Women Who Write: Monica Dux

By Sandra Todorov Monica Dux wrote her 2008 book The Great Feminist Denial (a collaboration with Zora Simic) with the goal of making feminism relevant to a new generation of women. She told Lip Mag:

‘It’s a myth that feminism somehow sorted out all the problems back in the 1970s. There are so many issues that women face even here in our own backyard – from equal pay, to domestic violence, sexual assault, to being excluded from positions of real power.’

Monica is part of a new breed of writers (Emily Maguire, Clem Bastow, Clementine Ford and Marieke Hardy are other names that spring to mind) who are revitalising debate about women’s issues by emphasizing frank and open discussion. Honesty is the best policy – and the most powerful one. The tone of these writers’ work is confessional - these women speak about their own sexual experiences, their own body image problems, their own relationship issues, their own experiences of online harassment. They do this to illustrate serious points about the broader problems in society.

Monica Dux does not  keep things too abstract. So we are sure to get some real insights into motherhood when she turns her attention to that issue. Her next book, Things I Didn’t Expect (When I Was Expecting) will be out later this year.

On combining writing, activism and motherhood, Monica admits: “I’d like to [call myself] a ‘feminist troublemaker’ but I’m usually too over-tired and busy to muster more than a few grunts and some fist waving at the world’s many injustices”. She took time out from her busy schedule to answer my questions about her writing life.

How many words do you write per day? Do you listen to the radio or music while you do it?

I don’t set myself a daily word target. I don’t need to. I can write a lot in one day, and I mean a lot. I tend to read around my topic, and then when I sit to write, I just let the words spew out of me. Then I’ll go back and revise.

I’ve always envied people who write economically, but I’m the exact opposite. I write everything in a mad fit, and then have to go back and sort it all out.

Over the years I’ve realised that you need to make peace with your method. When I was a postgraduate, I remember being told by academics to approach writing this way or that, and it never worked for me. You have to recognise how you write, and then work as efficiently as possible with that approach, rather than trying to change what comes naturally.

I work from home, and have two kids, so there’s usually plenty of background noise there already, without me adding any.

Describe your workspace.

I have an office at home. It was meant to be our dining room, but I’ve managed to colonise it over the years. The room is full of books, and mess, and files, and old printers. I live in a terrace house on a busy street, and my office faces directly out onto it. Sometimes when I’m writing and people walk past talking loudly I get annoyed and think about asking them to keep it down in my most self-righteous voice. Then I remind myself that they don’t know someone is writing inside, just a few metres away from them.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Being able to express yourself, and put your thoughts out into the world. That can be exhilarating. I’ve always had things I’ve wanted to say and ideas I feel passionate about, and writing gives me that outlet.

What are the worst things about being a writer?

Working alone, self-doubt, neurosis, poor pay. Writing is extremely isolating, which is a good thing at times, but can also eat away at you. I haven’t had a problem with motivation since I had kids, you just get on with it and do as much as you can when you can. But I do sometimes feel like Don Quixote, chasing windmills.

I think self-doubt is very important for a writer. Arrogance and too much self-belief makes for lazy writing. The trick is living with your doubts, but writing anyway. As long as the urge to write is stronger than your neuroses, then you’re set.

How did you get your first book deal?

I quit my day job in publishing when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. The year before I’d started publishing opinion in newspapers, and I had a fortnightly column in The Sunday Age. I wanted to try my hand at full time writing, and I thought being pregnant would be my last chance to give it a good, unencumbered shot.

The experiment seemed to work. After my son was born I had a few conversations with ZoraSimic, about the current state of feminism, and so we pitched a book to Melbourne University Publishing on this issue. They were keen, so we wrote it.

My son was only a few months old when the book was contracted and I was thrilled to have a reason to go back to my writing desk, having this big deadline looming. I felt that it locked me into being a writer, at least until the book was finished.

Sandra Todorov’s writing has appeared in The Seminal, The Lowy Institute ‘Interpreter’, Kill Your Darlings and Miranda Literary Magazine. She runs a consultancy from Melbourne CBD and her first novel will be out in 2013.