I’m excited to welcome my good friend, Monique Mulligan, into the attic today. Many of you already know Monique from our Midweek Moments, and you’ve seen her wonderful photography. Today you get to see another side of her as she shares her thoughts on her main passion: writing.
A former newspaper editor, journalist, children’s curriculum writer and magazine editor, Monique has had a varied career in writing. (Not to mention being a Family Day Care mother, a playgroup facilitator, a reception temp, administrative assistant, government administrative officer, marketing and media coordinator … all of which adds up to rich life experiences). In 2011, she set up a freelancing business from home, and created Write Note Reviews, a blog that celebrates her love of reading. In 2012, through her part-time work at Koorliny Arts Centre, she founded the successful Stories on Stage program, which features authors talking or being interviewed in a theatre setting.
Monique now has her sights set on becoming recognised as an author. Her short romance story, The Point of Love, has been published by Serenity Press as part of the Rocky Romance anthology. She is now working on a full-length contemporary novel, as well as another short story. Or two.
A mother of two grown sons and step-mother to two teenagers, Monique is also a keen amateur photographer who loves taking close up shots of flowers, and a passionate but messy cook, who believes the best ingredient in food is love. Her husband agrees.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WRITER
What does it mean to be a writer?
I could answer this question in a myriad of ways. I could be funny, and talk about ridiculous Google searches, writing on napkins when there’s a lack of paper, writing love scenes when the kids are wandering about. I could be practical and use words like discipline and commitment. I could philosophise about the need to witness reality or imagination, or like, Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic, wax lyrical about creative energy needing an outlet.
All of these answers would be ‘right’ or ‘good’ in so far as such answers could be evaluated. At different times, being a writer is all of these things.
But underneath the laughter and the hard work, there’s another aspect of being a writer; all writers understand it, even if they don’t often talk about it.
It means being vulnerable. It means accepting a measure of discomfort. You are revealing a big piece of yourself with others. Putting yourself out there for dissection and analysis. So, when you write, do you hold back or do you let your you flow onto the page?
Being a writer means serving your heart on a plate and hoping readers will be kind, will taste the complex flavours of your dish, and, even better, will want to know your recipe. Being a writer means accepting that what you write will not always be to everyone’s taste, and that there will be flaws.
Being a writer means accepting that self-doubt will be a constant companion, even when it’s silent.
I can’t imagine not writing. It’s always been part of who I am. It’s part of my need to live creatively, a need that comes from deep within, and flows through words, photography, drawing mandalas and more. And I’ve always written, in one way or another.
But here’s the thing. It took me years to be the writer I wanted to be. To write creatively and to share my writing with others.
It took great effort to stop letting self-doubt and perfectionism drown my dreams. Outside I came across as confident, assured and strong; inside, I was holding myself back, scared of showing my most vulnerable self. I was mired in the need for approval and perfectionism and it was sucking me down into the quicksand of lost dreams.
When I finally seized the gift of words and gave creativity full rein, when I finally made space in my life for the doing part of being a writer, I was far from strong. When I finally, tentatively, shared my work with others, I felt as though I were sitting on a bed of nails, unwilling to move in case one pricked my skin. What if they didn’t like it? What if they thought I’d written a piece of rubbish? What if? What if?
I had so much to learn. I still do. I have to stop beating myself out when someone points out a typo; I need to armour myself with resilience to fight off my response to internal (self-doubt) and external (critique and reviews) attacks.
I have to dig deep. I have to forgive myself for not always being disciplined. And I have to stop comparing myself to others and let my voice shine.
What does it mean to be a writer? It means you are always being challenged to step out of your comfort zone.
But instead of thinking about taking that step, think about how great it feels after you’ve taken that step, after you’ve completed that challenge. You’ve put yourself out there, been true to something deep within you, told your story, and you’ve set your vulnerability free.
If you’re a writer—published or unpublished, in any genre—and you’d like to write something for my ‘What it means to be a writer’ series, please drop me a line via the Contact page. I’d love to hear your story—your inspirations and goals, the reasons you write, and the obstacles and battles you face. If you’d prefer a Q&A, I can send some questions.
I’m drawn towards personal writing that digs beyond the superficial, but only write what you are comfortable sharing. Pseudonyms are welcome, too. Most posts are 600-1200 words in length, but that’s not set in stone. I also need a photo, a concise bio, and a link to your website and publications.
If I publish your essay, I’ll send a $20 gift voucher from Booktopia (or Amazon if you’re overseas).