Tuesday, 24 March 2015

36. Bittersweet

As this month’s newspaper column suggests, I’m trying to decrease the amount of sugar I consume. I know I’ll be better off, but giving up the sweet stuff isn’t easy. It could however, help me ‘suffer for my art’ and produce some very interesting writing. (I’m trying to stay positive here, folks, and I need all the help I can get.)

This close to Easter and its chocolatey connections, I doubt this will be a popular column.

I confess I’m a sugar addict. I love the sweet stuff. Unfortunately, I passed that addiction on to one of my kids. My food choices made that possible and now, in the interest of long-term health, I have to change that for both of us. And it will be baby steps because I’m not tough enough to quit outright.

The scary thing is I thought I was buying healthy – fruit juice, child-friendly cereals, milk drinks, muesli bars and yoghurts – all recommended as ideal for growing kids and acceptable lunchbox treats and yet they are amongst the biggest culprits when it comes to containing high amounts of sugar.

To combat this, the shopping list now consists of better choices and I’m attempting to bake healthier (with varying results) too. We also decided that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t bring quite so many chocolate eggs this year and would add some books or a new movie to the Easter basket instead.

Mr Bunny and I are going to be so popular this Easter. :/

Continuing with the sugar theme - perhaps you’ve heard of a film currently showing in Australia called ‘The Sugar Film’. Actor, director and filmmaker, Damon Gameau, is sharing his personal experiences regarding sugar and its effects on the human body.

I purchased Mr Gameau’s book ‘That Sugar Book’ as the film isn’t showing where I live. Every day for a sixty-day period, Mr Gameau consumed forty teaspoons of sugar. That’s a total of 2400 teaspoons at 4 grams of sugar per spoonful. He worked with medical and health practitioners and maintained his normal exercise routine during his experiment sharing his thoughts, feelings and the effects the sugar had on his physical and emotional wellbeing. I was amazed. I had no idea sugar could do that.

When the DVD becomes available later in the year, I plan to sit the family down for a special movie night because at least in my children’s case, the visual experience will have more affect than if I say ‘here – read this.’ (Of course, I’d make it sound much more exciting than that.) I imagine the movie will contain a few ‘scary’ pictures, but in the book, the scariest thing I read was how Mr Gameau sourced his forty teaspoons of sugar. It wasn’t from drinking soft drink or eating chocolate, biscuits and lollies because it’s obvious they contain sugar, isn’t it? No, Mr Gameau’s sugar source was things like yoghurts, cereals, (you’d be shocked at how much sugar is in our kids’ breakfast cereal) fruit juice and muesli bars – foods we’ve been encouraged to eat because they are supposedly good for us. No wonder I have a child who’s as addicted to the sweet stuff as I am. And here I was thinking I was doing the right thing.

As I said in my column, I won’t be popular for a while as I adjust the shopping list and rethink the treats and baking duties. Of course, I’m not telling you to change your diet and cut down the sugar. It’s a personal choice. However, if you’re keen to learn more, then Mr Gameau’s book (as with the film) is a perfect place to educate yourself on this matter.

You can find more information here:

I’ve also received word from one of the competitions I entered that I didn’t score highly enough to rate a place this time. I did however receive a perfect score from one of my three judges (the winner earned three perfect scores for their story so it must be amazing.) While I’m disappointed, it’s difficult to feel too sorry for myself considering someone loved my story that much. :) And there’s always next year.

I imagine it’s one of the difficult things about doing anything creative. Whether it’s writing, art, music or anything else that pours from one’s heart and soul, not everyone will love what you’ve done and we have to be prepared for that. I don’t love everything I read either and I don’t like saying that. Sometimes it’s difficult to make the connection and I find that hard because I know how much effort it takes to write a story, to believe in every word you’ve written, the time it takes to do the writing and then find the courage to bare your soul by sending that story out into the world for all to see. One only has to look on Amazon to see how unnecessarily nasty people can be. A personal attack is vastly different from a critique.

It is necessary as a writer, however, to read stories even when you don’t love them. If something doesn’t work for you as a reader, it’s not going to work for you as a writer either. Readers want believable, relatable characters with which they have empathy, understanding and connection. It’s difficult to relate to a character who is perfect, without flaw and is adept at everything they do. Readers know when the writer is lying, hasn’t checked their facts and hasn’t produced a believable story. And I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say my punctuation and grammar isn’t perfect either, but stories need editing before they’re published. There are places in the industry that offer these services. A reader feels cheated when engaging in a story only to be jolted out again by something like ‘I staired at him.’ And yes, I am relating this to something I read recently.

Please know that this is only my opinion because I’m sure this writer has many fans who loved this story, but for me the protagonist was too perfect – looks, actions and the ability to achieve in a few months what other characters in the book had taken years to attain made it hard for me to like this character. Of course, I may be jealous – I’d be happy to be beautiful, smart and accomplished at anything I put my hand to as well. :) This author also had an antagonist who was brilliantly written – believable, well thought out, flawed and I cared what happened to that person more than to whom the story related. Honestly, this story had so much potential I wanted to cry for the writer’s missed opportunities (as I saw them). No doubt, when the time comes, my stories will be facing the same comments and critiques and I will need to be prepared for that. It is also part of the learning process.

On a more positive note, I was lucky enough to beta-read from someone who constantly places in writing competitions. While she’s not published yet, I know it won’t be long before everyone can read her creations. As a reader, I devoured her story. And that was because her characters were believable, flawed, but had strengths that complimented the story and left me wanting more – the competition is tough, I tell you. :)

As you can tell, I’ve done more reading than writing these past few weeks. I have so many stories in my head I wasn’t sure which one to follow so I made reading a priority instead. That will change now that I’m the new secretary of my local writing group. I can barely read my own handwriting at the best of times so it will be interesting to see what misinterpretations I produce when it comes to note taking a meeting – and no, I never did get the hang of shorthand.

Wish me (or perhaps them) luck! :)


  1. I've heard about that sugar film. It sounds horrifying. I'm trying to cut down on sugar, too. It would be easier if the sugar didn't fight back, luring me with its siren song "I'm in chocolate!" ;) Good luck! I enjoy your columns.

    Kudos to you for stepping up to be secretary of your writing group. You're such a lovely, generous writer; I hope success finds you soon!

    1. Considering it shows how sugar affects your body, I'm sure it is horrifying. lol And I agree, sugar does have a siren song - especially in chocolate.

      Thank you for your good wishes, Jenny. :)

  2. Oh goody, I just love when Google decides not to post my original review/comment, LOL. I will try again.

    Really good blog this month, Duchess.

    All really superb ideas for the Easter basket! You might want to consider some gift cards to - iTunes, favorite shop, etc.

    Was reading this morning how cancer cells feed on sugar, so it is better NOT to have a ridiculous amount in your bloodstream/body. Good move all the way around!

    1. Pleased you enjoyed the blog, T. An iTunes card is a great idea. :)

      Ah that's the key thing - not to have a ridiculous amount of sugar in one's body. :)

  3. Hi D.D., thanks for the info on sugar - I hadn't heard of it and will check it out.

    And your comments on books that aren't edited hit the nail on the head. I agree wholeheartedly. I've read numerous stories where the lack of editing has impacted on my reading enjoyability. It's such a shame.

    Better luck for next time on your writing competitions. I know you'll get there.

  4. Hi Rowena, you're welcome re the information. I found it very interesting.

    A few mistakes and I can understand - these things do happen, but it's a real shame when some stories aren't given the attention they deserve.

    Thank you for the good wishes. :)