By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine
Frances Mayes author of Under the Tuscan Sun was asked what her expectations were upon writing her book. Having been a Professor of Creative Writing and a poet with several books of poetry to her credit this would be her first book other than poetry based on her memories of buying, renovating and living in an abandoned villa in Tuscany. She explained she expected it to sell like her books of poetry, not many.
If you have read the book or even saw the movie you are aware of the story. She brings the villa and surrounding property back to life. Again, expectations come up. As Mayes states, “It’s a story about a woman taking a risk, doing something out of her expectations.”
Written in 1996 it went to Number One on the New York Times Bestseller list and stayed there for over two years. The movie was released in 2003 and was loosely based on her book. The movie revitalized the sale of her books and to this day the success of the book amazes the author. When Mayes was asked if she had expected this in her career as an author she said, “Isn’t it great not to be able to expect it? Because if you can expect and predict it’s not as much fun.”
Expectations are something each of us live with. Some are taken for granted while others are only hoped for. Those we take for granted are terribly missed when they no longer exist. Those hoped for are either met or exceed our expectations or they fall flat. If they fall flat, we consider it as getting our hopes up too high. If they meet or exceed, we may say we knew it was going to happen. I once asked a young girl if she had ever flown in an airplane. Her answer was, “My Daddy always told me never get higher than picking corn or lower than digging potatoes.” Thinking she may have missed the point of her Daddy’s wisdom I had to laugh. But wisdom is was. Getting your hopes and expectations up too high or even not high enough can be a dream killer.
Back to Mayes statement, “If you expect and predict it’s not as much fun.” In her case her expectations of the sales of Under the Tuscan Sun would be like her other books of poetry was like digging potatoes. It in fact was like picking corn. Now we know what she means by “If you expect and predict it’s not as much fun.” If you write with no expectations other than fulfilling your passion. You will never be disappointed.