you want to hear my favorite joke he told.)

I wouldn’t be able to tell you how unexpectedly fun it was to meet the other contestants the morning of the taping. If you watched the episode, you know I competed against a guy who had an actual, solvable crossword puzzle as the “groom’s cake” at his wedding.

So, you know. Nerds! My people!

Also, our “green room” was the Wheel of Fortune set. So we got to sit very, very close to the wheel and be told very, very sternly not to even THINK about spinning it.


I guess now that it’s all over, I would tell my mean inner voice that the point isn’t to celebrate the outcome, but the result.

What’s the difference? …

I studied for Jeopardy! for months. Besides brushing up on Shakespeare, Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, astronomy, chemistry, geography, and memorizing all 43 presidents, 50 state capitals (and 50 state nicknames (!)), I also watched old episodes of the show (shoutout to, found archived clues online, played 12 clues a day via Alexa, practiced buzzing in by playing video games, and combed through blog posts about wagering strategy.

I was terrified that the gameday pressure would get to me, so I played Jeopardy! episodes on my earbuds while I climbed hills on my bike, hoping the increase in heart rate would mimic the stressful Jeopardy! taping conditions.

You know what? None of that worked. I got outplayed. I knew when they booked me that no amount of preparation could guarantee the outcome I wanted.

I could work my brain’s buns off 😁, but I didn’t control the time of day we shot, nor the categories, nor my opponents.

The only thing I could control was whether or not to show up.

The outcome was a match loss. But the result?

The result was that I proved to myself again that the only way I can open myself to the possibility of wild success is to open myself to the possibility of disappointing failure.

The result was that I celebrated my whole-hearted attempt, and so did my friends and family from all over the country.


And in that way, my experience with Jeopardy! was a time-compressed, low-stakes version of my writing journey.

Over the past few years, I’ve opened myself up to wild success by accepting failure and showing up again and again. I’ve written a lot — some pieces have been successful, but I’ve written so much material that went nowhere. So much stuff that no one besides me has seen. So much stuff that no one has wanted to publish.

But my attempts are whole-hearted now. I can’t control the outcome, but I can continue to show up. The “point” is the the decision to keep taking risks.

– Maggie

PS: I appreciate you all and hope you have a very happy new year! I’ll be back with you next week with my regular content: tips and inspiration for writers.

See you in 2023.

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