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 

 

Finish it.

Whatever you’re writing now, finish it. Even if it takes you two years, finish it. Why? Because every time you abandon a manuscript, it becomes that much harder when you get to the soggy/awful/sticky/why-the-hell-did-I-even-start-this point in your manuscript. This is a lesson I learned from my track and field coach in high school. I had signed up to do field events. I loved field events. I’m built for field events, and they were easy for me. But our team was short an 800-meter runner (that’s a half-miler for you metrically impaired folks), and that was how I found myself having to practice with the real runners, the people who do 400-meter sprints and enjoy running and smile when they run. And I hated it. I was sucking wind one sunny spring day as I rounded the curve having run the first 600 meters, and I stopped running 200 meters from the finish line and stepped off the track. I leaned over a few minutes to catch my breath. My coach’s shadow darkened the ground at my feet. I raised my head and met her gaze.
“Are you hurt?” She said quietly.
“No.”
“If you’re not hurt you need to finish, I don’t care if you crawl over the line, but every time you give up, you will struggle at that mark in the race. Don’t quit. It’s the worst thing for your mind.” She walked away and blew her whistle and had us all lineup and we ran again. And this time, when I hit the mark I had quit at she was standing right there. No way I was going to quit with her right there. So I pushed myself and finished. And a little fist pump from my coach, her acknowledgment of my effort.  And that is how it went for the next week, every day at practice she would be standing at the sticking point to remind me to keep going. To not quit. To push through.

My sixteen-year-old self held on to those words and the look on her face every time I ran through the sticking point and finished. Those words got me through the rest of high school, nursing school, Army basic training, and every other hard thing I’ve ever done since then. Including writing my first book.

Those of you doing NaNoWriMo right now may want to quit. Perhaps you’ve fallen behind in your word or questioned why it’s essential to finish. NaNoWriMo is not about winning, it’s about finishing. No matter what your word count on November 30, complete your NaNoWriMo project. Don’t quit. Finish your draft. Even if it’s terrible and it takes you until next November to complete it, finish it. Don’t quit. I’m cheering for you.

PS Coach K, if you’re out there, thank you for all your life lessons, but most importantly, this one.

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

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 

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 

 

When You’ve Lost the Thread

It’s been a while since I’ve written about writing, mostly because I’ve found a system for fast-draft writing that has worked with my ADHD. I used my system for seven novels and I’ve been comfortable with the results. I have never been a detailed outliner. I work from a scene list and character goal-motivation and conflict sheets and let my story evolve organically within that framework. I typically draft a 60-65K novel in four to six weeks and then spend three to four weeks revising and editing my draft before submitting it.
Trusting in my system, I used it with my current project, a novella-length paranormal romance with dual points of view. With this project, because I needed to attend to two character’s points of view, along with paranormal conventions, I’ve been feeling my way along the story, and it was going well, slowly, but well.
And then I needed to take some time after my brother-in-law’s death. I set my story aside for three weeks, and when I started working on my novella again, I was lost. I couldn’t remember what I had written, or where I was going in the story.
Because my way of working falls somewhere between a painter and a plotter I used a technique that is a routine part of my revision process, I printed out what I had written and reverse outlined the story as a way of figuring out what I needed to do to complete my draft.
After reviewing my outline I know I need to write six more scenes to finish my first draft and have about 13K words to complete those scenes and stay within my word count limit.
What is a reverse outline? It involves reading what you’ve written and then creating an outline from that document. It can be detailed or brief as it fits your style. For me, it’s a one-sentence description of what happens in each scene.
I don’t stop to edit my work. I merely outline my story as it stands. After I have completed the outline I read over it to assess if my scenes flow as they should, that my story beats are where they should be, and in this case that I’ve given equal time to each character’s point of view. I use highlighters to tag types of scenes and transitions.
It is the simplest way I’ve found to check structure and beats, and if you have lost your way, it is a road map back to your central story and ensures that critical elements of your novel are not missing. If you struggle with plotting and structure, try adding a reverse outline to your routine revision process.
This time a reverse outline was a way of finding my way back to writing after a family tragedy, and another step toward preventing my grief from keeping my words bottled up.
Will a reverse outline work for everyone? Nope. If you are detailed outliner and are able to stick to your outline religiously, it might be redundant, as a plotser (panter+plotter) it is essential for me. Try it the next time you’re stuck and take advantage of a simple way to assess your story structure.

