A Medium-Paced Life

When I hit the road, I wanted a slower life. I’d been working pretty much every hour of every day, either teaching or writing. For the last ten years, I took only four or five days off a year, and that’s with a seven-day workweek, not a five-day workweek.

Also, I wanted to have one job.

I never meant for writing to be a job. It just sprung up into my life, and pretty soon it filled every second I wasn’t teaching.

Eight years after I wrote my first story, I hit the road, writing full-time.

Wow. It was something. One job. Working one job has to be the COOLEST. But last month, my time got filled with fun campground stuff, because they have a ton of activities. 99% of the campground residents are retirees, so there’s lots of Texas Hold ‘Em to play (I’m pretty good at it), lots of potlucks, dinners, breakfasts, parties, etc.

I really love it. A lot. I love the people, all of them.

But last week, I realized my life had slowed down too much. I realized I was only working full-time hours on three or four days a week. I got totally derailed when Glenn came back, with all the running to doctors and nurses and such, at the same time when the campground calendar filled with more and more activities.

Oddly, I’ve been thinking back to when I was younger, and how ambitious I was. True, I have goals now, but they are more related to lifestyle than to achievement. Sometimes I worry they are too process-oriented, rather than achievement-oriented.

I know the first is considered more “healthy,” but I think a little of the second is good for us, too.

Do you find that drive and ambition changes in one’s late thirties? Or is it just me? Can that old drive be reactivated, or is it best left in our memory? If yes, then how?

Awesome song for inspiration:

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags:

Boundaries and Writing

I made the mistake, the one that every freelancer warns about. It’s so hard, isn’t it? You think you have a flexible schedule, and you find yourself giving away an hour here, an hour there. What’s a half-day here? A little time there?

And suddenly, writing full-time has become writing three or four days a week.


Long story short, I sat down with my schedule tonight. I need to undo some commitments, particularly the non-paying kind. Not my volunteering day. That’s a sacred day. The other sacred day is Glenn day. He didn’t hit the road so he can watch me write; we need to go out and see stuff, once a week. And taking one day off every week won’t kill me.


So that leaves five days, and I truly need five full days of writing, with no errands, hour-here or hour-there stuff in the middle of the day.

Um, duh, it’s a full-time job.

I know lots of moms run around in between writing snatches. Some thrive while writing amidst chaos. Others, like Nora Roberts, shut their office door, and there better be blood or fire if her kids interrupt her. (Or did: they’re grown now.)

The bit about Nora does give me some relief. In the middle of stressing about this, I did have a moment of panic: if I let life get to my writing with NO kids, how am I going to do it WITH kids?

Still just a little panicky about that, but MILLIONS of moms work full-time jobs while raising kids. And I wouldn’t mind the door being open. What really kills my productivity is running to the store, doing errands, or doing an hour class here or whatnot.

Lastly, all the studies show that for optimum creativity, you need to have the butt in chair at a regular time, so the biorhythms or some such thing know when to show up. And this isn’t exactly a business where you can thrive with sub-optimum creativity.


I’ve been stressing about this for days. Sometimes, you just have to say, “I can’t do that, I’m sorry.”

So what about you? How do you enforce boundaries around your writing? Do you aim for a regular time? Or do you work best with a day-to-day, flexible schedule that changes? And do you stress out about saying no? How do you say no?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags:

Amateur is NOT a dirty word.

This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. I’ve blogged about it at least four times. In fact, I’ll start my rant with a quote of my post, Celebrating Words & Passing It On:

Amateurs are the best gift an art has. They are the biggest supporters, the most enthusiastic in the world of their art. They buy the most, they thank the artist, they encourage the artist.

They make the community. They are the foot soldiers. We would be NOWHERE without amateurs.

Back in the day, amateur was a noble word. Professionals were not regarded quite as nobly, because they took money for their art, while amateurs pursued their passions out of love. Remember when the Olympics were strictly amateur-only?

Remember how strict the Olympics used to be about an athlete accepting any money? The Olympics used to glorify amateurs, because being an amateur IS a noble thing to be glorified!

