Off the Rails

Last week my brother in law lost his twenty-five-year struggle with depression. He was an amazing brother-in-law and a wonderful uncle to my kids. He was caring and kind and hella funny. He and I shared a love of film and cinematography, British comedies, and nature. He was brilliant, silly, absolutely fabulous, as queer as I am, and I miss him so damn much.
As a family, we are heartbroken and devastated by his loss. I was close to finishing a manuscript; I had plans to start a new series and write several short stories for anthology calls. Even in my profound grief, all I want to do is curl up with my laptop and write, to immerse myself in my imaginary world where no one dies and pets live forever, my version of self-care. And yet, I’m finding it very hard to concentrate. My focus right now is my wife and kids as we work through this loss as a family.
My wish is that if any of you reading this ever find yourself in that dark place that you hold on and reach out. I know how hard that is, my brother in law was less than fifty feet from us, and it must have seemed like miles to him.

National Crisis Line: 1-800-272-TALK
Local Crisis Line: 330-264-9029
Crisis Text Line: Send a text message to 741-741

Trans Lifeline

https://www.translifeline.org

The Hotline: 877-565-8860

Trans Lifeline is a national trans-led 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of our community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. Our vision is to fight the epidemic of trans suicide and improve overall life-outcomes of trans people by facilitating justice-oriented, collective community aid.

The Trevor Project

www.thetrevorproject.org/

Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

On-Line Resources for Mental Health Support & Suicide Prevention

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 

 

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 

And So It Begins

February starts tomorrow. Where I live, it is the longest, shortest, coldest, cloudiest month of the year. It is my least favorite month. This year instead of wallowing in my usual February funk I’ve decided to actively change my attitude toward February. I doubt it will ever replace August as my favorite month, but maybe by the end of the next 28 days, we will be cordial. One of my new year goals was to expand my writing repertoire so this month I’m writing a novella. It is a new length of fiction for me, and my first paranormal story. The story has been banging around in my head since last spring, so it feels incredible to let my characters loose on the page.
The other change I am planning this month is breaking up with my phone. Why? Because my screen time tracking app numbers appalled me. I spend enough time on my phone some weeks for it to qualify as a part-time job. As a writer, I love connecting with readers, as a reader I love connecting with other readers and geeking out over books. But I also want to make sure that I’m not drowning my sorrows in my phone, chasing little hits of endorphins, the way some folks pursue alcohol or drugs. ADHD folks have higher rates of addiction to alcohol and substances than the general population and are at a higher risk for screen/technology addiction.  As part of my self-care this month I’m going to change the way I interact my phone and adopt more healthy habits.

I found a fantastic book to help me with my phone addiction. How to Break Up with Your Phone by Catherine Price is the how-to book I’ve needed to make the break with my device. Price approaches the process of phone addiction with charm, wit, and facts to back up and support her suggestions for mindful use of our phones. She is not a zealot or Luddite. Price has a realistic outlook when it comes to the convenience of smartphones and does not recommend or suggest that you switch to a flip phone and head off into the wilderness unless that is what you want to do.

The beauty of her approach is her myriad of sound suggestions of how to practice mindfulness while using our technology. Catherine Price offers actionable recommendations and a plan to follow to make sure that way you interact with your phone fits your life and is designed by you, not app designers using the best brain hacking technology money can buy to have you staring at your screen instead of your family.

I encourage you to evaluate the time you spend with your phone, to decide if your interactions are positive and support your goals. I have a long list of items to accomplish this year, and I know I have to make some changes in how I use my time if I am going to achieve them. My first step is to make sure time spent on my phone is time I’ve chosen to allocate instead of merely being sucked into the vortex of apps designed to keep me tied to my screen, oblivious to the world and distracted from my goals. For the next month I’m going to follow the steps outlined in How to Break Up With Your Phone and work on my phone habit. Wish me luck and if you decide to join me, drop a comment here. I’ll post a follow up in March.

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 

 

Review: Plot Your Health Booklets

As hard as it can be to track your appointments and work schedule, if you add keeping track of another person’s agenda, it is enough to drive the most seasoned and committed planner nuts. At this point in my life, I need to track two kids worth of appointments for occupational therapy, orthodontia, and therapy, and keep track of their medications, and physician appointments as well as my own. There are those of you out there who use an electronic planner for this, and I salute your ability and if it’s working for you, keep going, you do you.
But if you are like me and prefer a paper planner, Plot Your Health booklets may be a robust solution to the problem of keeping everyone on track. Full disclosure, I trialed these for the developer/designer and am already a hardcore fan of her Plot Your Work planner for authors. I love my paper planner, and it works great for as an overview, but this past year we were trying different routines for each kid. We had home treatments to track and monitor as part of the kids’ health plans.
I was trying to keep it all in my planner. I tried highlighting and using different color inks. It was confusing because of my ADHD. I couldn’t remember which child was what color, or what color I wrote their individual appointments in so I was frustrated as hell.

