The Dunning-Kruger effect – does it work for emotions too?

As part of my research into the latest novel, I stumbled upon this absolute gem of a study. It has seriously made my week. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of already knowing this, the paper they did is titled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” (1999). Basically, if you’re really dumb, you will never realise it. In fact, you’ll honestly believe that you’re actually very smart and are exceptionally good at lots of things. You won’t doubt your own abilities or understanding of anything, because you’ll know better than everyone else.

It explains so much of the world. I’m sure everyone can think of people they’ve met who baffle you with their confident assertions of ridiculousness until you start doubting yourself. I have a particular person I know, who without naming names or identifying them in any way, leaves me almost speechless on a regular basis. Things so obviously false are said with such utter certainty that you have to stop and do an internal check and a quick summation of proof for your own interpretation of reality before you can respond. But part of the problem is also that if you’re unaware of your own stupidity, you’re unlikely to change. In a follow-up study, “Why the Unskilled are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self-insight Among the Incompetent “(2008) they found that people who performed badly in testing did not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve. People who performed well though, did learn from feedback they were given on how to improve.

Though I enjoyed reading about it, relishing, finally, an explanation for that person in my life, it does start one down a rabbit hole of introspection. Basically, any time I’m not doubting myself could be a time when I’m being stupid.

On the other hand, all those times where I do doubt my own abilities, like when I wonder whether I should keep pursuing a career in writing because maybe I’m really crap at it and it’s only my friends telling me they like my writing to be nice, maybe I’m actually doing okay. It’s somewhat reassuring, but endless self-doubt is time consuming, as well as boring for other people. It can also stop you from doing the things you need to do, like marketing.

Then I though about relationships and whether the Dunning-Kruger effect could apply to emotional intelligence too. To give some context as to why I might wonder this, up until my late thirties, I thought I was rock solid and had escaped a not ideal childhood almost totally unscathed. It’s only been lately that I’ve been recognising that I have issues I’ve been oblivious to for years. As an example, I have trouble identifying my emotions. I have a few go-to responses for almost every situation, and sometimes they aren’t the most sensible. For instance, if someone does something that I find hurtful, I shut down completely. I don’t talk and I don’t explain, I just disappear. If I don’t see the person, I don’t have to think about what happened. It’s like an emotional magic show where I make the thing that wounded me vanish like it never happened. Which is stupid, obviously. It isn’t a rational response, and doesn’t help the situation, at all. I know this, so now I have to try to change this response, which isn’t easy.

But, now that I know that I’m emotionally stupid, does that mean that I’m not?

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The bullshit truck and other theories

I’ve been ridiculously thrilled with some of the latest theories on the way women interact with each other and society. The poodle/wolf one was a cracker, though it only took me a nanosecond to work out that I was nether a wolf nor a poodle. Frankly, I suck at camping but well-groomed is definitely not my default factory setting. In the way that people resemble their dogs, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that I’m actually a golden retriever. I really don’t mind getting dirty but I like to have a shower afterwards. I’m also occasionally easily startled and have an aversion to vacuum cleaners.

The next brilliant one was the friendship bus. The theory goes that all women have a mental bus and once all the seats are full, then you can’t add another one without booting someone off. Initially, I thought, “That’s just stupid!” but then I happened to break up with two friends and suddenly, there are two more women in my life. I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t just a coincidence and maybe I did have a bus? The idea is pretty odd, but it makes sense in a way. I only have so much free time and possibly I can’t tend to more friendships that I have without compromising the quality of the emotional investment. The ones who were removed from the bus (for different reasons) led to me thinking up my own social human interactive theory (SHIT).

My own SHIT goes like this: everyone has a bullshit truck. This is a truck, varying from a ute to one of those huge mining trucks, where everyone shovels all the crap they encounter everyday. Every time they swallow the truth and give a bland, socially acceptable response instead of the one they really want to, that bullshit goes in the back of the truck, weighing it down. It accumulates and grows until the truck is full. And when the truck is full, people start being honest, despite the fallout because they can’t add any more bullshit to the pile.

