How To Get Started…

People keep asking me how to get started writing, ebook formatting, and copyediting, so I thought I’d do a series. I’m not actually sure how I got started, so I hope you’ll contribute with your advice, as well.

A programming friend of mine says most of the coders he meets, more than those with computer degrees, are either ex-teachers or graduates of the seminary.

I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Probably the number one skill one needs to start anything is the ability to self-educate. Teachers learn how to teach, and so they know how to teach themselves, and in seminary school, students learn how to question and investigate everything they do and don’t know.

Penelope Trunk, an eccentric blogger who’s made a career of predicting and understanding how each generation works in and impacts the workforce, says that homeschooled kids will rule the world when Gen Z hits the workplace.


Because they know how to teach themselves. They’ll be able to figure out which skill they need to learn next for their career, and then they’ll be able to direct their own education.

Question what you think you know: Better yet, pretend you know nothing. This is probably the most dangerous area to skip, and yet the area people skip the most. Most of the time when people start a sentence with “I remember learning in college,” they are wrong. Often they are correct in the information, but incorrect in the application, if that makes sense.

Search for what you don’t know: The more you learn, the more you realize you need to learn. It’s why I haven’t finished my Kindle Formatting series. It was easy to start when I was a beginner, but now I’ve learned too much. I thought I could explain it all in ten or so posts, but once I got through about five, I realized that to do it thoroughly, I’d need two hundred or so posts.

Keep leveling up: I constantly ask myself what I can learn next. The invisible things you think you don’t really need to know are the things that will take you from competence to excellence.

Get an edge by linking across disciplines: When I was a piano teacher, I studied the Suzuki teaching method even though I thought it wasn’t completely right for piano. (It is for other instruments.) But no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Investigate everything.

I also aggressively studied child psychology, self-help psychology, leadership books, business books, parenting books, homeschooling books, teaching philosophy books, sports coaching books, marketing, peak performance science, language learning, and motivation science.

Know everything in your field, and then link outside of it.

How do you get started when teaching yourself something?

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What Have You Harvested?

Today is the autumn equinox, the day we harvest, give thanks, and share what we’ve sown in the past year, as well as prepare for winter by focusing on balance. Spending some time in gratitude is always a good thing.

My last year?

I’ve found a new passion that nearly equals my passion for music. (Okay… well, maybe 60-70%, and considering, that’s pretty awesome.) I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a polyglot someday, and it seems the time to pursue that someday has arrived. I’m learning Spanish now, as well as playing with etymology and Latin. French or Italian is next.

I have a whole new business! And wow, I’m thankful for it every day. A year ago I was just beginning to plant the seeds, thanks to Mark Terry. (Incidentally, he’s doing a serial fiction series on his blog that’s definitely worth checking out!)

Also, I got on preventative asthma meds this year. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. I feel fantastic, and it’s enabled me to exercise a lot, which means I’ve lost 45 pounds. And yoga! And belly dancing! LOVE!

I’ve learned how to be happy in the last year, and although many changes have challenged that happiness, I’m learning (with setbacks, LOL) to treasure the messy stuff and keep an open heart and mind.

Good stuff always comes out of the messy stuff. Look at chocolate. And ice cream. And sex. And relationships. The best stuff is messy.

Change, change, change… if I could sum up my life in the last two years, I would use the word change. It’s been a roller coaster ride, and I’m getting a little nauseous.

Today I read that if we become quiet and flow like water, life straightens itself out without effort.

My default is often to shake my life up and pursue change, and while that’s fun, I might just use the above as my mantra as we head into winter.

What have you harvested this year?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

For Lack of a Word

Words give us thought and feeling, according to linguistic determinism. I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but after reading Melanie’s great and heartfelt post, I again felt the constraints of English.

We need a word that means, “I am so glad and happy for you that you have X, and I want X, too.”

Jealousy and envy have such negative connotations in our culture. There has to be a word that means envy in a very positive way. In almost every discussion of envy or jealousy, people not only focus on the negative aspects, but they never address the fact that there is a positive and related emotion.

Corinthians says that love is patient and kind and does not envy.

That’s not true. Sure, love does not envy in a way that is negative, but even in love, you can be happy for someone and glad they have that something, and also wish you had that something too.

Longing doesn’t quite do it, does it? It’s not as negative as jealous or envy, and it’s a bit archaic in popular usage… but maybe it needs a new life.

