Managing Your Time: Art versus Content

I’m back after a nice long winter break. I took the time to think about my life. That is Life with a capital L. I had time to do the kind of thinking that leads me to consider deeply how I want to spend my time. I spent a thoughtful morning reviewing my calendar and goals.

While I met most of my writing goals, my photography and art goals were not met. My health goals were mostly not met and my intentions to spend more time with my kids and wife were glaringly missing from my calendar. And I was frustrated by the amount of time I spent attending to social media.

After talking with other writers, and creatives the biggest reason we all feel compelled to push ourselves to burn out is the rate that writers and other creatives are encouraged to produce art and content. Authors are encouraged to release books every quarter, to post every day to multiple social media sites and don’t forget to get your newsletter out every week and add free stories and novels to your website. 

The pace is not tenable. Art takes time, time to think, to be with yourself, time to create. To be clear, I’m not talking about lazing about waiting for the muse to show up. I’m talking about taking the time to develop your art versus making content. After conversations with other authors and artists, I don’t think I’m alone in my frustration to find a balance between creating art and content. 

What is the difference between art and content? A blog post is content, a tweet, a post on Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter is content. The idea of giving your fans a peek at the creative process is part of creating content, and it does serve a purpose because without fans, who would buy our work?

I’m an artist and maker. I love to create, to write stories and tell them, I love to make mixed media pieces, I love to take photographs and share them, and I love blogging. I am most happy when I am working on a new story or attempting to capture the perfect light in a photo, or slathering paint on a project.  The catch in all of this is there is a difference between creating art and creating content and only twenty-four hours in a day.

And, we need to give ourselves time to produce our work and permit ourselves to take time off of the social media merry-go-round. We need to make our art without censoring ourselves, to free ourselves of the idea that we need to be present 24/7/365. We need to be free to be sloppy, messy, and experiment without worrying about how to take the best photo of our half-finished work.

Instead of pushing ourselves to meet someone else’s schedule of production and content marketing, we need to find a healthy pace for ourselves. Releasing a book or turning in a manuscript every three months is may be possible for some, but for me, it is not.

Understanding and accepting your pace is key to survival long-term as an artist. It is madness to try to keep up with a pace that is not our own and the sure way to burn out. Currently, I take at least two 24 hours of phone/social media/screen breaks a month and one full weekend. Last summer, I took a full two weeks off-grid. It was amazing and magical and freeing. And it reminded me that nothing that can be handled by email or text is genuinely urgent, important maybe, but not urgent. I remembered how to be present for the people around me and not worry about whatever was going on elsewhere.  

I was so refreshed and had so many ideas for new projects it was miraculous. I plan on doing more off-grid time this summer. After my experience with off-grid time, and inspired by artist Johanna Basford’s six-month social sabbatical, I am contemplating the same.

I know some of you think, ‘ugh I can’t do that, my fans will go away, they won’t come back,’ but you know what? They will. They will wait and be excited when you return with new art for them, especially if you explain why you are taking a break and let them know when to expect you back. 

Consider this an invitation to disconnect, take back your time, and get back to the messy, exuberant, joyful world of creating your art without an audience.

 

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. 

You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list and receive a free erotic short story HERE Check out more information about her upcoming releases and appearances at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Double Six

Complex Dimensions

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Looking Forward

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been super busy with two releases this fall and NaNoWriMO. When things get crazy busy, my blog is one of the things that I let slide. I also tend not to engage as much when I’m not in a good space because I want this to a positive place to come. This year has been a tough one, I’ve had some wonderful things happen amid the devastating loss of my brother-in-law. I’ve learned a lot about grief. And I’ve learned how much writing is my go-to place when I’m working through things.

In 2020 I plan to release a new series, start a new creative project, and keep up with this blog. I will be adding a podcast feature so that if you don’t have time to read my posts, you can download them and listen to them. Screen fatigue is real, and podcasts offer a break for your eyes.

I’m taking some time off to spend with my family over the holidays and will be back in January with a brand new release. My foray into paranormal romance, a duology with Megan Hart will arrive January 27th and I’ll share some snips in before then. Until then, I wish you peace and happiness and love.

 

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. 