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My bullshit truck reached capacity a few weeks ago, and it was scary but incredibly liberating. I told the truth, I let someone know that what they were doing was not okay and got a massive amount of stuff done. When you’re not trying to be nice and easy-going, it frees up a significant amount of time and mental energy.  I wasn’t concerned with the fall-out, accepting that I would deal with whatever came later. I got on a real roll, and cleared away some jobs that I had been dreading, but it nearly got away from me. I had to phone a friend, my lovely cousin, who was the voice of absolute reason and stopped me from taking it too far and irreparably damaging a relationship that wasn’t one that I could remove from my life.

My bullshit truck emptied out and I again have the capacity for general social interaction where niceties are adhered to and feelings are spared. I don’t think I could live that way all the time, but I really enjoyed my brief veering off the tracks. It was almost like a mental holiday, with sandy beaches of frankness and the bright sun of outspokenness, topped off by the Pina Colada of candour.

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The Reality of Man Candy

Because I follow a lot of blogs and possibly because I share the interests of many women my age cough* cough*, my Facebook feed has become overwhelmed with photos of largely topless men and some who have only strategically placed items to protect what little modesty remains to them. I’ve thought it pretty amusing, but haven’t given it much further thought. Here’s one to show you what I mean (it’s not gratuitous, at all):

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Until this morning, when I came face to face with it. Given I live at the beach now, it shouldn’t have been surprising as there is a smorgasbord of young backpackers walking around sunning themselves. But this was different. It was a fair way back from the beach, up the hill where the residents live and outside the supermarket. A man, who would generously be about 30 years old, wearing shorts and  nothing else. He clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into the large and defined muscles on his body and equal time trimming his hair and beard. He could have been one of the chests that had popped up on my screen, the look was so familiar to me. But something about it was off.

Driving home, I tried to put my finger on what exactly it was that I found off-putting. Surely I should have been ogling, as I’m sure was his intent, given that all around him were fully clothed on this slightly chilly morning. And it wasn’t just that I couldn’t picture myself ever being with someone who looked like that, it was that I genuinely didn’t want to. Having dated a guy when I was much younger who spent an inordinate amount of time in the gym, I know how restrictive it is. It also tends to be boring, with your partner constantly being vigilant about what they eat and drink and tired because they work out so much.

As a woman, I know about the pressure society puts on you to look good. Though I might rail against it at times and the double standard, I still get my hair and nails done and put on makeup most days. It makes me feel good and I enjoy it, even while acknowledging to myself the increasing futility of meeting expectations while aging. I put in some effort, while consciously making the decision to not go to extremes, which for me is fillers onwards. I realise others draw the line earlier, possibly in the area of hair removal, others what I consider later with lasers, and some just ask “what line are you talking about?”. A couple of years ago, I did some copywriting for a plastic surgeon’s website and that for me was an eye-opener. I decided there was nothing about myself that I disliked enough to voluntarily be cut open and chopped up, and then deal with being in recovery for at least 2 months.

I look at those recognisably sliced and diced women that are common in the areas I frequent and I don’t understand the attraction to that look. But then I wonder if I’m falling into the trap we accuse men of perpetuating of wanting us to look effortlessly, naturally beautiful instead of breaking the myth about how hard it actually is, as well as expensive, to look “normal”.

So this guy was essentially being a woman. In order to look as cut, muscled and groomed as he did, he would have had to prioritise looking good ahead of many things in his life. Given he was walking around half-dressed at 9.30am on a weekday morning, he probably wasn’t heading off to an office job and he didn’t look like someone who got their hands dirty working a trade.  I’m assuming that whatever job he had, it would relate in some way to how he looked.

If he had been a woman, I probably would have admired the commitment and the end result before moving on. But a man doing the same thing! Shock and horror. What a waste of time! He probably would look better if he didn’t try as hard. Cue the brain explosion…

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Should you try to be friends with exes?

