Monday, March 5, 2012

Inspiration from the Circus

Today is not Saturday. I am aware of this - which is a minor miracle. Knowing what day it is, is not my strong point. I am posting today because; it is Monday in my small French village, meaning everything is closed and I can't get anything else done; because I was busy on Saturday.

I was busy digging up inspiration, living life...which means I was at the circus. It is true that a two and a half year-old and a three week-old might be a little young to appreciate a magical three-ring, but hey! it was a family outing.

I had high hopes. I could picture the scene in my head; my son's upturned face, full of awe, lit with red and blue stage lights as he pointed to the lions and tigers and dancing bear (oh my!). I pictured French clowns with charming costumes and that little tear painted on their cheeks. I imagined my fourteen year-old sister excitedly describing her first circus to her American friends (oh la la la!).

But...there were some things I didn't expect. My son adopted the lady beside us, patting her knee and pointing to the show, using her shoulder as a hand-hold when he wanted to stand up, generally treating her like his mommy. The lions, which I thought he'd love, were a little scary, but the doves that kept their equilibrium while on spinning objects had his undivided attention. He needed crackers to get him through the "boring" bits. The clowns were not quaint or "Old World" at all...and their trumpet playing woke up the baby, who decided she was starving. I was also surprised to see that the lion tamer also did the balancing act, the whip act, the juggling act etc.

Sometimes the same thing happens when I'm writing a scene. I've pictured the atmosphere, but the tent ends up a little smaller, the acts are a little more cheesy and the cast is more like a family doing a talent show than professionals. The main characters don't act the way I expected. Or the emotion that I wanted to evoke doesn't quite come through those boring black letters.

Do things ever turn out just a bit different than your expectations? Does it mean that it's ruined for you? Should you just rewrite the scene, forget the experience or memory?

I think it's important to realize that life is often richer and more real for these little "disappointments." It's more believable than the perfect scenario, which ends up feeling a little plastic. In real life, I choose how I will remember things; keeping the funny bits, the glorious bits, the "grain" bits and discarding the "chaff" of someone getting scolded, dropping the juggling pin, whining etc.

I'd love to hear a time when your expectations weren't fulfilled, either in real life or writing, and how you reacted!


  1. I've wrote about it on my blog, but (and I loved France) one time was when I realized the French (whom I thought were special people--educated, ahead of the times, and so forth--were really just like us Americans.

    1. Yup, I know the feeling! Sometimes they still delight me by being very French though ;)

  2. So you want to hear about a time when my expectations weren't fulfilled, huh? lol That means a book! Never mind. I'll spare you. But here's one nonetheless...

    As you know, we writers need to experience things to provide us fodder. Well, that being said, one day I answered an ad for a medical transcription company. People were making $2,500-$3,000 a month simply typing and editing doctor's dictations. Wow, what fun I thought...and the money wasn't too terribly bad.

    Within a month's time, I was still making only $800 and growing despondent reading about other people and their varying illnesses and, sadly, even their demise. To add misery upon misery, some of the doctor's were unintelligible. I called them mumble-mouths for the most part, along with a well-placed expletive here and again. lol

    Obviously, I was very disappointed with the position and left after six-weeks. Trust me, I have a slew of things (as do we all) with regard to being disappointed or unfulfilled, but again, that too is fodder for my writing. In the end then, it's all good.

    1. Aww, money disappointments are the worst! But how would our characters know that if we hadn't tasted it? Thanks for sharing.

  3. I had a lot of experiences that didn't turn out how I expected when I traveled in Africa. And yet, most of those-- including moments where transportation broke and I didn't get where I'd wanted-- ended up being still wonderful in a lot of ways. That's one thing I love about not getting what you expect-- you may not get something better, but you still get a great experience out of it!

    1. My sister has been living in West Africa for the last several years - when things go wrong shes says, TIA, This Is Africa. Gotta love the stories!


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