Circus training vs. writing workshops

The clan and I recently journeyed interstate to snare some winter warmth on Queensland’s Gold Coast, hook up with friends and relatives and do a little exploring. The little dragon and I swam and surfed and, even in mid-winter, the sea was warmer than down south in summer. Talk about spot the Victorians! I was often the only one in the water.

We also tootled down to Byron Bay, twice, so the little monkey could join the circus. OK, not so much join the circus at the ripe old age of five but take part in rug rat-friendly training workshops that we’d heard about.

The kinder-age circus sessions included tumbling and trampolining, a chance to hang upside down from a trapeze bar, swing on/or inside a fabric “cocoon”, walk a tight-rope and balance along a beam. The little monkey loved it. (The little dragon and I were slightly disappointed there was no firing of toddlers from cannons.)

The class ran for approximately 45 minutes and, as a holiday activity for youngsters, it was a winner. Check out Circus Arts if you have time to kill in Byron and little people with energy to burn.

The training also got me thinking about circus skills that might be applicable to a career in writing. Here are some tongue-in-cheek suggestions:

  • Tumbling could be good practice for dealing with criticism. Sometimes you’ll land well or roll with the punches. Other times you’ll be knocked out of orbit. It might take time (and osteo appointments) before the pain fades.
  • Tight-rope walking could be vital for teaching plot development and how to maintain tension. If you want to write a page-turner there’s no room for any slack in your story. The readers will just fall away.
  • The trapeze suggests you need to take risks, to create moments where readers gasp or hold their breath, uncertain how events will unfold.
  • The cocoon lets you swing upside down or hide away for a while to seek different perspectives on your characters and setting. What have you missed? How might characters act under pressure?
  • The balancing beam speaks to me about economy and language. Do you dither about with verbiage and long descriptive passages – or engage your readers so they put one foot after the other and move on through your story? As the publishers say, you need to show, not tell. That means (in part) giving enough detail for readers to sketch out a scene without boring them to sleep.

Call me a clown but I reckon circus skills might have value beyond the Big Top.

Circus Art training venue
Circus Art training venue

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