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I was just reading an article where someone was trying to be “best friends” with their ex. I’ve always found this concept puzzling. Maybe its a sign that all my relationships end spectacularly badly and I’m terrible at it, but I’ve never had even the slightest inclination to hang out after we’d broken up. It’s not like they’re a bad bunch – most of them were and I’m sure still are great guys, although like most people, there were a couple of embarrassing toads that I try to pretend never happened and will deny strenuously if asked. So why no ongoing friendship with the normal ones? I think I just had no interest whatsoever in pretending that I was okay with the demise of the relationship and hear about the other women they were now dating. I also discovered early on that if I spent any significant time with an ex, I’d blow the gasket in the memory part of my brain (the one that recalls why we broke up) and think it was a good idea to microwave the relationship. In that way, relationships are a lot like lasagne – it’s still okay after the first reheat but after you’ve zapped it three times, it becomes hard and rubbery and completely inedible.

Once you have kids though, you have to try because you’ll be having to interact on a regular basis for years and years. There a quite a few divorces happening at the moment and some are doing better on this front than others. The ones where they only speak through their lawyers makes you want to cry for both them and their kids. Because it doesn’t necessarily get better with time. I went to a wedding a few years ago where the parents, who had only been married for five years in total and broke up when their child was three, still could not be in the same room with each other thirty odd years later. They had literally be fighting six times longer than they had been married. It’s easy from the outside to say that you’d be one of those people who put aside their anger and sense of betrayal and do everything they can to make it easier on the kids, but given my history of inability to be friends with exes, it doesn’t look good.

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Still, I have never stooped to revenge (not yet anyway. I’m leaving my options open though. Never say never and all that). Growing up with brothers and all their friends, I saw the results from the male perspective, which made me realise that it really didn’t change anything. No matter what the girls said or did, there was never an “oh my God! I made a huge mistake! I thought I wanted to break up but I just realised now after your brilliantly executed revenge plan how amazing you are and that I love you and want to be with you forever!” moment. I don’t know one instance outside a romance novel where this has happened (correct me if I’m wrong and you have witnessed this). Generally people know if they don’t want to be with someone and you should be worried if they suddenly do a 180 because there’s something you don’t know. I’d recommend checking your Lotto ticket and the health of your elderly relatives before taking them back. While revenge serves little purpose for the couple involved, it is greatly entertaining for those in their social sphere. My favourite revenge stunt though was the one who barged into the guy’s apartment brandishing a 2 litre bottle of milk. She headed straight for his bedroom and poured the whole thing into his mattress. It wasn’t long before it started to stink. What she hadn’t factored in was that he was a guy in his early twenties and didn’t really care and slept on it anyway. He waited out the sink, because it does eventually go away, and wore a lot of aftershave.

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Another called the council and reported that his car (a trusty and still working bright orange seventies Volvo) was abandoned. So he woke up one morning about to head to uni and found that they’d towed it away. The cost of retrieval was more than the value of the car, so it was never reclaimed. There were quite a few in the strings of girlfriends who slept with their ex’s best friend, which is a sure fire way to ensure that you never get back together, rather than make them jealous. On the flip side though, was the guy who was devastated when his girlfriend, who he thought everything was going incredibly well with, broke up with him because he made her too happy and she’d gained 5kgs.

So maybe there is something to trying to be friends with exes. If we all had that skill, practiced when we were younger and had nothing to lose but our pride, then it might make things a lot easier if later on we got divorced, when the stakes become a lot higher and children are involved. Clearly this wouldn’t work in every case, but it might be something that is worth more thought if our kids ever come to us asking advice. I don’t think it’s likely either, but one day they might be desperate enough and I’ll be ready to go!

Death by Caffeine

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I’ve been silent the last few weeks, which given I have a book I’m about to start shopping around, meant something was seriously wrong. It’s a well-known fact that the bigger your profile, the more likely you are to get a publishing deal, even if you’re a crap writer. I believe it was Elle McPherson who uttered the astounding comment that ” I haven’t read anything I haven’t written”. The Kardashians have also had at least one book published that I know of, despite their lack of literary cred.

