Harry Potter and Failure

So? Did you see it? The last Harry Potter movie? What did you think?

In celebration, I want to post my favorite speech ever: The Benefits of Failure, the 2008 Harvard commencement address by J.K. Rowling. (Follow the above link for a transcript, if you don’t feel like listening to the video.)

My favorite quote:

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

Smiles Everywhere

As I was walking to lunch today, I was noticing how everybody in Tucson is so friendly. Everyone smiles. And they’re not polite smiles; as I’m walking around, it seems that everyone gives me a great big, genuine smile.

People here are so nice.

(That’s all. I’ve got tons of work to do.)

I hope you’re having a great week!

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

NOT Clumsy in Love

So I wrote the scene I was talking about the other day, and I love it. I’m not sure readers will love it, but… I do. Maybe I’ll have to include I-love-yous in my fiction more often.

Better yet, the scene made me fall in love with my characters.

I’ve found that the writing doesn’t write too well until I fall in love with my characters. And for some reason, I never truly fall in love with my characters until their vulnerable bits reveal themselves.

I’ve always found our vulnerable bits to be the most beautiful things about us humans. Who wants to see a photoshopped model when you can see a woman with wrinkles that each tell a story? Who wants to see the perfect ideal, when you can see a man with his character and personality apparent on his face and in his eyes?

The strange thing is that we humans work so hard to hide our vulnerable bits and cover our imperfections. I have so many readers who hide a part of themselves from their husbands, even, and it causes them so much misery.

I guess when we reveal our vulnerable bits, we risk rejection of our deepest self; and it hurts more then.

There’s just so much to be gained, though. Wouldn’t it be great to be loved and accepted for who we are deep down, instead of who we aren’t but feel the need to be?

I’ve always thought part of being a writer is loving human beings. Okay, so I don’t love every human being all the time, but we’re all in this mess together, making plenty of mistakes and doing goofy things.

And above all, most of us just want to make a good life surrounded by people we love and who love us.

What do you think?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People,Musings |

Who Are You?

When I’m in a good mood, people crack me up. Once people break into my inner circle, I tend to love every bit of them, even their less-than-desirable traits. I tend to find their quirks adorable. My friends generally can do no wrong.

(I do enjoy complaining about the faults of people outside that circle, though!)

I love people, although I find Charles M. Schulz’s quotation hilarious:

I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.

I made a status update on Twitter 109 days ago and no one remarked on it. Not a single retweet. No direct messages. So discouraging. I’d been rather proud of it, and I thought it was genius, and I was a little put out that it didn’t immediately make it into the national lexicon of Brilliant Maxims To Live By.

Apparently I am less brilliant than I thought. To quote myself:

Even virtues have faults.

But I think it sounds better like this:

Every virtue has its fault.

The longer I’ve been a writer, the more I find that growing as a writer involves only two things:

  1. Knowing myself.
  2. Knowing other people.

That’s it. It’s all about the character and plot, and writing those are about writing people. We are a bundle of virtues and faults and oft-contradicting philosophies.

But let’s take “faults.” Most faults aren’t really faults, you know? They’re flip sides of a person’s best qualities. (Anyone who’s been married for a long time knows this well.)

If you were to take a surgical knife and remove the bits you dislike in a person, you’d end up removing their best bits. People are package deals. You gotta appreciate them as they are.

For example, (I’ll use myself so as not to invade anyone else’s privacy, LOL.) I think I’m compassionate and understanding… but I’ll understand forever when I really should stop understanding and look out for myself. Or, let’s see… I’m very enthusiastic about life, but then I look on the bright side so much, and I stop seeing and thus don’t fix the dark side. I’m really good at changing and somewhat okay at swallowing my responsibility for my mess-ups (LOL!), but I also trend toward believing everything is my fault, even when it’s not.

In fiction, I love making my character’s best and strongest quality their fatal flaw. Totally. Awesome.

