The Hardest Thing

What do you find hardest about writing? I’m just curious. People alternately either spout about what an easy job it is, or they over-inflate the angst and struggle.

For me, the hardest thing is keeping my brain in optimum working order. To write, the brain must be able to think. If I’m in that morning wake-up fuzz, it’s easy to focus, but if I’m too sleepy, I just want to fall asleep.

Making sure I can write necessitates that I keep my asthma under control. Lack of oxygen makes me fall asleep, not write. LOL. Which means I have to eat right, avoid dairy, not go to the bookstore too much (but go to the bookstore enough to be inspired and research), and exercise—but not too much.

I have to take one coffee pill, but not two, unless spaced out by five or six hours. I have to keep up on my fish oil, or else my ADD becomes completely unmanageable.

I can push through most physical challenges, but I haven’t yet found a way to push through the thinking challenges. Either my brain’s working or it’s not. If desperate, I can take one of those five-hour energy shot things, but I pay for it later. (Those are great for deadline pushes, though.)

So as I was sitting her being all self-pitying about this darned flu, I was contemplating what I was going to eat tonight so that I could get a lot of words done tomorrow. And then I wondered if other people find this aspect of writing as difficult as I do.

Do you? What is the hardest thing about writing for you? How far do you go in planning your life around writing?

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

Numbers Win (see disclaimer)

Number of blog article drafts I find unworthy of publishing: 61. That’s pretty high. Some are unfinished, most are just blah or self-centered, and there’s at least another thirty on my netbook. I think back to the days when I used to blog every day, and now I wonder how I did it.

I have a 4,000ish-word essay in an anthology coming out in April. I’d read the 15ish book series before, but I read them all again to write it. The first essay I wrote for it fell flat and boring and blah.

After the blah attempt, I read the whole series a third time, taking 112,500 words of notes and quotes. (The Kindle makes it easy.) There are, I kid you not, 26 files of attempts, drafts, or notes on this essay in my Essays folder.image

(When I was little and had to report my practice times to my piano teacher, I gave numbers that were less than what I’d practiced, so she wouldn’t think me untalented.)

Fiction is much easier on me.

But still, I’ve written over twenty-three 35K-76K novels and novellas for Pseudie (I have a habit of losing stuff once completed, so that number could be higher.) and 50-60ish short stories. Three or four series.

I really only like the last series I wrote, but I can never read my work without cringing at something.

I just re-read the series I wrote before that one, and am disappointed to have to demote it from the I-thought-it-was-decently-written category to the I-don’t-know-why-people-like-this-but-I-do-miss-the-characters category. Still, I am relieved to know that I keep making definite, visible progress with each book I write. (Her first books weren’t very good. She progressed. Her story gives me faith.)

I definitely needed the practice, and I’m quite relieved my stuff is out there under a pseudonym.

The point of this embarrassing confession is that if there’s one thing I’ve taken away from having taught music to hundreds and hundreds of students, it’s that talent doesn’t mean much. “Born” talent was always more a predictor of failure than success, and “Talent Education” is not just a Suzuki sales pitch, but a definite, proven, successful process.

Talent can be taught.

image Talent Education is NOT about teaching the already-talented; Suzuki principles are about instilling, creating, and developing talent.

The age you start does make a big difference, but even that can be overcome, as can anything else. I had a student with four fingers on one hand who competed on a state-level. Most of my “talented” students did not come that way; they were made. And no one but another teacher would believe me if you heard them play. Some were even remarkably untalented, in the beginning.

The takeaway is that with enough *smart* practice, talent is indistinguishable from hard work. This article on talent is right.

The inspiration is that on any given day, no matter how much you suck or just feel like you suck, if you practice smart and you go for the numbers, you’ll come out ahead.

What think you? What keeps you going, when the going gets rough? When your faith falters?

* Disclaimer: If you do the same thing in the same way you’ll get the same result.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Uncategorized | Tags:

I Love the Stars.

