Archive for April, 2016

Kick self-doubt in the balls

Posted in Ramblings, writing with tags , , , , on 21/04/2016 by molliemoogle

Another writing practice from The Write Practice: Out of 7 lies writers tell themselves, take one that bothers you and write about it for 15 minutes.

Lie #4: Even if you try your best, you’ll never write as well as/be successful as [insert author name here].

kick fear

Found this gem on pinterest. So much truth.

Even before I got into the writing game, I was a reader. A voracious reader. Once I get going, I can finish one book and pick up the next and the one after that and five books later, I’ve finished my binge and can return to normal life for a couple of days. Lather, rinse, repeat about 3-4 times per month.

Except, when I started writing, I would look at a sentence and think “this isn’t like [insert name here]; it’s crap”. And I’d do that all the time: “My writing isn’t like Stephen King’s, or Christine Feehan, or Cherise Sinclair. I won’t be the next Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett; why do I even bother?”

Self-doubt serves no one. Those authors started out the same as me. Putting one word in front of the other, looking ahead and telling themselves they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t write like William Faulkner or Hemmingway. But, they’ve written some of my favourite books and found their unique author voice.

At some point, we all had to learn how to write.

Some have just been doing it for a lot longer than me and by now, they should be good at it.

I tell my karate students that I started out not knowing a front punch from a reverse punch, or even what an axe kick was, and now I’m the one teaching them what it is. You have to start from white belt to get to black belt.

I know I’ll never write like Cherise Sinclair or Stephen King. I’m not them. I’m me. I will write what I want, how I want, when I want, and with help and guidance, I’ll be a good author, maybe even a ten-years-in-the-making bestselling author.

But, in the meantime, I’ve learned that to kick self-doubt to the curb, I had to have passion for what I did. Passion is having a very strong feeling about a person or a thing, an intense emotion, a compelling enthusiasm or desire for something. I was (maybe still am) lucky to have a fantastic mentor who taught me about passion: have the spirit, find a way, concentrate on what you want, be determined, and form guiding principles to get there. All that will lead to your own path.

Telling yourself that you’ll never be [insert writer here] deflates that passion.

This is probably one of the most destructive lies that writers can tell themselves. And given that I believe I’m a strong, independent person who’s fairly self-aware, I’m rather surprised that this continues to pop into my head. I cannot compare my first draft of anything to someone’s finished product. I’m not a fraud; I’m not an imposter. I’m me. I have my own way that I’ve forged myself. It’s like coming to the end of a road and being told “you can go your own way now”. Once you’ve developed your fundamentals and understand how to apply them, you can make your own path, say things with your own voice, and write just as well as Faulkner or Hemmingway or Cherise Sinclair.


The Reservist’s Wife and Deeper Questions

Posted in Uncategorized on 15/04/2016 by molliemoogle

PlusOne is in the reserves, which means that occasionally, he goes away for a week or two or three at a time and does reserves stuff. I think it has something to do with carving off a piece of meat from an animal they killed with their bare hands, skewering the meat on a stick, cooking it over the camp fire, and showing off their manly beards are and hairy chests.

Pardon me while I wipe the drool from my keyboard. Because beards. Manly beards. Big fuck-off beards.




While he’s been away this week doing manly things, I’ve been doing things of my own, like staving off loneliness (bar a night out for a literary trivia quiz).

He knows that I get lonely and I’m pretty sure he gets lonely, but he’s a guy and emotions aren’t really his forte, just like every other Kiwi bloke. Not that I mind; I’ve had enough emotional outbursts and meltdowns for the two of us.

We’ve talked about it and while it sounds like I’m complaining, I am and I’m not. His reservist training gives him meaning and purpose. I can see the changes this secret masculine training imparts. I can see the confidence increase. I can see the pride in his eye, my eyes, and in the eyes of all those who know him. It gives me a certain satisfaction to see him learning things about the wider world through this training.

Who the hell am I to tell him he can’t go? These bouts of loneliness are expected. I can only relate what it’s like on my side. I don’t have kids, but I have pets; I have nothing to keep me busy, other than my martial arts classes and my writing.

He was on shift when we were first married and the nights were a bit lonely. Okay, really lonely. I was a young woman on her own with no family (except her in-laws) and no friends in a foreign country. I wasn’t coping well. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten over that, but really, no.