What are some of your best qualities, and what are their dark sides? Or what about your partner? Your friends? (Obviously I’m not asking you to identify the person, just notice the virtue and its dark side. Smile )

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

People Watching

I’ve discovered the best seat in the house—in Borders, that is. There’s a bit of a corner, so you can lean back, put your feet up on a chair (not sure if the store appreciates this or not, but I try to spend money to make my use of the table and chair profitable for them), and watch people.

I find people to be miracles, what with the problems we all go through, the grief and sadness we all have to deal with. It’s hard to be human.

imageTwo thirtysomething granddaughters are doting on their grandmother. Their grandmother seems to be an Arizonan: she’s got pure white skin with lots of melanoma. :-( She’s so loved, though. Can you imagine all that she’s seen and done and loved and made in her lifetime?

Then there’s a thirtysomething woman in the coolest boots ever who’s texting and looks like she’s about to burst into tears. Poor thing.

There’s a fiftysomething woman sitting alone at a table and reading. She looks lonely.

imageSome guy brought his girlfriend a balloon and green roses for St. Patrick’s Day. What a sweet surprise!

And then there’s a young thirtysomething couple with a baby. They’re all so happy. Even the baby can’t stop giggling and waving at everyone. She’s the most social baby I’ve ever seen, and her parents are happy to let her be social with strangers, which is sweet. Sometimes I think it’s a miracle when two people manage to find each other, work through the process of creating intimacy, and get married.

When I went to the bathroom, there was a woman with three kids. Man, she was yelling at her child like you wouldn’t believe. Well, pretend it was Walmart and not Borders, and then maybe you can imagine.


imageMy favorite is the woman in the big purple hat. She must be eightysomething, and she tells dirty jokes, and she comes to Borders every day. Minus the dirty jokes, I could imagine growing up to be her, if only because she comes to Borders every day. And I’ve always wanted to wear hats.

Where do you people watch? Where do you get your inspiration for you characters? Do you make up back stories for strangers? (Do all writers?)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People | Tags:

Conversation as Hobby

Community fascinates me. I used to live in Ohio, where there are tons of Amish communities. Each community lives by an Ordnung, a specific code of behavior. As new technology develops, it is weighed (in the best of circumstances, at least) against whether or not it will help build or break down community between its members. For example, phones in the house are (usually) forbidden, because it discourages visiting between members.

You can look up the details if it interests you. What always struck me was how their lifestyle created a community where talking and visiting are a pastime—a hobby.

That’s what living in an RV Resort is like. There’s always people, and you can always talk to someone. Like yesterday I was feeling all discouraged about the family thing, but then I spent three hours playing in a pool with a kid and a couple, and I feel all better.

It’s also cool that when you pass someone, you stop and talk for a long time. And you can always go to the clubhouse and chat.

It’s normal for me to spend at least an hour talking to people a day (unless I go up to Tucson, but even then I talk to people in the coffee shop)… and that’s nothing. Some people spend three or more hours a day visiting and talking.

It’s sorta fascinating.

It freaked me out the first year. Life is WAY slower, and it’s difficult to fit in with that pace when you’re trying to build a career. But I really like it now.

It amazes me how different it is from my old life.

Have you ever lived in a community where talking is a daily pastime? Maybe college?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

A Fascination with Lies

We all are fascinated, aren’t we? It’s one of the reasons the show, “Lie to Me” is so popular. And we desperately want to believe we can force the truth from someone… but we can’t. Not by torture, for sure. What is in someone else’s mind is a mystery.

(If I had to pick a superpower, it’d be to read minds.)

Studies say that 60% of people lie 3 times in a ten-minute conversation.

Geeze!!! Seriously?!

I was going to say that I never lie, but then I read that 68% of women lie about their weight on their driver’s license.

Um, well… see, it was true, at one time… and it’s going to be true before my license expires…

People believe the internet allows people to lie more, but research says that only 17 percent of people lie in e-mails, while 27 percent lie in face-to-face interaction. A whopping 37 percent lie in phone calls!

I’ve known some who are compulsive liars. I can see lying about something you’re embarrassed about, but why lie about stupid stuff that doesn’t matter? –Stuff so small it doesn’t even make a difference to the conversation? –We’re talking about one freakin’ lie per minute? Why?