Much as I love amusing with my musings, it was put in the too hard basket three weeks ago. I did almost finish a blog, but then somehow hit this small innocuous label-less circle on the toolbar on the side and deleted the hours of work I’d just done. My computer laughed at my attempts to control z and giggled when I tried to restore previous versions, the only options being the first rough draft from two days earlier. Rather than see if my expensive laptop could fly, I walked away.

Then sickness descended on our house like the plague. First one child then the next fell with a brilliantly timed week long incubation period which handily skipped the weekend so that I had sick children home during the week two weeks in a row. When I succumbed the following week with the same symptoms, I naturally assumed it was ebola. I know I haven’t travelled overseas since 2012 and Canada, like Australia, doesn’t actually have any outbreaks, but I maintain that the temperature, chills and overall feeling of death more closely resembled that than a common cold.

This may not be the first time that I’ve slightly over-reacted to a health issue. There was the time when the kids were very little and my husband was away and around midday I came down with a cracking headache. When none of the over the counter pain pills worked, I reach the inevitable conclusion that it was a brain aneurism. Workshopping various scenarios of how my immanent death would affect the kids (I concluded that they were small enough that they wouldn’t remember so it wouldn’t be too traumatising), I belatedly realised that I had forgotten to have my morning coffee. Thoroughly embarrassed by my dire imaginings, I had finally worked out that it was actually a caffeine headache.

On a similar note, there was also the time when I was lying in bed, heart racing, unable to sleep, feeling my pulse pound in my neck like a timpani drum. Certain it was a heart attack, I dithered on what to do. My husband was again away and I didn’t know what to do with the kids. My life was flashing before my eyes, which turned out to be a good thing when I realised my current predicament was probably because I’d had three coffees and a diet coke that day.

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Though hypochondria is funny in hindsight, at the time it’s anything but fun. I like to think that on an evolutionary level, it’s probably a good thing to worry about your health. If you think every lump is cancer, you’re more likely to get it checked out and you might actually be right. One thing I’ve noticed about my particular type of hypochondria is that it is selective in its appearance. It usually only visits when I’m sole parenting. When my husband is at home, he out-hypochondriacs me by miles so it doesn’t get much of a look-in. The man has had more full body scans than anyone else I know. I might stop there before I relate any stories that might get me into trouble, but trust me there are some doozies.

Anyway, we’re all back to health now and I’ve learnt to make sure I have two coffees a day, no more, no less which does tend to limit the number of brushes with death that occur. I do feel more alive and grateful, knowing that I’m going to live after one of them, but its best that I don’t encourage too many of those types of thoughts. Responsible caffeine consumption is a way of life for me now.

 

Blogging my way into difficulties

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After last week’s surprisingly controversial blog, I learnt a key lesson (that’s corporate-speak for stuffing something up). While I am essentially writing about myself, people around me do of course make appearances and some of them might not be happy about it. As a side note, a quick hello to all the Christian groups now following me. I’m sorry to say I don’t generally talk about religion and you may not be interested in the generally fairly mundane musings of a Sydney writer, but welcome!

But back to topic, I got in trouble and much frostiness has ensued with a couple of people this week. I’m not sure if mentioning this will cause problems too, but now I’ll stop the cycle. I’m not an island and it’s very hard to think of topics to write about that don’t contain some interaction with other people. Trying to find something else to talk about this week led me to saying yes to a couple of things I wouldn’t normally agree to in the hopes that it might provide material that won’t start a cold war (we’re very Anglo, so not a word is said directly and we repress like nobody’s business). As a result, this week I have exceptionally long eyelashes and resemble a llama. I have thick hair, which in a trickle down effect leaves me with naturally large eyebrows and eyelashes. Eyebrows – bad. Eyelashes – good. So I’ve never really considered eyelash extensions. At all, not even for a moment. But a free voucher was waved in front of me and I was searching for lack of meaning.