You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list and receive a free erotic short story HERE Check out more information about her upcoming releases and appearances at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

 

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Double Six

Complex Dimensions

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

Make it Your Own

 

Tomorrow the kids are back a school and my work life is back on schedule. I moved my office over the summer and I had worked in it only a tiny bit because it just didn’t feel like my office. I couldn’t figure it out. I was restless, and edgy and not productive preferring to sit on the couch or in a coffee shop to work.

Why? My usual reason for discomfort is that change is hard for me, as it is for many folks with ADHD/ADD. Patterns and routines are what keep us moving forward, as much as we might rebel against them sometimes.

Last night as I not sleeping, because I struggle with sleep issues, I was thinking about my production schedule for the week. It occurred to me as I visualized sitting at my desk the arrangement was totally opposite from former office. Many folks would not care if their desk was on the east wall of their office or the west wall, or if the office door was to their left or right, or if they would have their back to the door while working, but it made a difference to me.

The impulse to fix my problem was so strong, only the fear of waking up the rest of my family and then trying to explain to them why three o’clock in the morning seemed like a good time to move furniture stopped me. Today with the help of my very industrious twins we completely rearranged my office in half the time it would have taken me to do it alone.

I haven’t always been this aware of my feelings of discomfort. For years when things were off, I would just ignore them or push through or abandon doing things because of my unidentified negative feelings. Because my kids both struggle with identifying their feelings and being able to articulate what is bothering them, I ask them, especially when they are acting out, or overly upset, “what is wrong?” and “how can you fix it or make it better?” I want them to know they don’t have to settle or deny their discomfort, and that their feelings are valid. Even if other people don’t understand. Especially if other people don’t understand.

Notice I don’t ask “how can I fix it?” I want them to understand what it took me years to figure out. If something is wrong or doesn’t feel right to you, stop and think, take time to check in with yourself. Fix it yourself if you can, and ask for help if you can’t or it’s overwhelming to do it alone. Such a simple lesson and yet so powerful.

Before I had the privilege of having my own office with a door  I worked while sitting on the corner of the couch, or at my dining room table. In both places, I did little things that made it mine, and comfortable,  even if it was only during the time I used them.

Are there things in your life that are making you uncomfortable or are the source of negative feelings?  Have you abandoned your writing or creative space because it didn’t feel right or you were unable to be productive? Or have you never been able to settle into a creative space? Take a moment to check in with yourself, and then take the time to make your space your own, even if it’s a corner of a room or a place at the kitchen table do what you need to do to be productive and create. Now go make/write/do something amazing.

Brenda Murphy writes erotic romance. Her novel, Knotted Legacy, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot. She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

Back to Work

It’s the beginning of a new school year at our house — a time of new lunch boxes and backpacks and school supplies. My kids love school, and as much as I love our lazy summer days, I crave the structure that the school calendar brings to our lives. I have taken most of the summer off to reset and recharge, including an almost two weeks long social/screen sabbatical. During part of that, I took my kids’ camping for the first time, and it went well. The best part was the campground had no cell or internet connection, true freedom from 24/7 overload, and a fantastic digital detox. I am energized and well-rested and finally out of the blender.

What is the blender? It’s those times in your life when, just as you are getting settled, starting to get used to the new normal, something else occurs which requires you to change your plans, to find a new way to accomplish the five million and two things on your to-do list. And for those of us who struggle with our ADHD on a good day, and schedule disruption can send us right off the rails and destroy our ability to focus. The unstructured time of summer is both marvelous on one hand because I do like spending time with my kids, but I also struggle because I crave alone time to create. I coped this summer by using my bits of time to research and outline three projects.

Are things going to settle down now? Nope. There will be all the craziness that fall brings. But my kids will be busy at school, and I will have uninterrupted time for writing, or as I like to think of it, playing with my imaginary friends on paper. Now that my kids can read, and read very well, it is hard for me to work with them around and I can’t sneak in the time I used to when they were younger. The fall and winter are my most productive time, and last year, I managed to write two novels and a novella between September and March. I cheat a bit by doing NaNoWriMo every year, and that pushes me to complete a novel in a month.

This year my goal is to complete all three of the books I outlined by May of next year. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to give it a good go, and having the framework in place makes me feel like I can. Not writing over the summer was super hard. Writing is essential for my mental health. Blogging, one of my favorite things to do, and the one thing I try to keep with, no matter what, has been hit or miss the last few months and that has made it much more difficult for me stay on an even keel. Writing, art journaling, and telling stories are my touchstones. The past four months have made that clear to me that no matter what I need to provide time for myself to create. Going forward, I’m getting back to work, knowing that when everything is wacky, and I’m in the blender, the one thing I can do to anchor myself, is writing. My advice, if you are a creator and you’re struggling, set aside a few minutes to create. Even fifteen minutes of writing/drawing/painting or whatever is your creative outlet, can make a difference, make time and create.  