Loneliness is an emotion and state of being that leaves my head dry and my body hollow; it’s like being in that time between autumn and winter: the leaves are dying, the branches break, and the Southerly wind chills to the bone. It’s like being autumn.

Loneliness has dulled my senses. The pizza I had for dinner, despite having about an inch of cheese on it, had no flavour. The chicken I had the night before smelled amazing when I got home from Auckland, but I don’t remember the taste. However, the hot and spicy ribs PlusOne and I shared the other week left my mouth tingling a little while later. I haven’t been able to get warm at night (despite the autumn chill in the air), nor do I feel like there’s something or someone protecting me, keeping me safe. I’m a feminist, but deep down I need PlusOne’s presence. I can absolutely protect myself, but it’s just that other presence that’s soothing.

And I’ll tell you, that presence feels like the finest silk on my soul.

The evenings this week have stretched out like black holes: time and space seem to stretch and stop, never fully reaching that event horizon and yet, they still cross it. Night comes, sleep not so much, and then the alarm goes off quietly. Another day. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

The dog (a Mama’s boy, apparently—I’m not sure what I did to deserve that) has been sitting near Dad’s desk, his nose on the floor, his front feet spread out, and his ears perking up at every noise. The cats just go on their daily lives, as long as they get fed and have a bowl of water, then no dramas.

I have wondered what it would be like if I was widowed. The grief would always be there, but how long would the loneliness last? Until I found someone? Does that hole ever go away? And how connected and inter-connected are grief and loneliness? Humans are social creatures and, despite the differences between introverts and extroverts, we all want and need contact. Which makes me wonder—what happens when we crave the interaction and not receive it? How much do we revert to primal instinct to just survive? Or do we push past it and into insanity, or into some other state of being?

But I’m only on my own for a few days this week. PlusOne will be home later today. I’m looking forward to feeling warm and whole, like summer, and snuggling into his presence like a warm blanket.

Who Are You?

Posted in writing with tags , , , , on 12/04/2016 by molliemoogle

Borrowed from

I get an occasional bout of downtime in my job. Whether this is good or bad depends on the day. Normally, I’m waiting for a customer to get back to me, or shipping details for overseas orders to arrive.

Today, there’s a lull. I have approximately eight working hours before the deluge of orders for our once-a-month run comes through and floods my desk with paper, work, and a full shipping folder that will take about 3 working days to go through. All that doesn’t include the phone calls to customers to remind them, the small tasks that I need to get through, or the back and forth walks to the planner’s office to see if we can squeeze something in.

It sounds busy and it is, but it’s far from busy-work or mundane customer service work. Mention customer service rep and they think about the open-plan office with a load of people on headsets ready to help you with all your service queries. But most people don’t know that I’m a dedicated rep, which means that I have a set of customers that I look after. I know what they order, how much they need, their core businesses, and what’s going on in the wider market that affects them and us. On top of that, I plan a smaller sister machine, which I think of as my other baby. She’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and a topic for a different day.

As you’re very well aware, my hobby is writing. I live it, love it, and breathe it. If I have spare time, I use it to write, so it should come as no surprise that I subscribe to a large number of writing blogs, one of which is the Write Practice. I get an email most days with some kind advice on writing and craft- from how Greek and Latin make you a better writer to writing resources and everything in between.

Today’s post outlined ideas on how to get a deeper understanding of your protagonist. In short, the author reckons you need to go through a purse or briefcase, take them out to lunch, complete a questionnaire, and let your character shadow you for a day.

I had a bit of downtime this morning (and right after lunch) while I was waiting for some information to come back as well as waiting for a meeting to start. Usually, I cycle through several news media during the day: Al Jazeera, Time, Newsweek, BBC World News, two local papers, and the New Orleans news. I would look through Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications that have actual news, not Women’s Weekly articles (like the local papers) but they’re either subscription based, or they don’t like the company’s ad-blocker that we can’t turn off. Or, I look up song lyrics on AZLyrics or anything else on Google that catches my fancy for five minutes.

I don’t know what it was about today, but I wanted to write instead. The news is all doom-and-gloom; the more I read it, the more I get upset.

Below is my 15 minutes of practice (which morphed into 30, because I talked to both my protagonists):

“Oh yeah, just go through it, see what you find,” my character Sarah tells me this morning. “Just don’t judge, okay?”

“Sure thing.”

