Regrets: I’ve Had a Few

A year ago, I completely changed my life. This year has somehow managed to be the happiest, most relaxing, tumultuous, and terrifying year of my adult life. If I had known how hard the changes were going to be, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to make them. I changed my life, and not in a shy way.

Leaving Music

In becoming a writer, I lost a lot of self-confidence. Giving up something you’re good at, something you’ve rooted your identity and self-worth and self-confidence in, is incredibly difficult. Since grade school, I was a pianist. For nearly thirty years I actively improved my musical skills every day, and a whole lot of my confidence was built on that foundation of skill and knowledge and training. And fifteen years of teaching piano: I knew exactly what to do and exactly how to teach certain things. It makes one feel good, to do something well, day after day.

Leaving all that was HARD, and I was totally unprepared for what a drastic blow it would be to my self-esteem.

I’m in a good place now, so I can admit that there were periods in this last year when I was depressed and felt like a complete failure and utterly worthless. I was terrified. I felt like I was drowning, like I was trying grab the buoy of music and teaching that had once been my confidence, but I’d thrown it away.

And there was nothing there.

Oh yes, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I was freaked.

Becoming a Writer

Part of me will always be a musician. I miss it. When I watch my music friends in their careers, my fingers itch to get at the piano. I mourn it often, and it’s still a sore spot that aches, even though I am certain that writing is where my heart truly is.

With writing, I never have to manufacture motivation. Whether I’m motivated or not, I find myself writing. It just happens. I don’t want a life; I never want to “escape” writing or even take a break, unless it’s to go to a movie. Even then, try to get me to a matinee—it won’t happen. I can’t go to a movie until I’ve written.

I love volunteering and hiking the desert once a week, but as much as I love it, I have to “force” myself away from writing. In theory, I want to travel and I want to explore Arizona more, but in reality, I can’t bear to give up the writing days.

Even when I swear-to-God really don’t want to write, I don’t want to do anything else.

No Half-Measures

Up until this last year, I had an absolute, no-idea-where-it-came-from confidence in the fact that I “should” write, that the “universe wants me to write.” This certainty did not come from any belief in my writing abilities; it was just there. And I am not given to faith; I’m really not. But there it was.

That confidence was shaken and tried this year.

(Yay! I finally get to join the club!)

I knew, going into this writing thing, that I wanted to be a very good writer. And I’ve seen what it takes for musicians to be very good musicians. I put zero stock in talent, so I’ve never wondered if I had writing talent. I do, however, know how to learn. I know how to make a living in the arts. I know how to become good at something, and I particularly know how to become good at something creative.

Line up all the best musicians, and I bet not one of them ever had a fall-back career. I knew if I gave myself the luxury of one, I’d never be as good as I want to be. Believe it or not, I’m a security freak, and if I gave myself the option, I’d get comfortable.

I maneuvered myself into the position of having nothing to fall back on; I do realize that. And for me, it was the right decision.

But damn, it was frightening as hell.

It Was a Very Good Year

Yes. Yes, it was. It doesn’t sound it so far, does it? In spite of it all, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t regret my regrets for a second.

And now look, I’ve written a whole blog post and I haven’t even gotten to the good bits! And there were more good bits than scary bits, I promise. So I suppose I’m going to have to finish this up in a day or two… after I finish my writing. :-)

Ever have regrets? Or regrets you don’t regret? Ever choose one thing above another, and mourn the loss of it, even while you know you’d make the exact same decision a thousand times over?

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

A Relationship Takes Work

Writing is a relationship. I’m a little afraid to jinx it, but writing is going well, lately. I’m definitely all over it, trying to figure out why it’s going well so that I can replicate the situation, environment, and mindset for the next time writing becomes challenging.

I’m not sure if it was like this for all my schoolmates, but during my time in conservatory and thereafter, I was rather… down-to-earth and business-like in making a career and making money from music. In other words, keeping the passion and love alive was definitely not on my priority list.

Being “professional” was sorta drilled into your skull at all costs. (I am a rare bird in that I remember my time in conservatory fondly. The majority of my friends spent about a decade “getting over” the experience. When I was there, they hired a full-time psychiatrist to help students deal.)

I remember one friend being rather proud of herself for being down-to-earth enough to realize that “it’s a job, just like any other.”