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking hereSign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Hitting the Reset Button

 

If you follow my blog, you know that this spring was a difficult one. We lost my brother-in-law to depression in March. To say we’ve been on a spinning wheel of emotions is not an exaggeration. We are in the process of organizing a celebration of his life, and dealing with all of the feelings that accompany that: sadness, grief, anger, overwhelm, frustration, and disbelief to name the most often occurring ones.

In spite of everything I managed to finish and submit a novella I had been working on, and now have no deadlines to meet which feels odd at the moment. I’ve worked steadily since last September and was able to write and submit two novels, and a novella.  I have to remind myself that it’s okay to take a break. That it’s enough for now. The photo at the top of this blog post also reminds me that writing is not a race and that maintaining a constant state of production is not healthy for anyone. It’s okay to sit and think for a while, to take time to plan and daydream and watch a storm from your porch. Slow progress is still making progress toward your goals.

My way of hitting the reset button and filling my creative well is home repairs and improvement projects. I have two rooms to strip wallpaper from, patch and repair and then paint.   It may seem odd that home improvement projects are one of my favorite forms of self-care, but it is very relaxing for me to spend hours solely focusing on avoiding brush strokes and roller marks. I also keep a notebook nearby because more than once I have had to stop painting and write down story ideas that pop up while my focus is elsewhere. Never be afraid to hit the reset button and give yourself the time you need to fill your creative well. For you writers and creatives out there how do you hit the reset button? 

 

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for sneak peeks, information on new releases, appearances, and occasional recipes here   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Harder Than It Looks

Welp, I’m not quite half-way through the thirty days of Catherine Price’s How to Break Up with Your Phone. If you missed the first post in this series, you can read it here.
I’ve been journaling my progress, and it was so hard the first week, I almost quit. I have not struggled so much since I had an ulcer and had to give up caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol AT THE SAME TIME. This past week I was all the things many addicts are when they quit: angry, frustrated, short-tempered, restless, and convinced that what I was doing was stupid and wouldn’t make a difference in my life.
Whenever I considered giving up, I took a break, and reread my reasons for doing the program, and that would give me the determination to continue, like most people I can do most anything if I have an important Why.
What I have discovered about myself so far:
1. I crave connections and adrenaline. I resigned from my job in healthcare in August. I have not replaced the kind of relationships I had with co-workers and patients, nor is there anything in my home that will ever replace the rush of working in the hospital. I need to work on this and make new connections. 
2. I increased my consumption of sugar and caffeine to replace the hits of dopamine that I got from social media with sugar and caffeine (note to self, work on this issue next.)
3. My addiction was worse than I thought.
4. The day I deleted social media apps off my phone was the most challenging part of the program, but the most freeing. To be clear, in Price’s program you are allowed to check and interact with social media, but you have to sign in using your browser. The browser experience is so clunky it gave me time to think before I logged in acting as a speed bump to mindless social media time. 
5. The things that have improved: my sleep, my focus, and my relationships. I’m more present and less distracted. My kids know that when I’m with them, I’m really with them, not just killing time until I check my phone.
6. Undertaking this program and changing my relationship with my phone is a change is one that I needed to make.

As hard as this has been so far, I’m happy that I chose this as my project for February. This week was better than last week. I’m not as restless and am doing things I used to do before I became so hooked on my phone.  I’m looking forward to finishing the program. I’ll post my final thoughts and some tips for completing the challenge in March. If you are wondering if you spend too much time on your phone you probably do, don’t be afraid to make a change. So far it has been worth every second of discomfort.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

Sister Friends, Growlers, and Rainbows

Sister Friends. Chosen family. The women who are there, no matter what, the ones who don’t give a rat’s patootie what your house looks like. The ones who are always ready to come for a sleep-over and eat whatever is in your cabinets and refrigerators. The ones who will parent your kid if you’re not there to do it. The friend you can tell anything to and know that they will 1.) not judge you, 2.) call you on your ish if you need it, 3.) cheer you on and tell you to go for it. My wife and I are fortunate to have a number of sister friends. This weekend one of our local sister friends came to visit. She’s fun and funny, and hella smart. Our kids get along and disappear to play their own games, so we can sit and sip good beer, and talk about anything and everything. We help each other, offering love and support in our personal lives, and in our professional lives.