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 

 

Doing the Work

If you follow me on social networks you know I’m wrestling with writing in a new genre. And like a lot of writers whenever I’m struggling with a work in progress, new storylines scamper through my thoughts. As a writer with ADHD, this is not a new thing; I’m used to adorable new story ideas flaunting themselves to entice me to leave the hard work and write something new.

My standard way of dealing with herds of wild plot bunnies is to keep a notebook nearby, scribble down my thoughts and get back to work on my primary manuscript. I have managed to finish six novels using this technique, but for the last three weeks I have not only had to cope with new ideas rampaging through my thoughts and distracting me from my work, but vicious self-doubt demons moved in and had a rave.

After becoming annoyed with the demons and myself for listening, I used these strategies to kick my self-doubt to the curb.  As with any list of tips, your mileage may vary but give them a try; you have nothing to lose but fear.

1. Remind yourself of your why: Why do you want to write? And why this story specifically?
2. Give yourself permission to imagine what the worst is what will happen if you write a crappy first draft. Write down all your worries and fears, get it all out. Then tear that paper up and get back to work. You can fix a first draft; you can’t fix a blank page.
3. Set small word count goals that you know you can meet. Even if it is one hundred words a day, it will all add up to a finished draft. If you don’t use word counts, set a timer for ten minutes and write as many words as you can, giving yourself permission to stop at the end of the period or keep going if you’re in a grove.
4. Eat. Drink water. Exercise. Take care of your body.
5. Embrace the fear and do it anyway, let the demons rage. Writers write. Don’t give up, and it only feeds the demons

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 

 

Bring on 2019

This past year I wrote 59 blog posts, wrote and submitted three novel-length manuscripts, and two short stories. I also renovated a house and did eighty percent of the work myself. I have young children, a partner, and older parents with health issues that often require me to make an eight-hour drive to be there to help with their needs.
People ask me all the time if I sleep. The short answer is no, not much, but then I never have slept much more than six hours a night at any point in my life.
I also don’t watch television, or movies very much. I also left my part-time job this year as healthcare worker after 31 years, and that affords me more time to write. I am also extremely fortunate to enjoy excellent health.
Why tell all of you this? Because I’ve read the most incredibly stupid advice to writers about all the things you must do if you want to “be serious” about your career.
The types of articles and posts that contain this type of advice assume that what works/worked for them will work for everyone. This is not true. I’m going to say it louder for folks in the back THIS IS NOT TRUE!
Every writer is unique, what works for me, will most likely not work for you. I have wicked ADHD, which is why I don’t sleep and am driven to keep doing something, to move, to think, to create when most neurotypical folks are resting or sleeping.
I also tend to hyperfocus which means I can write in the middle of a busy street, or my living room surrounded by my family with all kinds of chaos going on. It doesn’t mean that I’m more serious than the next person it only means I have found a way to work that works for me.
And this is my advice for folks for 2019, find a way that works for you. Go ahead and read the books, try different methods, explore your options, and in the end trust yourself. You do you. My second bit of advice, please for all that’s good in the world and your sanity, don’t compare your output to anyone else.
The same folks who want to tell you that you must write every day like to say “we all have the same 24 hours a day.”
I want to point out that is not true. My 24 hours do not look like your 24 hours. We each have unique responsibilities and time constraints, physical and mental abilities, that make our 24 hours what they are, and yes we can control some of what our 24 hours look like, but work and family obligations are often beyond our control, as a mom of twins, trust me, even with the best-laid plans, two kids with fevers wreck your day, and may wreck your week!
My wish for everyone out there is to have a happy, sane and healthy New Year, filled with joy and that you accomplish your goals your way.

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 

Return of the Spiral Notebook

If you have followed this blog from the beginning, you might remember one of my first posts was about the simple spiral notebook. At that time I was a mostly stay-home parent with young children. I kept a spiral notebook at hand to jot down ideas, and storylines, and thoughts that I wanted to explore as blog posts, and short stories. Then my kids went to pre-school, and I had much more time to devote to my writing, and I dedicated two hours and forty-five minutes to my writing Monday through Friday (the time I had between when I arrived home from dropping them off and when I had to leave to pick them up). It was miraculous, and I managed to get a collection of short stories written and published, and then wonder of wonders they went to kindergarten and later on to grade school, and I had much more time to devote to writing. I focused on writing novels and managed to write four books in two years, not a prodigious sum but for me, but it was doable and not overwhelming.