It worked, honestly. I think C.I.M. boasts that 90% (around there) of their alumni make their living in music. But personally, I got burnt out. That was my fault, not C.I.M.’s. I sometimes cut corners out of what I loved about being a musician and teacher in order to make money.

Bad idea. It kills your enthusiasm, stresses you out, and burns you out, which, long-term, gives you less profit.

With writing, I’ve been careful to take the opposite approach: I protect the writing at all costs. I am trying to nurture my enthusiasm. I refuse to settle. Sure, what I’ve learned about making money in the arts is up there in my head, and I can’t completely turn it off (and perhaps my approach only works because of this), but my focus is on having fun and loving story and giving fiction everything I’ve got.

So I’m very careful to monitor what motivates me and what does not. Writing is going awesome at the moment. It’s erotica, though. I’ve got to figure out how to apply that to a NY-able genre.

Another big difference is that I have a lot more on my plate to write. And people already want it. That makes a big difference for my motivation.

Oddly, I have some deadlines coming up, but I’m writing as if I have none—and writing faster because of it. I’m just spending every second I can writing because I can’t wait to get back to my world and my characters.

I forgot what this was like.

I’ve been going to the movies a lot. That’s important for me. I love story, and in a movie I can disappear in it. When I read, it’s a little like working. I analyze too much while reading, so movies help me disappear in story.

I’m trying to remember these things, so I can keep the love alive.

How do you keep the love alive in your relationship with writing? What motivates you the most?

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

Paper Wings

Sometimes you latch on to stories when there’s nothing else to grab onto. Every time I do the dishes, I listen to the only CD I have on the road with me: the soundtrack of Hope Floats.

When the movie came out, I saw it a million times. I was really sick at the time, two years in and I thought I would never get better. (It took another five years.) It’s the only DVD release date that I knew and waited for and ran to the store the day it came out.

Hope Floats gave me hope at a time when I was out of hope.

So I was surprised, as I was doing the dishes the other day, that the lyrics to one of my favorite songs were so depressing.

Paper Wings
(Gillian Welch / David Rawlings)

Paper wings, all torn and bent
But you made me feel like they were heaven sent.
Paper wings, not real at all
But they took me high enough to really fall.
Your paper kisses, faded too soon
Just like a paper rose, beneath a paper moon.
Paper wings, paper wings
Oh how could I expect to fly with only paper wings.

Angels singing, didn’t you hear?
If only I’d listened close, when they whispered in my ear.
Paper wings, paper wings
Oh how could I expect to fly with only paper wings.
I tried to fly but found that I had only paper wings.

Here’s the song, if you want to listen to it as you read. :-)

The singer strikes me as a little bitter at being inspired by just enough false hope to almost succeed but ultimately fail. At the end, she even seems a little upset with herself for her foolishness at believing she could fly.

I disagree with the song, as much as I love it. Sometimes paper wings can carry you to the next day, give you enough time to grow real ones.


(Paper Art by Helen Musselwhite)

I’ve finished over twenty longer works and I still get scared that I won’t be able to finish the next one. I thought that fear would fade, but it doesn’t. Maybe because I wasn’t able to finish my spy thriller, I’m having a bit of a battle with the fear that I won’t be able to finish this YA.

My readers really inspire and encourage me. At least Pseudie is having a new release in a few weeks, and that usually cheers me up, if I get reader mail. I hope so. It’s one of my favorites.


(Altered book by Brian Dettmer)

As I was checking out paper art to find an image of paper wings, I saw this castle. Isn’t this so beautiful you just want to die? The train tracks you see? They have a train. A train that works. Made of paper. Isn’t that beyond amazing?


(A Castle on the Ocean by Wataru Itou)

It took four years to make, FOUR YEARS!

Sometimes art is a long process filled with doubts. I have too much instant gratification in me. Writing is harder, the slower I write. I should start giving myself stickers or something to get me through, LOL.

I guess you have to hang on to your vision, hang onto any hope you can find, even if it’s paper wings. Or maybe hope doesn’t matter at all. Maybe it only matters that you just sit down and write, hope or not.

“[Momma] says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will…”

What gives you hope when you’re staring at your fears? How do you motivate yourself through the long work of writing a novel?

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

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: , ,

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: ,

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:

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: , , ,

Hidden Secrets

Lately, writing has been like strip-mining myself. The other day, I talked about writing about those “issues” which may or may not be recognizable to anyone close to you.