The canvas purse is small, rather compact. I’ve seen bigger, but I didn’t expect something so tiny.

I look over it. I like the colourful sugar skulls on it. “Why is it so small?”

“I don’t have much; I’m pretty low maintenance.”

I lift the flap and dump what’s in there on the table.

Two lipsticks- one of them is a chapstick. The other is a Revlon lipstick called Cherries in the Snow. Kind of a pretty red, too red for me. “Nice.”

There’s a slim black eyeliner. Obviously she needs it, given the amount of eyeliner currently in use. There’s a compact and a twist-up make-up brush. A couple of Q-tips, a hair tie.

About two dollars in change falls out. “That’s for my diet coke addiction.”

“I know that feel. Best stuff in the world.”

“I know, right! It’s the bubbles and fizz; tastes wonderful when it’s nice and cold.”

Her wallet’s about the size of a fist, just big enough for a driver’s licence, her student ID, a couple of credit cards, and a few folded up bills. She’s got $35 in bills- $15 in fives and $20 in tens. “Shame no one carries a lot of cash. It’s just enough to get me a taxi home from the bar up the road.”

“Where’s your cell phone?”

There’s a small zipped up outside pocket on the outside. “I like my tiny phone.”

It’s a small phone alright. I check out the brand: a Sony Xperia. I can hold and use it with one hand.

“I carry so many things around in my backpack, but this is what I carry when I’m out of school and outside the classroom. Small enough to not get in the way when I’m clubbing, but big enough to hold what I need. Now Simon, my husband, you should totally ask him about what’s in his briefcase.”

“I’m taking him out to lunch later.”

I shake out the bag. A small ring falls out of the outside zip. It looks like a crown of filigreed thorns. “What’s this?”

Sarah blushes and holds her hand out, sliding it on top of the simple wedding ring she’s wearing. “It’s Simon’s way of showing everyone that I belong to him. I took it off this morning since it got in the way while I was grading.”

Later, I took Simon out to lunch.

I suggest a quick business lunch with Simon, my main character. He names a place called Tarragon, an upscale Italian place up the road from his office that he thinks I’d like. I meet him in the lobby and walk with him down there.

“The consultancy business is pretty cut-throat right now. Before the financial crisis, corporations and businesses used consultants to gain an outsiders perspective on how to improve their businesses and everyone became a consultant. But, afterwards, well,” he shrugs, “a number of independents and firms are still struggling. Prodigy did what any good consultancy business would do and worked with our clients through the financial crisis. The end result is that we’re still here.”

“Prodigy survived in-tact, then?”

“Against all expectations, we grew. We’ve got a great team that’s experienced, a board that’s forward-thinking, and a CE committee that isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.”

We walk for another few minutes, talking about the future of the company.

I change the subject when we get to the restaurant. “And your marriage is going well?”

He offers a smile. “I have to thank you for Sarah. She is, for lack of a better word, amazing. Responsive, beautiful, intelligent.”

The waiter shows us to the table he reserved near the kitchen. The chef comes out and shakes Simon’s hand, in turn chiding Simon for not coming in often enough and congratulating him on his marriage. He then kisses my cheeks in a larger-than-life welcome.

Simon orders a complicated Italian dish that’s not on the menu and I order a baked pennette. He sits at the table like he’s sitting at his desk; forearms resting on the table and his hands are folded, leaning slightly forward. I don’t expect anything else given that’s he’s one of the most successful CEOs in the consulting industry.

“Before you decide to plumb the depths, I don’t answer any deeply personal questions- not about my wife, myself, or my marriage. You know all of that already.”

His received pronunciation sounds all the more sinister, like a James Bond villain, but I can hear that he prefers his personal life to be just that– personal.

“What’s your favourite music,” I ask.

Another smile. More than that though, is the crack in the CEO facade. “Classical, opera, and I’m growing partial to some of Sarah’s metal music. It’s atmospheric for certain activities.”

I know exactly what he’s talking about, so skip to the next question. “Favourite colour?”

“Are you really asking me this? Grey. Blue. White. Black,” he says, then adds with a knowing smile. “Red.”

