Circus on the Moon

David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed
Published in
4 min readApr 18, 2024

When it feels like no one is paying attention to what you have to say

Photo by Pixabay

Just the other day, I was figuring out the new components and systems of my new car. Setting the clock, locking in radio stations, connecting the hands-free phone system, and discovering how Bluetooth worked in this model. Just as I was navigating my way through the details for connection, a song came blaring out of the car’s stereo system. The system had automatically linked to the playlist on my phone’s music library. The song was Bruce Hornsby’s “Circus on the Moon.” I always liked the tune. Particularly the string arrangement and especially Hornsby’s virtuoso piano playing. But this time, for whatever reason, the lyrics finally sunk in. In all the times I had heard that song, I had never noticed the words and what they meant until now.

I’d like you to see, I’m a performer with skills
Don’t make fun of me with my whistles and
my bullhorns and my bells

Hornsby sings about the life an artist, one with wonderful things to say and great skills, yet there is doubt and no one around to see, hear, or notice his work.

And I’ll hope you’ll see it soon
Getting ‘bout as much attention as a
Circus on the moon

All that “performing” lost in the abyss. All that heart-wrenching work, those hours and hours honing the craft, and yet no one is paying attention. No one cares.

Try as I do, I just can’t connect anyway
Getting ‘bout as much attention as a
Circus on the moon
Standing tall and lone in my circus on the moo

This is how it feels for many writers, especially ones looking for a publisher, or trying their best to find a way to get their work in front of readers. And even if they do, who is really paying attention? Who is reading any of it? Does any of it matter?

At the risk of sounding like a guru of the power of positive thinking, I have one main thing to say about all this:

Do not give up.

I have never known a writer at any stage who is 100% confident about their work. Not one who doesn’t question whether their work is relevant, important, meaningful. And not one who sometimes doesn’t believe they’ve been singing into an empty concert hall. It’s part of the artist’s lament. It goes with the territory. And if that is so, then how does one find any energy or reason to keep going?

A few things that might help.

  1. Forget about writing for anyone else but yourself. Do not write to a market. Write only the book you would like to read. Be your own audience. There are people who like what you like to write. It’s guaranteed. It’s only a matter of finding them. But before that process, a writer must fall in love with their own writing.
  2. Stop looking for perfection. That never comes. Work and hone all that you can but at some point, you must believe what you have is “good enough.” Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
  3. Finish that draft. Too many writers are writers in their heads, meaning they have ideas, they outline, and they procrastinate. Complete the draft. Get the thing DONE. It may not be close to the final product, and that’s okay. But get it DONE. Talking about it is not enough.
  4. And finally, keeping doing the high-wire act. Yes, it may be a “circus on the moon,” but if you are good enough, readers will find you. They will discover a way to get to the moon. The best artists don’t quit because the audience is too hard to find. They just keep going. The more one puts art into the world, the more the world is likely to notice.

The final lyrics of Hornsby’s song suggest that the performer “on the moon” is not about to stop performing. Instead, he will keep at it and continue to let everyone on Earth know that he’s up there among the craters, working, performing, and waiting.

Three million miles away I’m staring at you in
My circus on the moon.

David W. Berner is a writing coach and teacher, and the author of several award-winning books of fiction and memoir. Listen to his podcast series: The School of Joyful Writing.



David W. Berner, The Writer Shed
The Writer Shed

Award-winning writer of memoir and fiction. Creator of Medium publication: THE WRITER SHED and author of THE ABUNDANCE on Substack..