What has happened to the word, “amateur?”

The third definition is: a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity.

I find that sad. It didn’t used to be that way.

I know and embrace that words evolve, but until we get another word that honors and respects the amateur as a noble thing again, let’s not lose the best of this word—or group.

image Amateurs are the best of the best, the backbone and foundation of any art. They are the most enthusiastic, the best word-of-mouth-ers, and the greatest consumers.

Derogatory remarks about amateurs is biting the hand that feeds you. I mean, it’s like someone offers you CHOCOLATE for FREE, and you not only turn it down, but insult the gift-giver!

It’s also a back-handed put-down. We don’t need to boost ourselves up by proclaiming that X is the difference between amateurs and professionals, and thus prove that we are better than “them.”

Why is it that humans are always trying to find a “them” they are “better than,” as if that proves they are “in the right?”

Can we please evolve a little? Yes, I’ve been guilty of this, too. *hangs head in shame*

The next time we use the word “amateur,” let’s please consider whether we’re respecting someone or dissing someone.

What think you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz | Tags:

Prayers, Goddesses, & Patron Saints for Writers

I’m not convinced Pope Pius XI understood a writer’s business when he named St. Francis de Sales as the patron saint of writers.

St. Francis de Sales wrote some books, it’s true, but most novenas and prayers and intercessions concerning him involve greater faith, more constant faith, etc. This is one of his novenas:

O Blessed Francis de Sales, who in your mortal life did excel in all virtues, especially in love of God and of neighbor, I earnestly entreat you to take me under your immediate protection, to obtain from God my perfect conversion, and that of all sinners, especially of (the names of persons for whom you wish to pray should be mentioned here). Amen.

image As I was shopping for my St. Jude candle, I came across a candle for St. Martin Caballero. St. Martin Caballero (aka St. Martin of Tours) is the patron saint of soldiers and France, but he also has a history of helping businesses and giving good luck. Consider his novena:

In the name of the most powerful God, Oh! Saint Martin. Remove the bad luck from my house. Give me good luck, work, and money. Oh Lord, tell your servant St. Martin, tireless and eager shepherd of souls, to raise his voice in this abyss where I find myself and protect me from all affliction and evil. I consecrate this day in memory of the pristine virtues of your holy priesthood (state your petition). Amen.

Is that not more appropriate to the writing business? Good luck? Work? Money?

I think so.

Do you have any lucky writing mugs? Good luck charms? Candles? Rabbit’s feet specifically for writing? Patron saints for your writing intercessions? Gods or Goddesses you pray to for help in your writing or your writing career?

I’m going to amend this post with some GREAT contributions by you guys.

Heather Dearly added A Student’s Prayer to St. Thomas Aquinas (note paragraphs 3-5):

Creator of all things
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being;
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which I have been born—
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
the ability to grasp things
correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent
of being exact in my explanations
and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.

image Bernita suggested “Ganesha, the elephant god, patron of arts, destroyer of obstacles, lord of success.”

Ottavina added: I think contemplative monk and writer Thomas Merton should be one of the go-to guys for writing. He’s not a saint, but he wrote this prayer that seems to fit the uncertainty of where one’s writing or one’s life may be going:

“MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.Nor do I re ally know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

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Must Not Be Missed

A bunch of writers riffed off of Elmore Leonard’s ten rules, including Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Ian Rankin, Philip Pullman, Zadie Smith, and many more. Great reading.

Well, I’ve only read a bit of it, but I’m keeping it open today and reading a little at a time.

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction Part 1
     Ten Rules for Writing Fiction Part 2

And finally, Seth Godin talks about the Lizard Brain, which tends to keep us creative folk from getting things done when and how we want them done. And other things about creative work.

Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain from 99% on Vimeo.

If you had to come up with ten (or one, or three, or whatever) rules for the writing life or craft, what would yours be?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Biz,Writing Craft | Tags:

The Joys of Realism

image I’m not a big fan of stories that put me in a bad mood. Call me a genre snob or a happy-ending snob, if you like, but seriously: real life offers me plenty of realism and unhappy endings. Does fiction think it’s going to teach me anything new in this department?