What words do you want in the language?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

Basement Adventures

Growing up, my basement was the most magical place in the house. First, we had a huge built-in bookcase that served as our library. All those books!!!

There was one on learning to speak Chinese that I poured over; also one on reading palms, LOL, that I was fascinated by. Many travel and history books, too.

Then we had the stereo down there as well, and my favorite thing to do was to put on classical music and dance in the wide open space. I don’t think I ever let anyone see me dance, but I would dance all day long down there.

And then, best of all, hidden under the stairs, were boxes and boxes and boxes of old National Geographic magazines.

I spent many afternoons POURING over them. To me, they were the most magical things ever. I wanted to travel to all the places they featured! I wanted to see all the animals they showed!

I cried when they were sold in a garage sale after my dad died.

So I’m now lusting over this: every issue of National Geographic from 1888 – 2009.

How. Cool. Is. That?

Where was your magical place growing up? What did you do?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

Free Love; Free Patriotism

Happy Constitution Day! Of all the days celebrating our nation, Constitution Day has always been my favorite. I always celebrate it by celebrating the First Amendment, and almost every year, I ask, Can You Name Your Five Freedoms?.

(Quick! Don’t look! How many can you name?)

On dating sites, saying things like “I love our country,” or “I’m patriotic” is a euphemism for “I’m a conservative Republican,” which is really sad. I love my country and I’m very patriotic, but I am not a conservative Republican.

Patriotism is love – love of country. While it’s true that love sometimes develops in an arranged, forced marriage, happier love happens when two individuals come together freely and by choice and with the freedom to be who they are.

That is why the Supreme Court upheld students’ right to refuse to recite the pledge in 1943. Kent Greenfield opined in the New York Times, Happy Illegal Holiday!:

Genuine patriotism is the product of choice, and one thing we know from observing how Constitution Day and the Pledge of Allegiance work in practice is that neither is a matter of real choice. They are enforced in different ways and have different targets, but there is no denying their mandatory nature.

I want to quote more of the article, but you should go read it. It’s awesome. Okay, just one more quote:

We should recall Justice Robert H. Jackson’s words from almost 70 years ago, in his opinion protecting the right of students to refuse to recite the pledge: “To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.”

And because I always check in on the State of the First Amendment, (Know Your Rights or Lose Them!), I’ll leave you with two great tidbits:

A new poll shows a sharp decline in the percentage of students who think it [the First Amendment] goes too far in the rights it guarantees, from 45% in 2006 to 24% this year.

Yay! And while knowledge of the First Amendment and our five guaranteed freedoms is increasing, 30% of our population still cannot name any of our five freedoms. (Full study available here.)

  • 62% could name Freedom of Speech (up from 49% in 1997; up from 61% in 2010)
  • 19% could name Freedom of Religion (down from 21% in 1997; down from 23% in 2010)
  • 17% could name Freedom of the Press (up from 11% in 1997; down from 18% in 2010)
  • 14% could name Right of Assembly (up from 10% in 1997; same as last year)
  • 3% could name Right to Petition (up from 2% in 1997; down from 6% last year)

How many could you name? Which ones?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings | Tags:

“Practicing” Gratitude

Did you know practicing gratitude can increase happiness by 25%? (Study here.) My life has been… well, it’s had a lot of variety, I guess you’d say, and it continually amazes me, every single day, how much better my life is now than in times past.

Practicing gratitude isn’t an intention for me; it’s more like accidental gratitude. At least three times a day, no matter how happy or sad I am, I’ll notice something in my life, and I’ll automatically think, “Wow! I am so lucky!”

It’s astonishing to me how different each decade of my life has been. And how many things I’ve seen and experienced.

Time goes by super fast when life is calm, though. It’s a little frightening. Or maybe it’s just my age. I don’t know.

I love my job, I love my clients, I love my city, I love my friends, I love my cats… of course there are things I’d like to tweak or change or add, but I’m pretty lucky.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

A Recipe for Love

A friend of a friend has something like three ingredients for the guy she wants to marry: first, that he can stay on one of those fake bull-riding things; second, that he has a job; and third… I forget the third.

It sorta cracks me up because whenever I talk with my best friend, she’s always saying things like, “I have to remember to tell my daughter to marry someone who is ____.” And every now and then, we’ll add another condition to the list.

(Let’s just say our standards are a little higher than the bull-riding girl’s. Although I assume she’s joking or she’d be married to someone with his jeans hanging below his butt crack by now.)