I. Don’t. Understand.

Oh well.

What’s that saying about accepting the things one can’t change?

I had a student who was an amazing manipulator and liar unlike anyone I’ve ever seen or know or heard of, real or fictional. She taught me half of my skill at detecting lies, and I’m pretty good at it. (You should see me at the poker table.) I was sad to lose her as a student, because I think I was the only person she couldn’t lie to—I really hoped creating that space for her where she had to be honest and I accepted her as she was helped her. I don’t know.

I guess we all tell lies now and then, whether it’s our driver’s license or “You look good in that dress.” Sometimes it’s just little lies that keep conversation moving, like “I’m good, how are you?” I remember when I was sick, I lied a lot, because the only socially acceptable answer to “How are you feeling?” when you’re chronically ill is “Better!” (Followed by a quick change of subject.)

Sometimes, I think it’s cute when someone lies. Sometimes not. It depends. Sometimes it’s nice seeing them lie, because then I know how they lie, and I am happy at how often they don’t lie.

But this seeing-lies thing isn’t exactly a comfortable skill to have. I never know what to do with it. Mostly it just makes me feel like the other person doesn’t think enough of me to be forthright. Or that I’ve failed to create a safe and accepting space in the relationship.

It’s handy in poker.

Must play more poker.

What do you think about lies? Little lies? Big lies? How do you react when someone tells you a lie and you know it? Have you ever been around a compulsive liar? How have lies impacted your life?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People | Tags:

Aging Boldly

I’d love to be Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton someday, and I definitely want to embrace aging, and I’m totally going to be one of those old ladies in the hot pink hats, but just for this period of six or so years, I’d like it to slow the freakin’ heck down.

This birthday coming up (not until the sixth of October) marks the first birthday that I’m nervous for. Whew! nervous. My stomach is churning with butterflies. I’m a little emotional about it, actually, although I think my hormones are going freaking nuts. It’s like they’re banging at me going, “Babies! Babies! Babies! Babies! NOW! NOW! NOW!”

Last year I changed my career after 26 years. (Musicians start young, and I started late for piano.) This year? I don’t know. My best friend said I needed a motto, so I’ve chosen “live boldly.”

No matter how hard life gets or what crap I have to go through, I’m just going to have fun this year, take advantage of every opportunity that comes knocking, and enjoy every person I meet.

Honestly, this age is pretty awesome. I love life more than I’ve ever loved life. I can’t get enough of it, I love life so much! I’m so enthusiastic about everything, and I’m happy–so happy. I’m so lucky in so many ways. Sometimes I think of the people who’ve helped me change my life in the last year, and I’m just so grateful I want to cry.

Life isn’t even close to perfect or even where I want it to be, but I’m still very happy and loving every moment of it.

The late thirties are totally awesome in that way.

I’m also enjoying people so much more at this age. Even the weird ones. Pretty much I figure that if you managed to get through the first thirty years of your life, if you managed to even semi-survive it, I’m impressed. I mean, life is no easy cake walk. The fates can be rather cruel. I sort of expect us all to have little quirks and bits of crazy. How could we not have?

So I feel more compassionate and loving and accepting of people. Maybe it’s the working alone, but when I get out, I just love talking with and interacting with people. We’re all walking miracles, really.

While staring at thirty-seven, I’ve decided it’s going to be the best year of my life thus far. And more than that, I’m going to make it so myself, and I’m not waiting for any person or anything to make it happen.

I’m going to jump off every cliff and take every risk, no matter how much they scare me. At this age, what have I got to lose?

So what about you? Do you remember an age you were nervous for? Ever feel time breathing down the back of your neck? Was there an age where you said “Fuck it! I’m going for it all!”?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People,Musings |

Dedicated to Kathy

I’m drowning in work. In the meantime, here’s a video to enjoy, especially for Kathy. :-)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People |

Victor Frankl on People

“If we take man as he really is, we make him worse. But if we overestimate him… we promote him to what he really can be… If we take a man as he should be, we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Beautiful People | Tags:

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