I feel ridiculous and am hyper-aware of them, not just because I can actually see them but also thinking that people are looking at my eyelashes and wondering what the hell happened. And they are here to stay for the next few weeks. I’d love to say that this was the first time I’ve stuffed up a beauty thing, but I’d be lying. Colouring my own hair when I was at uni saved a lot of money, but occasionally I’d get bored and try something new. So there was this one time when I found out why they put the helpline number on the side of the box of colour. No one means to turn their hair khaki. My flatmate literally laughed so hard he couldn’t get up from the floor.

Then there was the time I had a bikini wax from a Frenchwoman. Any one who has experienced this will know what I’m talking about. The rest of you can just wonder and be grateful.

The time I lost a Shellac nail into a cake I was taking to a dinner party. The nails were dark coloured and the cake was chocolate. Needless to say, I peeled the rest off and the surface of my nails along with them. It was too late but hopefully whoever got it thought it was a nut.

I could go on with all the times the beauty industry has done me wrong, making me believe that some new fad can make me the flawlessly groomed beauty that I never seem to have the time or energy to be. But overall, struggle is a good thing – trying and failing is interesting. Being perfect is boring so having characters who make mistakes is essential, but isn’t that easy to do. There is such a strong urge to smooth the edges and polish them up, in a way that is impossible to do with your actual life. You want to make them able to do the things that you never could and vicariously live through them. In the worlds you create, you have complete control so why not try to make it everything you wish your life could be? This is the worst possible thing you can do. What I try to always keep in mind is that even superheroes need flaws and weaknesses, the trick is in giving them the right ones.

Secrets Volume 2

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I’m really liking the Mary Lambert song “Secrets” at the moment, the chorus being “I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are”. Such an incredibly brave stance to take, given the things she’s talking about revealing, and has revealed about her personal life aren’t of the “I like to fart in the bath and pretend its a spa” variety. Secrets like diamonds, can be graded from the hardly any bad bits to bright sunlight and a strong breath and the whole thing fractures into dust. Internally flawless secrets are hiding lollies from the kids and sneaking them in the pantry while they’re not looking.  Heavily included secrets are more along the lines of “I murdered someone and stashed the body in the basement”. Not many people would have a problem giving up the first one, but anyone committing the second would tend to keep it to themselves.

But like diamonds, the grade of secret is only part of it. Another big part of what makes a diamond is the size. Similarly, I think part of what leads to secrets being confessable or not lies in the level of fault that can be attributed to yourself. People are much more willing to confess to big secrets as long as it’s not their fault. The more you move towards things that you are directly responsible for, together with the grade of the secret, leads to you being less willingness to be open about it. This is because people are judgemental. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, after all if we didn’t use our judgement we’d be still living in caves ruled over by the thugs with the biggest clubs. Judging things, weighing up the merits of our actions and others, teaches us how we want to live. What we actually want to stop is incorrect judgements about things and people. Being judgemental is natural and fine, what we do about it is more important. Not agreeing with abortion and making the decision that you wouldn’t have one yourself is using your opinion to form a framework for how you live your life. Applying that exact same framework to everyone else, regardless of circumstances, is where the flaw lies.

Gen X-ers like myself tend to think that the next generation are all about exposing themselves. If they’re not sexting, they are posting videos on youtube or endless pictures on social media. I think this is probably a little unfair, given the amount of newly single post-forties people I know on Tinder (no I haven’t looked, given the rumour that most of the pictures are not of their faces. Some things you can’t un-see). Similarly, my facebook feed is constantly filled with pictures of whoever is currently on holiday. I literally have seen every meal they’ve eaten. As a side note, I don’t get this trend. Anyone can order a meal from a restaurant. No effort or skill has gone into it. If you haven’t put the time and effort into making it yourself, I don’t care.

Letting the world know what you’re secrets are is fine and potentially liberating, but I can’t really see myself as someone who would let it all hang out. I’m far more likely to hide the big things away or let them be enacted by a character in one of my books. This is a confession of sorts, but nothing I have to own up to. Cowardly, possibly, but all writers need material and if you give away too much of it in public, there’s less left inside you to put on paper. I find when I’m deep into writing something difficult, it’s hard to stop from bringing it over into my personal life and vice versa. Writing about a married couple fighting in Saint Kate led to several tense moments with my husband but it also meant that what I wrote seemed to many people to be very real, because in a sense it was. So unlike the very brave Ms Lambert, I do care if the world knows what my secrets are, if only so I still have something to write about.