Today, I used those secrets that no one knows but me. Little things. Tiny secrets, those hidden things and feelings you tell no one, maybe your best friend, but that’s it.

It’s so easy to plant them in. It feels so safe: it’s easy to shrug and call them fiction. And often they’re so small, they’re only of note to you.

I’ve always found these secrets have something universal about them, because they’re the sort of things people “recognize,” the sort of things that make people feel less alone.

Glenn goes for surgery on Wednesday! We’re very happy about this, because his wound will hopefully, after six weeks or so, finally start to get better! Yay! They’re going to put him under, which makes me a little nervous, but he’s happy about that. (No pain.)

So what about you? Do you slip in little secret bits of yourself? Does writing ever feel like strip-mining to you?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writing Craft | Tags:

I’m Drawing a Line,

and it’s here. I’ve had it. I’m tired of struggling to write a non-pseudonym’s genre story. I just reached a point, where… all my issues? Using them. I don’t care if some people I know draw parallels that may or may not be true.

It’s my life and my feelings, so why shouldn’t I use them?

It’s fiction, so of course I’ll fictionalize it. It’s arguable whether or not it will even be recognizable when I’m done with it, if it will be transparent.

Either way, I just. don’t. care. I need all the help I can get. Time to pull out all the stops.

Perhaps it’s the same as stuff I’ve accidentally used, over the years, and was surprised and a little freaked to see the parallels of my life in my stories. Even when you write 100% pure fiction, if you know yourself, you see little bits of yourself. And sometimes, I see threads in my writing, and I step back in horror, thinking: do I really think that?

Hey, some of my experiences sucked, so I may as well make money off those feelings. Make a silver lining. And if it connects with someone else who has those feelings, all the better.

Over the last nine or so years, my writing progress has mostly been a deeper and deeper exploration into who I am and how I feel. There’s mechanics and methods and techniques and skills, but in the end, it always comes down to me going deeper.

And I refuse to give up on writing a non-pseudonym story. It’s just going to happen. Period.

This seems to be my mental hurdle, as I’ve been struggling with it for years. And frankly, I am just sick of it. (I can’t imagine how you guys must feel, although to be honest, I’m having a moment of wow, you guys rock, I can’t believe you still read my blog!)

So what has your writing journey been like? What has your greatest mental hurdle been? How’d you get past it?

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

It Which Must Not Be Named

You know what I’m talking about, right? We don’t say those words. We don’t want to give it power by believing in its existence. We wouldn’t want to… summon it by accident.

For WIP #2, all I have is my main character’s name. Yes, that’s the sum total of my NaNo novel, of which the rest I have completely scrapped. What I wrote didn’t work. I don’t know what. Maybe it was the world, the other characters, the tone, the genre… I have no idea.

All that junk was cluttering up this novel’s room, and it needed a blank slate. So today I deleted it for good. Trash can and everything.

Yes, sometimes we crave the blank page again.

She’s special, I can tell. I keep trying on different clothes, different settings, different plots. Nothing is fitting.

This morning, I got a sentence. It’s a sentence that says everything about who she is:

“I’m not going to fill your fuckin’ mold,” she said.

A sentence! Woo-hoo!

Phew. I’m so relieved I could celebrate a day’s hard work because I got a sentence.

But I need to get back on my 5K a day program. I know that was years ago, but I need it back.

So I’m sitting here. I sometimes force myself in a chair for three hours, internet off, WIP open, and tell myself I’m not allowed to move for three hours. And I’m trying jobs on her, trying cities, trying genres, trying ages, trying situations.

A little niggle suddenly makes me wonder if she was talking to me when she said she wasn’t filling any molds.


I can see the appeal of stepping back and pretending our characters are fully-realized humans before we met them, that we’re just conduits or whatnot. Maybe I should try it: Hi, nice to meet you.

Both my WIPs are in the “sputtering” stage, where I can’t even write complete sentences yet. No whole pages polished, no chapters finished, nothing. Just a bunch of stutters.

Glenn is sick. If they send him home, then I really must write faster. Amazing how desperation helps you write faster. Needing the money has always pulled me through, except when it paralyzes me, LOL. I was sorta looking forward to my three months of no pressure. It’s life, I guess!

Universe, remember what I requested for this year?

So what do you do about it which must not be named?

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

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