“What about favourite food?”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Mollie. Small-talk doesn’t become either one of us. Small-talk is mundane. It’s for when you really don’t want to know about the other person, but don’t want to seem rude. Small-talk is for weak-minded individuals who are superficial thinkers. Deep thinkers like you and me don’t worry about the superficiality of the world, because we know it’s all a facade. Favourite foods change; favourite colours change; favourite music changes. The only constant is ourselves and our core personality: courageous, wild, controlled, generous, arrogant, intelligent, funny. We are all of them and none of them. We love our favourite things, but we aren’t defined by them.”

My fifteen/thirty minutes were up, so I left it there, but I think it reveals more than I had anticipated.

First: Sarah’s low-maintenance. She tells us, but she’s very concerned with her looks and keeping them looking good. She’s superficial and she hides behind her make-up. She rebels somewhat, by taking off the ring that Simon gave her (the ring doesn’t come into play in the story). She’s practical and a little bit of an old soul

Second: Simon’s not interested in small-talk. He wants to get to the meat of the conversation and really discuss it in depth. But he’s friendly, open, and honest, and loves his job. He has time for people, but he is always very much in control of the conversation and of the things in his life. He’s got a bit of a cheeky streak.

The more I read over these small snippets of my protagonists’ lives, the more I realise that I added myself into them, without really knowing that I did it. Personally, I am low-maintenance- though I don’t carry makeup in my handbag. I’m practical and I rebel against social mores and norms. I hate small-talk- probably because I’m so bad at it. Small talk implies that I care about your favourite food enough to talk about it, but I’m only filling in time before I can leave. I love classical, opera, and metal. And Italian. Fuck, I love Italian food. It shows, believe me.

But I think it also speaks more about stereotyping people. In fiction, we can get away with it. Simon’s wealthy, so he needs to have understated, but expensive tastes: Chivas Regal whisky, bespoke shoes and suits, classic male colours, ethnic cuisine, and he talks business. Sarah’s a student, and she’s married: a cellphone, some money, make-up in her bag, a sweet and innocent side, and a ring from her husband.

In real life, we stereotype regardless of whether we should or not.

Are these characters or caricatures? Another topic for another day, methinks.

That’s just a small window into the life of my protagonists. I’m a little afraid to let Simon shadow me for the day and what would happen if I gave Sarah Marcel Proust’s questionnaire.

What do you love most about writing?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 04/04/2016 by molliemoogle
Whoops; it’s been a while. I got busy.
One of the writing blogs I follow (Positive Writer– among manymany others) asked “what do you love most about writing”. As I’m at work and have a few spare minutes, I thought I might answer this question.
What do I love most about writing?
I love that I can be myself: a truer, deeper, more articulate version of myself.
There are no rough drafts in real life. What I say cannot be taken back and reworded, sent through to beta readers and critique partners, then changed around to give the most impact via symbolism, imagery, or theme. It’s real and wonderful and hurtful all at the same time. When I write, I can rearrange words to give more weight to some and not to others. I can choose what’s focused on. I can give meaning, both superficial and deep to one object or person. My experiences become clearer.
I love that I have the freedom to write what I want without seeking approval.
Too many times we do things because it will please others, but brings us no joy or happiness. For a long time, I denied who I was because I thought that my parents, my coworkers, my colleagues, and my friends wouldn’t approve. Writing has given me the freedom to give the proverbial finger to the never-ending, pervasive voice saying, “What would your mother/father/bestie/manager say if they saw this? What would they think of you?”.
I love that I can be human.
It’s not quite like the above, where I can be myself. I mean that I can be human, with human emotions and experiences which have shaped my fears, passions, and my imagination. My emotions and experiences have shaped my identity and my essence. I know where I was and where I want to go, and what I want to be.
I love that I can create a universe with just a few strokes on the keyboard.
I don’t have human children, but I have pets and a husband. I also have my characters. They grow in their world, with their experiences and emotions that enrich, tear down, and trap them. I love to see them soar and grow as ‘people’ and, as un-parent-like as it sounds, I love to see them fall and fail. My characters are a microcosm of the universe they’re in, just as we are a microcosm of our universe: an ant is just as complex as the brightest supernova. Humans are just as complex as an entire galaxy.
I love that I can break the rules of the universe.
I don’t have to keep my feet literally on the ground if I don’t want to; I can break the rules and levitate. Dragons, mythical beings, gods, the supernatural– they are all real while I write and read and edit. I’m not bound by the rules of the universe I live in; I’m bound by the rules of the universes I create and if they don’t work, I can recreate them.
What about you? What do you love most about writing, or anything else you do? Why do you do it?