Wednesday, March 5, 2014

IWSG: When We Build Things Up In Our Heads

It's IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about their writerly insecurities and other stuff.

For about ten years, my husband and I have been driving past this Italian seafood restaurant that serves cioppino. I love a hot bowl of seasoned fish stew with fresh bread. We finally came here last month with our children. 

There were about three occupied tables when we arrived on a Sunday in the early afternoon. So the place wasn't crowded.  But once we were seated, we waited a good 15 minutes before anyone came by for our drink order. Let's say hello to red flag number one. For the remainder of our visit, we were mostly ignored when we tried to wave down the wandering wait staff. 

My husband and children's entrees trickled out after an unusually long wait. The waiter assured me that my dish was on its way. Well, I'd already waited years to try the cioppino, so I could wait a few more minutes. Color me puzzled when the waiter set a burger with fries down. He insisted that was what I'd ordered. Um, no. When he realized he made a mistake, the burger was taken away. By the time my cioppino arrived, we'd been at the restaurant for about an hour-and-a-half, and the kids were full and understandably restless. And you know what, the cioppino I waited ten years to try tasted rather average. 

When the bill came, we were charged for the burger and fries I didn't order. And my cioppino was ten dollars more on the bill than it was advertised on the menu. Turns out we were being charged for dinner menu rates even though we had ordered from their lunch menu during their lunch window. We spoke up about this (and we could've spoken up about much more) and finally, a manager fixed the bill. 

It's not easy to work in food service. That said, the service and organization of this restaurant was exceptionally poor. 

When we were ignored after being seated, my husband and I considered just leaving. But I built something up so big in my head, I acknowledged but easily forgave the early red flags until it became impossible to ignore that this restaurant, which stirred our curiosity all these years, SUCKS.

It also occurred to me if I had lower expectations, I might've had a better experience. Who knows, the cioppino might've even tasted better. Perhaps my high expectations contributed to my disappointment.

Besides good cioppino, there's something else I've been building up in my head, against my better judgement,  for many years. This is the way I sometimes fantasize how certain things would fall into place for me if I become a published author.

That said, I constantly remind myself to be realistic about things. If I ever get published, the old things I'd stressed out about as an aspiring author would be replaced by new things that published authors typically stress over.  I know this because many published authors are quite open about challenges they face. 

And yet, I still daydream, and am therefore contributing to the disappointment I will experience if I get published and the things I'm secretly wishing for don't happen. I hate to think I might be building myself up for bland cioppino. I can't help thinking this sometimes. 

Maybe when the writing gets rough, the daydreaming is all I have. 

Do you approach your writerly ambitions with high or low expectations? Fantasies or reality?

What was your most challenging experience at a restaurant?


Natalie Aguirre said...

I definitely have realistic expectations. I've watched a lot of published authors who later lose agent and can't sell books so easily. It is not an easy profession and I'm glad I have a fulfilling full-time job to focus on as well that really is what will always bring me a good paycheck.

Yes, once we had a horrible wait at a Chinese restaurant and suspected they didn't like we adopted our daughter from China or something like that. We've never gone back.

Elsie Amata said...

I think my expectations are real but only because I don't have high hopes. Fear generally keeps me grounded. =P

That's when it comes to my writing. Other things, like your restaurant experience, I can relate to all to well.

AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge
co-host IWSG

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I think as long as we're realistic most of the time, daydreaming once in awhile is fine. After all, we're writers - isn't daydreaming what we do? :)

Pat Hatt said...

Have to keep them grounded which I do, but then going crazy and having a bit of fun with the what if can be fine too

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't think low expectations could've saved that restaurant experience.
I came in with a mixture of low and no expectations. Which was probably a good thing, as I've been pleasantly surprised by the results.

Stephsco said...

Great illustration. It's a real gray area between what we dream and what becomes unrealistic expecatations. I still want to dream. I want to get excited about the day I get the call that a publisher wants to offer me money for my book. I want to dream of sitting in a room full of authors signing books at a convention. Those things keep me going.

Maybe the key is to set realistic goals, tangible things we can work toward. Then we can keep dreaming :)

Haneen I. Adam said...

Loved your story, and yes I do have some crazy fantasies about publication but I soon wake up on the harsh reality so it doesn't last long, :P

M Pax said...

I would have left after being ignored. Reality has elements of the dream no matter how it goes. Just realize the norm is not JK or Stephen King.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

In my experience, being a published author has been wonderful, everything I've dreamed, and totally worth it--sometimes.
Other times it has been nerve-wracking, disappointing, devastating.
In other areas it has meant no change in my life whatsoever.
Like anything else, it has its great moments and its awful ones.
As for restaurants--if we have to wait too long even to get a menu handed to us, we leave!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I think, after such lousy service, it would have been a heck of a good cioppino to overcome how aggravated I'd be!

Jenn Hubbard is right. (*Waves at Jenn. We have an event together in May.*) There are some things about being published that are just as wonderful as I imagined. And there are other things that are not like what I expected at all.

But good and bad, I would not want to un-do any of it. (Okay, maybe I'd like a do-over on a couple things ...)

Cynthia said...

To the published authors who have responded to my post so far, I just want to thank you for helping me see that it's okay to have those daydreams. =)

S.P. Bowers said...

sorry about the restaurant experience but good analogy. I try not to daydream about being published and when I do, I let myself go and dream big. That way I know it's unrealistic and, hopefully, won't be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I had high expectations in my early years of writing. Those expectations keep getting dimmer and dimmer now that I know the reality of the business. Now I just care about being published and read on a consistent basis, not getting a huge agent knocking down my door or movie deals. Also, the reviews and publicity can be a pain.

What a horrible restaurant experience.

Elise Fallson said...

I'm a day dreamer and think big all the time, however, when it comes to my endeavours and real life projects, I'm pessimistic and my expectations are always very low. Maybe too low... I think it's important to dream big once in a while, but having realistic expectations, thought not always easy to do, is important. Sorry your dinner was a disappointment, I often feel like that about new movies/books that have been hyped up.

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