 

 

Chasing the past

 

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I’m a bit late with this week’s entry, but my excuse is good. It’s school holidays and we had visitors so instead of writing, I seemed to either be making food or cleaning up. Making food is my forte, cleaning up is not. Especially as our food obsessed cat lowered his whiskers and hoovered up any remains left by children on the floor and then promptly vomited everywhere, adding to the cleaning.

The last time our guests were here, we had an amazingly fun night out (see my earlier entry “Dancing”). Last night we tried to do the same. Now we all know it never works, but yet try anyway. We had most of the same people and a few extras, the same cocktails and pizza, but the magic just wasn’t there. Instead of one of the best nights out I’ve ever had, despite the debilitating knee injury, and stories that will remain untold on pain of death, there were stifled yawns and a few snarky comments from my overtired husband who’d been out to lunch all day, the poor man. Instead of dancing on into the wee hours, we were home by 11.

Fun nights out require spontaneity and a willingness to remove “no” from your vocabulary. More food? More drinks? Nightclub? Dwarves? Yes to all! They’re also one of the few things that practise does not make you better, only worse, as cynicism has no power and familiarity is a dampener. It’s like when you had a great holiday when you are younger and you go back years later and its just not the same. You’ve changed, so has the country and the people you met there have moved on. It would be better to never go back or try to recreate, as all it does is layer over the good memories with less stellar ones. But yet, the desire to go back and try to do it all again is almost irresistible. Just ask all those creepy old men in bars still trying to pick up the 18 year olds or the 45 year olds off their trollies at music festivals. They might be at the extreme end of things, but everyone does it to a certain extent. If I got a call saying everyone was back in town and we’re going out again tonight, I’d be readying my outfit in a trice, despite knowing that the chances of it being another amazing night weren’t great. Really we’re just Pavlov’s dogs slathering at the ringing bell of pleasure.

Losing the plot

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When books are reduced to their most basic “A” leads to “B” leads to “C”, there are only a few unique plotlines. Buyers in the romance sector are mostly women in the first world, so there are even fewer applicable plotlines and you’re pitching to a relatively tolerant society. Now you can’t just have people meeting and getting on famously like they do in real life, because that’s a very short and boring book. Accordingly, you need to cause conflict. The question is, what? There needs to be an inherent or created incompatibility between the main characters to create tension. Their drives or desires need to be at odds, but at the same time surmountable, because there needs to be a happily ever after at the end.

So what could possibly hold two people apart in a reality based contemporary romance novel, without being too manufactured or done to death? No longer can you just use the Romeo & Juliet excuse of “the families don’t like each other” because that’s not how it works for most people in modern societies. Many people couldn’t pick their cousins out of a line up, let alone generate a deep enough family loyalty that goes beyond their immediate relatives to prevent them from doing anything. Certainly not enough to stop them getting their freak on at the club on a Saturday night.

I had a conversation about this with the always delightful Jennifer Lane, who has a book coming out where the protagonists are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Politics used to be one of those things that you could never talk about in polite company in case you started an argument, but that no longer seems to hold. Politicians don’t have the glamour that they used to have back in the 50’s and 60’s, when they seemed to have almost rock star status. The media’s attitude to them and intrusion into all facets of their lives has taken away any mystery. We know they are all just people with regular people problems and their job seems to have a whole lot of drudgery attached, which is all very unromantic. And maybe it’s just me not really caring too much about politics, but to be honest I don’t really mind what my partner’s political beliefs are as long as I never have to attend another political fundraiser (dear God, those things are as relentlessly boring as a primary school talent show and the wine is usually crap).

Religion? This one’s a tougher cookie and most romance writers won’t touch it with a hundred foot stylus. With this one there is too much conflict and the real potential to offend. When your main aim is entertainment, the last thing you want to deal with is death threats.