Our camper has no potty. I’ve grown to love this, even though it involves several nighttime trips. If you weren’t aware, there is a law of the universe that states that if your bathroom is five feet away, you’ll sleep soundly through the night, but if it’s a fifty-yard trek, you will have to go two or three times a night.

image But I love these nighttime treks. I can’t keep my eyes off the stars. I’m fascinated by them. The constellations tell the stories of the Greek myths. Isn’t that the coolest? Sometimes I just imagine laying on my back with my (thus far imaginary) children and telling them all the stories.

And I can see how astrology developed. You stare up at the nighttime sky, and it sometimes feel like they’re twinkling just for you, like they know what’s ahead and they’ve got everything planned out.

When I was living in a house, I hardly ever looked at the stars. Usually I was inside at night. Even when I sought them out, it definitely wasn’t a three-times-a-night occurrence for ten minutes apiece.

image So I feel sad that we’re going to upgrade our camper in the next year. I like having to trek through the open air to get to the potty. Okay, I hate it when I push myself out of bed, put my shoes on, put my jacket on, and step out into the cold.

Then I’m outside and I look up at the huge, cloudless, twinkling Arizona sky, and everything is okay. The future feels full of good things. I believe in magic.

And all the stars seem to reassure me that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.

Have you studied the stars lately? What do they tell you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings,My Adventures | Tags: , , ,

Sitting Sucks; Writing Doesn’t.

It’s not just a writer’s challenge. Plenty of people have desk jobs. But, as Mark Terry once put it, the writing lifestyle can be “wildly sedentary.” (I remember this because I thought those words side-by-side with this meaning were just the coolest way to put it—and extremely apt.)

I’ve just learned that working out doesn’t help. No matter how much you workout, sitting for long periods is unhealthy for you.

No matter how much you workout! The New York Times says so:

Your chair is your enemy.

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.

This freaks me out. The options are to use a stand-up desk, sit in a rocking chair (and rock), use a treadmill desk, or replace your office chair with a therapeutic ball. (I can attest that the last option rocks. Very comfy and fun. Good if you like to fidget and roll as you work. :-) )

I do my reading while walking around in the pool and doing water aerobics, for two hours a day or so, but that’s only four or five days a week. The sedentary nature of writing does start to drive me crazy. There’s a treadmill, and I’m going to see if I can’t put my laptop on top for part of the day.

The writing is in a “numbers” stage. I need to put in 4,000 words a day until April 30. Rah. Rah. Joy. Joy.

image And I read the Vampire Academy series over the weekend. (Book 5 doesn’t come out until May.) WOW! I’m starting it over and reading it again, which is something I’ve never done with a series.

So how do you deal with the sedentary nature of the writing life? What stage are you in with your writing these days: numbers, crafting, editing? Read any good books, lately?

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

That’d Make A Great Title!

Two of my most favorite authors do it. When I’m reading John Irving and Neil Gaiman, or even listening to them talk, every other sentence seems to have something in it that makes me think, “That’d make a great title! I could write a whole book on that alone!”

Which is really rather depressing when you think about it.

And inspiring.

Ever read an author’s work, and get struck by possible titles? Possible novels? Who? Who most inspires you?

Watch CBS News Videos Online

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Keeping House… and Words

I seem to write much like I keep house. And keeping house isn’t one of my strengths. I make a mess. I move piles around. For days, weeks, years. Or I spend three hours scrubbing the inside of the freezer (See? I can focus sometimes!), while the rest of the kitchen remains a mess. I seem to be the same way in writing, too.

I sometimes find myself reading five things at the same time (I mean within the same minute) or writing seven things at once (I mean within the same day).

I hate clutter on my computer and in my house. All this “stuff” gets to me, and you guys know how much I hate stuff. I’m a freak at throwing out clutter. And I almost deleted all the files to do with my WIP so I could start with a clear mind, but I stopped myself. (I’ve already tried 50K+ of that. It didn’t help, clearly.)

So I set myself to organizing the YA WIP and deleting only what I don’t need. SuperNotecard is awesome, and I have my ten projects tabbed open, and each project sorted and stacked and indexed, etc.

But of course I can’t write with all that clutter, so I have WriteMonkey, FocusWriter, and Q10 all open so I can full-screen focus on what I’m working on. And since I’m focusing on three things today…

(I should clarify that I would write all three in WriteMonkey, but as far as I know, it doesn’t let you open multiple documents at once, like Word does. It’s kinda geared towards focused work, LOL!)