I did the power dating thing for a while, but it eventually tripped my stubborn button: I refuse to go out on another excruciatingly boring date. Not. Going. To. Happen. I have so much more fun by myself. Why ruin my fun?

I used to want to be with someone because when I’m happy or excited or enthusiastic about something, it’s even more fun to share it with someone else—but it doesn’t really work that way.

At least 70% of the fun I have, I couldn’t really share with a guy. Most of my activities and Groupon adventures are female-oriented. After that, I have sort of archaic passions (classical music, etymology, languages, story…), that it’s unlikely I’ll find someone who shares them. Although I do get excited about learning new things.

So I’m curious:

How much do you share with your partner? Do you spend a lot of time together doing things you both love? Which interests did you guys bring separately to the relationship? And if you have a daughter, what list of standards did you try to imprint on her?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

She Sleeps Oddly

I used to be a night person, back when I taught until 10pm and then cooked and ate dinner… and then took a couple hours to unwind.

When I moved to Arizona, I started going to bed later and getting up earlier. When the sun wakes up, I do.

Or did.

Now the sun is sleeping in, and I’m waking up earlier and earlier. What’s up? I’m now getting up at 3:30 in the morning!

When I was in college, one of my best friends used to wake up super early (I think around 1 or 2 sometimes). I’d still be up, and we’d sit and enjoy going over calculus problems together. She always went to bed around 8.

And here I am, suddenly on the same schedule. It’s ridiculous. At least being a morning person is relatively respectable, but conking out at 8 or 9 to get up at 3:30 and work is out of the respectable range.

I’ve been putting in 12- to 15-hour work days. After this week, though, I have a normal schedule. I can’t wait. Hopefully that means I’ll be able to sleep a little more normally.

What’s your sleep schedule like? Did it ever change drastically as you aged?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Musings |

Do You Use a Recipe?

I was almost coming down with something yesterday morning, so after mega-dosing on Vitamin C, I decided I needed to eat a bunch of garlic. So I made this really yummy spaghetti sauce. It was WOW!

(About 10-12 cloves of sliced garlic boiled in olive oil and butter with a dash of red pepper and a ton of black pepper, then when garlic is softer, add jar of marinara sauce and 1/3 handful of Romano cheese.)

And I was reminded how very much I always enjoyed cooking.

Somewhere along the way, I got this idea that if you have to use a recipe (except for baking), then you’re not really creating it. I love going into the kitchen and getting creative, feeling my way (and sniffing) around to making something yummy.

Even if I make pudding from a box, I have to add my own special twist. (Secret recipe. Yummy. But secret. ;-) )

I was the same way when I learned writing. Some people can write, then edit, then shape it into what it needs to be, considering the acts and the length and whatnot. It’s difficult for me to learn that way, although I go through the process because it’s the way for me to learn how to shape the next book. I had to write novel after novel until I could feel the structure and rhythm.

How do you cook? How do you write? Are you a recipe person?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft |

Strange Obsessions

I am dying to get an apartment or rent a house. Not for any logical, sane reasons, and not because I’m not happy just as I am (I am! I’m comfy in my little RV! I love it! And it saves money!), but because I can’t stop thinking about painting walls.

It’s a little crazy.

I’ve always alternated. I had several apartments where I could only have the walls white (BLAH. Makes me CRAZY.), and when I got to the first apartment I could paint, I used COLOR.

We’re talking COLOR in all capitals.

It was lovely. My living room was this rich red and gold that was so warm and inviting and comfortable. The studio was pink with a pearl sheen sponged on top (pretty, but color-wise, not a good choice because it makes people irritable). The office was grass green with enough white sponged on top to tone it down some, LOL. And my bedroom was this gorgeous warm and golden peach color.

My next house was a rich blue for the office, a pale, china green for the bedroom, yellow/orange for the waiting room, and an inviting beige with a comforting blue accent wall.

(Once I have color, my next place is always toned down.)

And now, I have no way to paint. There’s only windows and a few inches of wood paneling.

So I’m dying to move into a place and paint the walls. I want that peach back, but I’ve also been fantasizing about purple: a deep, royal purple.

Painting the walls doesn’t strike me as a good enough reason to give up my freedom, but…

What color are your walls? If you could snap your fingers and your walls would be a different color, what would they be? Do you ever crave a color?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: My Adventures |

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