Race? Society is generally too tolerant for that to be a significant enough issue to keep people apart. What would once have been scandalous is now commonplace and not even remarked upon. Creating conflict around this would be hard without sounding like a bigot.

Status? Done to death. Cinderella and all those Billionaire books (seriously? Has anyone checked out the photos of actual billionaires before they write these? There are only 23 of them in the world under 30 and they look like Mark Zuckerberg not Robert Pattinson).

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So where am I going with this? Nowhere to be precise. I struggle to create realistic conflict without alienating readers (my second book about an unfaithful wife received very mixed reactions) so I have no answers. The market wants what it wants, which is good looking billionaire alpha males (who don’t seem to work much) seducing impoverished virgins. Given the restrictions on what you can write (check out the list of rules on a lot of the publishers’ websites if you don’t believe me) it’s no wonder many novels sound the same and the market is saturated. Novels like Fifty Shades are great because the conflict was new even though the characters themselves were clichéd. Although those novels were heavily criticised, the fact that they broke out of the Romance novel box should be acknowledged.

I’ve nearly finished my third book, which like my first is paranormal. I’m often asked why I write books with supernatural elements, and this is the reason. Aliens, vampires and dystopian stories appeal to a lot of writers as new conflicts can be created because the rules of reality don’t apply. When you spend around a year writing about something, you need to make it interesting and internally coherent for yourself or the delete button starts singing its seductive siren song.

 

Looking Crap

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Why is it, when you are looking crap, that you always run into someone you don’t know very well? Strangers don’t care and if you saw someone you are friends with, you could explain, have a bit of a laugh, and then move on, secure in the knowledge that they knew this wasn’t how you normally looked. But it’s never the last group of people, it’s always the first, which comprise (in order of descending levels of horror): The last person who dumped you, your old boss or former colleagues, any previous exes, your exes’ friends and people from school you never wanted to see again.

I’ve just been away skiing for a week and last night was looking definitely worse for wear. I’d been out in the sun and wind and drunk too much wine in a superheated lodge so resembled one of those dehydrated chips you find periodically under the couch cushions. Two days of driving failed to add any to my level of moisture. I’d also forgotten to take my tweezers so after nine days, my militant and well organised eyebrows were staging a successful coup to take over my face. To compound the problem, we’d stayed at a friend’s working sheep farm on the way home. As they are on tank water, we were all conscious about water conservation so didn’t shower which might possibly have led me to forgetting to brush my hair too. We then went out into the paddocks on the back of a ute and “helped” (I use that in the loosest sense) with the lambing. A smoky bonfire lunch of charcoaled sausages later and the overall package of utter degeneration was complete, from my muddy boots to my birds’ nest hair.

Stopping for takeaway sushi on the way home seemed a great idea at the time. Our local Japanese is quite nice and knowing the menu, I could order from the car and we could just grab it on the way home. Unfortunately, the snatch-and-go didn’t go quite to plan. The food wasn’t quite ready, so I had to wait, antsy as all hell, given my current state and wishing I had been driving the final leg so spared the indignity of appearing in public at all. And of course, while standing there trapped, the door opens and in walks a well-dressed couple. Thinking they looked familiar, I glanced at them for slightly too long and was then forced to acknowledge the presence of my former boss. He gave me a solid once up and down followed by a condescending smile. Given our working relationship had ended on not a great note, the judgement was mortifying. Clearly, I had “let myself go” after having children, spectacularly so. Saying something in these situations can only make it worse, so I tried the next option of just brazening it out and pretending everything was fine and I was aiming to look homeless – its the latest hipster look!

As I spent a bit of time today doing some grooming, I assured myself that I didn’t care and that no one probably even remembers who I am, should chat at the water cooler happen to come around to former workers they’d recently bumped into. Unlike school, at least there are no reunions for former workplaces. Not that I care that he saw me like that. No, really I don’t. Promise. I’m just going to wear a paper bag with eye holes cut out from now on, unless I’m coming straight from the hairdressers.