Okay, it’s true. There have been a few unhappy endings that I liked. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Loved it. And Swoon, by Nina Mulkin.

But let’s talk best-picture-hopeful Crazy Heart.

It’s true that the setup was less realism and more fiction: a beautiful young lady wanted to be kissed by a drunken, slobbering, greasy old man covered in sweat, with traces of vomit still on his shirt.

Ewww. It was just gross to watch. I wanted to shove him in a shower, and I wasn’t even convinced that would help. (The picture below makes him look a lot cleaner than he did in the film. Trust me. He was repulsive. I kept hoping he’d wash his hair at some point in the film.)

But she instantly falls in love with him. After that, the movie is predictable. He gets drunker. And drunker. And then drunker.

For two freakin’ hours he gets drunker.

Then, as we all knew he would, he loses her kid. Finally! She dumps him. He goes to rehab. He gets better. She doesn’t want him back. He rides off into the sunset alone.


Oh, yeah. He gets a good check for one of his songs. He graduates from a dilapidated old truck. Are we supposed to think money is a happy ending? Um, no. Not when you’re all alone and no one loves you in the whole world.

There was one bit of realism I liked: his adult son, who Bad didn’t talk to after he was four years old, is not interested in getting to know his father.

That is realistic and refreshing, since I’ve never seen that in fiction without the obligatory make-up and happy-ever-after in the father-son relationship. Um, no.

Yeah, great acting.

Joy, joy, joy.

I give it two thumbs down. I was in a perfectly happy mood going in, and by the one hour point I was looking at my watch every two minutes. By the time we left, I actually cried because it was such a depressing movie. And not a good sort of Greek-tragedy-cathartic cry, but an I’m-depressed-and-I-want-to-talk-to-my-best-friend cry.

So what movies have you seen lately? How’d you like them? And how do you feel about realism? And unhappy endings?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Movies | Tags: ,

How Forgetful Am I?

I was tagged by Robin in a writing meme ages ago, but her answers were so hilarious, I got stuck. So you can click on over to her blog, and skip mine today. :-)

*now imagine a month has passed, in which I answered half the questions and left this post in my drafts folder*

Oh wait, I went back to my archives to link to an answer, and found I’d already done this meme before.

*now imagine me deleting 1,000 words (I tell you, it’s a curse!)*

My new answers were basically the same. Except I composed a haiku. This was a month ago, and I’m not sure why this seemed a good idea at the time. I’m with Virginia Woolf, in that I think poets magical and mystical creatures possessed by mysteriously bestowed talent, and thus don’t dare attempt writing poetry on my own. Except haiku.

rhythm left to right  
     emotions black, setting white  
     soundless melody

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I’m pretty sure I’m mixing my metaphors. Or something. I’m pretty sure there’s some rule that states that if you’re not a poet, you get to leave your darlings intact.

Thursday is Border’s day, and I’m letting myself play with my YA WIP all day long. I can’t wait. It’s still simmering, but it’s getting closer to the boiling point. I think I’ll be able to write some words that I won’t have to delete. Yay!

And finally, Bernita and Writtenwyrdd awarded me the Prolific Blogger Award. This first made me feel proud—then guilty because I’ve been a delete freak lately—and also pleased—then unworthy as my blogging has been suffering from the affliction that we will not name.

I think there are a few of you who don’t frequent the blogs below, and I thought you might enjoy them. I figured you all visit the ones I left out, but who very much deserve many awards and much applause. Here are my seven nominations:

  1. Bernita Harris: I know she gave this award to me, but she rocks. Her posts are brief and beautiful, with the most lovely, evocative prose. And I’ve been inspired to write whole stories from the artwork she posts.
  2. Alexis Grant: A journalist-turned-memoirist who is charming and interesting and helpful.
  3. Erica Orloff: Y’all know Erica, right? If not, run to her blog. Right now.
  4. Charles Gramlich: Posts made of awesome.
  5. Shrink Rap: Posts made of hilarious.
  6. Dean Wesley Smith: Posts made of smart. heck out his Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series. Your career will thank you for it.
  7. Paul Greci: Made of Alaska cool. He has a treadmill desk. I am jealous.

—Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to shall, if they choose to participate, pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!
      —Each Prolific Blogger must link to from which he/she has received the award.
      —Every Prolific Blogger must link back to
This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
      —Every Prolific Blogger must visit
this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners.

Clearly, I need to fix the css on my lists. I’ll put it on my… list. *blushes*

And finally, am I the last writer on earth who learned that if you hold down the Control key when you hit Backspace, it deletes a whole word at a time?

Way cool.

How’s your writing going? Whatcha working on?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People | Tags:

Really, I Love It.

Have I been whining lately? I feel like I should make a point of saying how much I love writing. Even when the words are coming out slow as molasses, when I’m spending all day tilting the bottle just so, when my arms are aching, waiting for the slow, slow, slow descent of the stubborn syrup, I love it.

I’m grateful that right now, knock on wood, I don’t have any looming deadlines. I can plug away, day by day, making progress, no pressure. It’s really nice. Such a relief.

This period should last for at least the next… two or three weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m (as always) struggling with the research. I’m always impatient to get the words on the page, and “just researching” makes me nervous. But onward I trudge.

If I’d just focus on the research and allow the book to come to full boil before trying to write it, I wouldn’t have to delete so much.

Same goes with reading. I want to read a book a day. I need to have a bigger understanding of the YA genre, so I need to read a ton more books. But again, “just reading” makes me nervous. Even though the work is fun, for sure! I think that’s why I feel guilty.

So thank you, universe. I like this time I have. Even if it does make me nervous. I constantly feel the pressure to write faster, to produce more, because I don’t want this opportunity to pass me by.

Do you struggle with patience? With nervousness when you have time to take your time? With guilt over reading, even though it’s part of the job? And how are deadlines treating you, at the moment?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: , , ,

Hilarious Brilliance

I can’t stop watching this spoof of Dodge’s Superbowl commercial. (Via Tobias Buckell: his rant on the commercial is hilarious!)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

Delete Freak

This is what I’ve been, lately. Delete, delete, delete. It’s like my obsession with clutter: I can’t fix until I get rid of all the junk around. I get unhappy with my tone or mood and throw the whole thing out. No, I can’t revise or edit it. I have to erase it from existence.

Since December 2009, I believe I have deleted at least 60,000 words. Not even counting the five blog posts I delete for every one I post. How DID I used to write a post every day?

This has got to stop. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, because I’ve NEVER done this before.

As for good news, the Year of the Ox is over. The Year of the Metal Tiger is here, which is a finish-everything-you-start kind of year. I’m told.

Cool. I can use some of that energy.

(I do know I’m grasping at straws.)

(But whatever works.)

image I fired up  Write or Die yesterday. Have I talked about Write or Die yet? Why yes, I have. It triples my productivity, but I seem to keep forgetting that fact and not using it. It’s free to use online, but I bought the desktop version ($10), which is prettier and has a few more features. (Customizable font color, background color, save feature that appends to a file, word war, and other stuff.)

It turns writing into a game. You enter a word count or time goal, and you have to keep writing. If you stop writing for more than ten or twenty seconds, it either plays an awful screeching violin sound (Normal Mode), or it starts deleting your words (Kamikaze Mode). It’s fun, and I write fast again. And I actually keep my words, fancy that!

You can give Write or Die a quick whirl online, see if it does it for you or not.

The desktop version also has a “Word War” feature that’s in beta, where you hook up with someone else, and a progress bar at the top of your screen tracks you and your war partner, to see who writes the most words in a certain amount of time. (Doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, though…)

It all sounds silly, I know. But whatever gets the words out. It makes writing feel a bit like a video game. And the quicker I write, the better.

It’s odd, but the faster I write, the better I write. What’s up with that?

Do you have any tricks to get the words out when the words are coming too slow? Ever been on a deleting rampage? Ever play with Write or Die?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Full-Time Writing | Tags: ,

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