Four years, 175 blog posts, and five books ago we sat in my living room one icy cold January after we had tucked the kids in bed, fueled by some amazing stout we spent the evening brainstorming this blog. We voted on a name from several I had written down, and in general mapped out my career. Fast forward to this spring, more beer, family talk, writing advice, career goal discussion, and after a hard rain, a rainbow. Fitting, and accurate for our time together.  My wish for all of you is sister-friends and rainbows.

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.    You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.

 

Website: www.brendalmurphy.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Writing-While-Distracted

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories

 

You are Not Your Paycheck

I want every creative person to write this down and put it where they can see it every day. Because it is the number one way non-creatives assign value to what we do. “How much did you make for that? Did it sell? Are you still wasting your time? Why don’t you get a job?” The hidden message in these type of statements is your worth as a person depends on your ability to make money.

After a steady stream of these types of questions, it is easy to think you are wasting your time, that no one will ever pay for your work, that your work is worthless. None of this is true, the act of creating has value. Letting other people suggest that you have no value as a person because you don’t make money with your creative work, is ridiculous, but oh so easy to believe. Stop. Don’t listen. You are not your paycheck. You have value. Your work has value. Do not let other people derail your creative endeavors. So what if you choose to spend your time writing, taking photographs, painting, drawing, or making collages? So what?  Hold fast to your creativity. Hold fast to your dreams. Hold fast to your own values and beliefs. Do not let other people stifle you.

This waterfall starts somewhere as a little trickle. Keep going. 

 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Creativity: Habit or Gift?


One of the questions writers hear over and over is: Where do you get your ideas?, often followed by the statement: I’m just not creative. I don’t have a hard time answering the first. I get my ideas from everything I see, read, experience, and bits of the world I discover, often while looking for something else. Like this picture of my grandmother and her best friend.

One day I will tell a story about this photo. I found it looking through a photo album at my mother’s house.  I made a copy of the photo and added it to my flat file where I keep bits and pieces of ideas until I have enough to put together a project. 

The second statement is so hard to hear. I detest the idea that creativity is a gift. I don’t think it is, because there are so many ways to be creative. It is not only writing, drawing, or painting or any of traditional ideas of what being creative means. Being creative is allowing yourself time to think, to do something only you could produce with your thoughts, and hands, and time.

Lack of time is the greatest barrier to creativity. If you want to create you have to set time aside to think, to plan, to play with your ideas, and to experiment. If you want to create make a plan, schedule it into your life. Set aside time to think and discover. Anyone can create. Fine arts are only one aspect of creativity. Do you like to make changes and adapt recipes? That is being creative. Do you spend time decorating your home or planting a garden? That is being creative. Creativity is what happens when you stop and let yourself imagine, and dream. Give yourself permission to look at life sideways. Take the walk, visit the museum, read, and absorb the world around you. Creativity is a habit. It is work. Rewarding, delightful, soul filling work. Do the work. 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Filling the Well and Looking Ahead

This year has been a rollercoaster with some fantastic highs, and some very stressful lows I achieved some goals that have been years it the making. I’ve had two novel published and have signed a contract for a third. I am a firm believer in goals setting and planning, and my life is so predictable I usually am able to execute my plans. But this summer I learned the value of being flexible as I spent the summer in hospitals, first with my daughter when she broke her arm and required surgery to repair it, and then with my mom as we sorted through different options to treat her cardiac issues. And then this month it was my turn. I had unexpected but necessary surgery the week of Christmas. My family and friends were fantastic, my parents making the eight hour drive to come and help my wife and I with our kids and to care for me.  I’m still recovering, but the way I have felt for the last month gives me even more respect for those that deal with chronic health conditions. As the year closes I’ve been forced to sit, never easy for me, but I’ve used the time to think, and plan. In this time before the New Year starts take some time, to sit and think, make some plans, and set some goals for the New Year but remember to stay flexible and build in some time to reconsider, and regroup if life does not go as planned. I’m spending the next three weeks with my family, filling the well. Wishing you all a very happy healthy new year. 

SaveSave

SaveSave