And then we bought the house next to ours to renovate as a rental and future home for any family member that might need to live close enough for us to care for them. I have done ninety percent of the renovation myself. I was sick and had surgery in December of this year. And then my mom and dad had some health issues that required me to make the eight-hour drive to their house on a regular basis. And then my sweet dog passed away suddenly in the Spring, leaving me short one office companion, and melancholy. 

All of this means that this year, I’m not sure that I will manage to produce two manuscripts to submit to my editor. It also means that I have been carting around my faithful spiral notebook so that when I’m in the middle of painting, or plumbing, or laying floor tiles, and come up with a new thought/idea/storyline/blog post I have a place to capture it. I know that some people use their phone for these types of things but let us say a cheap notebook and pen is more forgiving of paint-stained fingers.

At this point, you may be asking what my point is, and it is this: Never be afraid of adjusting your goals to fit your life, don’t feel bad about it, do what you need to do, and hold tight to those ideas for future projects. Life is full of seasons, don’t give up, be willing to bend, and ready to snap back when the storm has passed. 

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. Or if Twitter is your thing follow me @BMurphySideshow 

Website: www.brendalmurphy.com

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

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Filling the Well: Oslo and Stockholm

I’ve written before about using photographs and my travel journals as part of my writing research for books. My most recent trip to Oslo and Stockholm is no exception and I expect to write a least two novels set in each country. I spent much of my time simply absorbing my environment and letting my senses soak up the scents, sounds, sensations, and sights. I enjoyed local food and as always I asked questions of my friends and hosts. The thing I noticed immediately, mostly because I am an avid gardener, were the types of flowers blooming in public and private gardens. As a writer, I work hard to add the little things that lend verisimilitude to my work. The gorgeous flowers I saw everywhere in Oslo and Stockholm will feature in my next novel.  Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip.


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

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Writing: Job or Business?

I was reading a thread a few weeks ago about writing, specifically about the need to write every day and the idea that if you didn’t, you weren’t serious about being published. One of the you-must-write-everyday proponents wrote, “I treat writing like my job and show up every day.” As I turned that thought over it occurred to me “Is writing my job or my business?”
Now, in case I have been unclear in the past,  I’m am firmly in the camp that recommends writing when you can, making use of whatever time you have to write. Working this way has seen me through four published books with another novel set to release in September. A job usually has set hours and an expectation of working a set time. As a small business owner, in addition to being an author, I can tell you that working on your business is a matter of finding/making time to do what needs to be done. Owning a business involves thinking and dreaming, strategic planning, cash flow management, and setting goals.

Just showing up every day and putting words on paper does nothing if you don’t have a plan for what to do with those words. If having your book traditionally published or indie publishing is your goal you have to have a plan, and then you must take advantage of every second you have to work your plan.
As someone with a day job, who is also a spouse, a parent, and a daughter with older parents and in-laws this is the only way I’ve been able to get any writing done with the goal of publication. I’ve researched publisher sites and calls for submission databases sitting on the couch while my kid with a fever dozed next to me. I’ve written in hospital waiting rooms while various family members were having surgery, and in medical offices and occupational therapy waiting rooms, and very late at night when the house is quiet, and I can’t sleep.
When my kids were little, I had exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes to write between when I dropped them off at pre-school and when I picked them up. I wrote like a fiend during that time, unless I need to grocery shop, or had to run some other errand that would have been incredibly stressful with three-year-old twins in tow. Writing every day does not make you a writer or indicate the level of your seriousness. The things that indicate a serious approach to publishing your work are writing, editing, submitting your work, finding ways to improve your craft, and working steadily towards what you want. Writing for publication is not just about writing, it is about learning your craft, striving to make the next book better than the last, and most of all it is about not listening to people say you have to do X, Y, or Z to be considered serious writer. You do you. Find your way. Don’t listen to people who insist there is only one way to do anything, even me.

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

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories