The Insidious Side of Perfectionism

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My little sister has a lot going for her. She’s model beautiful, thin, smart, socially aware, vegan (so much commitment required to do this – I know because I’m vegan as well when I dine with her, which is a fair bit), loves animals and children, hates injustice and generally wants to make the world a better place and herself a better person. All of this is more amazing when you find out she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis (at the age of twenty, mind you), clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, endometriosis and a multitude of allergies. But she still managed to finish Year 12, complete a Certificate IV in Youth Work and is now studying a Bachelor of Social Work with aspirations of eventually doing a master’s degree.

She’s also a perfectionist. I shouldn’t be surprised it runs in the family since I’m a perfectionist, too, although our nineteen-year age gap has given me the time she hasn’t had yet to work through my perfectionism and settle on a more reasonable goal of extremely good. Mostly I meet that goal; sometimes no matter how hard I work, I don’t. Results can range from good, just okay, not good and complete failure, depending on what it is I’m doing. (Housework is a complete failure more often than not; I just can’t be bothered.) Continue reading

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The Moral of the Story

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In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest in US history, I was listening to a segment on the radio about research into gun owners in Australia. Rather than reinforcing the idea that weapons were more likely in rural areas where they are necessarily used for farming and predator control purposes, it found that a small number of urban gun enthusiasts and sports shooters were amassing huge arsenals. One owner had 283 guns. All legal, of course, otherwise the researchers would never have known about them.

There are plenty of illegal guns in Australia as well, estimated at about 10,000, but the strict gun control laws in this country mean that gun ownership is seen as unusual, abnormal even. We don’t have the gun culture that the US has, I suspect partly because of the different ways in which the countries established their independence from their shared colonial master.

The reason this segment on the radio resonated with me is because the main character in my debut novel is a small weapons engineer, a gun designer with a large arsenal of her own, although primarily comprised of historically significant pieces worth a lot of money. In the as-yet incomplete sequel, the novel begins with the opening night of an exhibition of her collection at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. Continue reading

Should You Set New Year’s Writing Resolutions?

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Knowing that this blog post would be published just before New Year’s, I thought to myself, I should write a New Year’s themed blog post (just like the Christmas-themed blog post that was published last week just before Christmas). I’ve written about new year’s writing resolutions before, setting four goals at the start of 2016 (that I pretended weren’t goals to relieve a little bit of the pressure on myself) and writing at the end of 2016 about how successful I’d been (about 50/50 – I achieved some of them, failed entirely at others and achieved things during the year that I’d never even thought about when I was setting those goals).

I wasn’t sure I wanted to set goals again. Setting goals and then failing is demoralising. And I always fail at goals, especially ones that have definitive and relatively short deadlines. More often than not, I accomplish them but long after any arbitrary time frames I’ve set. That sums me up really. I’m easygoing. I’m laidback. I’m not ambitious. I’m happy to succeed over years rather than months and pressure to do it sooner doesn’t make it happen. In fact, it makes it less likely to happen.

So then I asked myself, Should I be setting New Year’s writing resolutions? Should I be setting goals at all? Continue reading

Should You Write a Christmas-themed Book?

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Clearly, it’s much easier to make the decision to write a Christmas-themed blog post (a thousand or so words, a fairly small investment of writing time) but should you write an entire Christmas-themed book? Depending on the type of books you write, it could be another small (or at least smaller) investment of writing time (such as with children’s books) or it could be months or years of your life (such as with full-length novels).

As with all writing choices, there are pros and cons. The final decision (and the reasons behind it) for one person will be completely different to the final decision (and the reasons behind it) for another. So this decision needs to be the right decision for you. Continue reading

Sex with a Stranger: Chapter Two

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Rule #2: No morning afters

Fletcher woke slowly, not because it was morning – although it was – or because the light was peeking through the blinds – and it was, too – but because he was cold. The sheets were still beneath him and he was naked. It took him a moment to remember where he was and why.

“Jane?” he called out but the air was still and he wasn’t sure how he knew but he could tell she was long gone. He should at the very least have had fond memories but instead, like a typical man, he’d lived the dream – a beautiful, anonymous woman offering sex without strings – and all he could think about was seeing her again. He checked the bedside tables and the desk on the other side of the room for a note, a scrap of paper with her phone number on it, but there was nothing.

A knock on the door sounded and his hopes briefly climbed before he realised she wouldn’t need to knock – it was her room. Continue reading

Sex with a Stranger: Chapter One

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Rule #1: No real names

Sadie Van Der Zee stood outside the bar, inhaling the cold air and steeling herself. She felt this every time. The excitement that verged on anxiety. The butterflies that started in her stomach, then fluttered lower and lower. The sense that she shouldn’t go in and the knowledge that she would anyway. She took a final deep breath, patted the dark brown curls that were normally dead straight and stepped in through the street-facing entrance.

Inside it was dark and crowded. The only lights were on the walls at intervals that meant they didn’t illuminate much. The effect was a muted feeling; long shadows fell from the patrons who were standing and over those who were sitting. It made it hard to distinguish features – one dark-haired man looked a lot like the next. But Sadie found the dark-haired man she was looking for on her first scan.

He was standing at the far end nearest the other entryway to the bar, the one that led into the reception of the adjoining hotel. He looked a little different from his photograph – broader shoulders, clean shaven, better dressed – which surprised her a little. Usually, the reality couldn’t live up to the promise. Even Sadie looked better in her online profile than she did in real life. She felt those butterflies again as she thought about peeling his shirt from his shoulders and seeing if they matched what she was imagining. Continue reading

Practice Novels: Not Just for the Start of a Writer’s Career

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In my late teens and early twenties, I wrote three novels that I like to refer to as my practice novels. At the time that I was writing them, I didn’t realise that I was just practising. It was only after they were complete that I knew they weren’t good enough, they weren’t the genre I wanted to pursue and they were unlikely to ever see the light of day.

I published the sex scene from the last of them, Liberty’s Secret, in 2015 in conjunction with a blog post on writing sex scenes, mostly to demonstrate that I’m not very good at writing sex scenes. It was full of euphemisms, the highs and lows of waves and crashing, and an overblown sense of emotion. Certainly, it was completely devoid of accurate names for genitalia. (That’s one of the big no-no’s of the romance genre I was attempting to write in.) And I published the entire book chapter by chapter on this blog earlier in 2017, just because… well, why not? I hate wasting writing.

I thought that was the end of my practice novels. But when I sat down to watch the movie of Fifty Shades of Grey, despite its flaws, I realised these genres and sex scenes more generally aren’t going anywhere. They are popular. And if done well, they can be important components of plot and character development. So I could continue avoiding them in my writing or I could try to get better.

Yes, more than twenty-five years after beginning my writing career and after publishing three books, I decided to write another practice novel. I had no intention of attempting to publish it for profit, just to improve on this writing area. Continue reading