Then there’s Windows Live Writer to write this blog post.

And Microsoft Word to read through an old story and write a blurb for its ebook release. (Make that four things today… blogging doesn’t count, as it’s a fun thing, not a work thing.)

All this drives me so crazy, that I started writing in a notebook to get away from the clutter on my computer, but this only ended up making more unorganized stuff that I had to organize.

I was going to tell you guys that my ADD issues have improved with Fish Oil and No Doz, and I really think they have. Really. I mean it. I swear. A bit. A little bit. Any little bit helps!

But somedays? I seriously drive myself crazy.

How do you deal with the clutter and stuff in your own mind? In your house? In your writing? On your computer?


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

All Over the Place

I am working on seven projects right now, with three simmering in the background. All novel-length. This is insane.

I don’t normally work like this. I’ve never worked like this, and it’s driving me a bit batty, but I find that when I expect myself to write a minimum of 3K-5K a day, I get stuck if I can’t switch to another project.

My word count, at least, has improved. I generally feel guilty and lazy and beat myself up for anything under 3K. This is stupid and irrational because most writers hover in the 1K-2K range, but it is what it is. I have a strong and healthy guilt complex.

And I guess I’ve always felt I need to triple the work of everyone else, just in case I have no talent. Having a lot out there does make a big difference.

Two of my projects will hopefully be an experiment in self-publishing (finally!). Three of my projects are for my current publishers. Two could go either way. And three are targeted for New York.

I’ve learned two things, so far.

First, I seem to need a more exciting idea and bigger challenge with my stories than I have in years past. In the first few years, I’d shrug and make any idea work. I still can do that, but I don’t like it anymore. I need to really LOVE it, in order to write it without much wailing and gnashing of the teeth.

Second, with a lot of things in the pot, it’s interesting to see how much some stories stand out… and others don’t. At some point, I’ll have to start abandoning stories, and I think that’s a good idea. I’ve never done that before. I usually make everything work.

Multiple projects give me a perspective that working on a single project doesn’t.

But I think I still need to write faster. Maybe I should up it to 5K-7K. This is an important year, and I need to “grow” a lot of stuff that I can get money from later.

I feel a lot of pressure to pay bills, to make this career work. I took away my safety nets, which was a good thing for me, but I keep looking at the calendar and watching time pass and getting nervous.

My friend can write 12K-15K of brilliance every day, I kid you not. She does take days off sometimes, so maybe that’s a requisite, but I always feel the pressure to write faster.

How do you handle the pressure? How do you get yourself to write faster? Have you ever tried working on multiple projects? Do you feel pressured to write faster?

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

New Shoes, Old Shoes

I am not a shoe person, not like her. I’m a movie person, a book person, and a save-for-a-rainy-day person. My husband is not very like me in this regard. He buys clothes and shoes and stuff.


Not so much. Glenn is constantly sighing and going, “You need new pants.” “You need some shirts.” “You need new shoes.”

When we first met, a few months into our relationship, he took me clothes shopping. I thought he was trying to get brownie points, but I later learned that he was less than impressed with my wardrobe.

So it came to be, a couple months back, that I brought a pair of shoes to donate to my volunteering gig. They were appropriated one place, but as I was holding them, someone asked me for them. He pointed to his shoes, and explained why he needed new ones.

In looking at his shoes, I realized mine were ten times worse. We’re talking flapping soles, worn edges, frayed, loose threads. I was speechless. I kept thinking how weird and ironic this situation was.

The shoes were appropriated elsewhere, and given that I was still struck speechless, I gave up trying to make a joke and gave him a hug. I wasn’t quite sure if he laughed at me because I hugged him or because he saw my shoes and thought it was funny, too.


But I finally bought a new pair of shoes. “Barefoot” shoes. Designed to leave your foot free to develop the muscles God put in your feet.

Since several Facebook friends asked for picture, here they are. What do you think? Weird, huh?

Yeah, I know. Style really isn’t my thing.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

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