Enter the Plot Your Health three-months-at-a-time booklets. It was the perfect thing for us to bring to our appointments, and it also enabled the kids to participate in their wellness plans. I was able to track appointment dates, medications/treatment and reactions to different therapies. The planner features color-in mood trackers. My kids enjoyed filling out their mood trackers. We made it a family thing and did it together. I let them choose which feelings they wanted to track and what colors they wanted to use for each feeling. This feature, in particular, was fantastic. It was the perfect way to get them to open up and discuss how their day went and what things might make the next day better. The small size makes it perfect to slip into my bag or jacket pocket to take to appointments. In a house where none of us is neurotypical the Plot Your Health is the best way I’ve found to keep myself and my kids on track.

You can get your Plot Your Health Planners here. For you writers out there, check out the Plot Your Work Planners as a way to keep you on track to write and publish your work.

Mood Trackers were great conversation starters

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. Join my email group at 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 

How to Get Off the Crazy Train

This is my first post in about four weeks. I’m glad to be back. The title of this post reflects how my life has been; I won’t bother with the details, but let’s say, two writers on deadline, twins, aging parents with health issues, work, travel, a cracked tooth, and root canal, collided in one spectacular episode of crazy train in our house. Sometimes I refer to it as being in the blender. Both are phrases to describe that awful can’t catch up, always behind, I really should be doing (fill in the blank with whatever you feel most guilty about not doing) feeling.

I know everyone struggles when life goes sideways, but for those of us with ADHD, the collapse of routine adds another layer of stress that we have to work hard to bounce back from. If your kids/partner/ other family members are also non-neurotypical the loss of routine becomes a tsunami of overwhelm. 

How do you get off the crazy train? For me, it means letting go of things that can be allowed go of without causing too much trauma. For me, one of the first things that goes are blog posts. And the social engagements that do not feed me and cause extra stress. After that, making fancy dinners, which means I raid my freezer for our home cooked stockpile of meals I make over the summer, knowing it will get crazy at some point in the fall. This week is the start of NaNoWriMo, and I’m doing it again this year. If you notice on my list of things I let go, working on my current novel was not one of them. And that is because, for me, writing grounds me, even if I  can only squeeze in thirty minutes of work, doing just that little bit keeps me in the game.

Here are my steps for getting off the crazy train. Your mileage may vary, but here is a list to get you started.

  1. The extra thing: Blogging or anything else you can lay aside and pick back up when life settles down. No, this does not mean skipping your exercise plans.
  2. Say no to social engagements that do not feed you. You don’t need to give a reason, just say no. Really.
  3. Eat good food. Drink water. As tempting as it may be to say eff it and eat everything and drink a bunch of wine, just don’t.
  4. Breathe. Take a ten-minute walk out side, make it fifteen if you can. Walk, without your phone, the world can rotate without you being plugged in for ten minutes. Walk, breathe, and remember that it’s okay to take some time for your self.
  5. Make some art, or cook, bake, or do that one thing that always grounds you.

This is my list. I hope that you will come up with your own list for the next time the crazy train rolls into your life.

 

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

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 

Scheduling, Planning, and Life

As much as I’d like to pretend that my life always goes according to plan that would be a lie. This past week we lost one of our dear sweet pups. She was ten, a long time in dog years, never long enough in people years. She was the runt of her litter, the only girl, and feisty as hell.  She ran the house, was a fierce protector of our kids, and always ratted them out by barking when they did anything she thought was unsafe. She loved people and was a stealth kisser. 

Her death was sudden, but not unexpected as she had struggled with some health problems this past year. This week it’s been hard to sit down to write, my office feels a bit emptier and my house is too quiet. Her brother is still with us, and he’s been a huge cuddle bug and for that I’m grateful.  My plan to have my current WIP completed by the end of May is off the rails, I may finish by then, I may not. I’m giving myself permission to grieve as much as I need to, for me that means reading books with no angst and happy endings. I’ve managed to sit down to write yesterday and today and my time at the keyboard helps, immersing myself in my own own world where pets live forever is my favorite way to heal.  Schedules are great and planning is the only way that I accomplish anything, but grief has a way of up-ending all of it. So I’m going to do what I can and that will have to be enough. 

Rest in peace my Kona girl. 

Rejection: The good, the bad, and the angry

Rejection. As a writer, you will have rejections. And if you plan to keep writing you need to find a way to deal with rejection. Writing is unique in that there are a number of ways to be rejected. Most are form letter emails. Some, if you are lucky, will offer an explanation for the rejection. Some are the unmistakable sound of crickets, even with polite follow-ups.

The non-response response is perhaps the most difficult to deal with, it always leaves me with questions. 1.) Did you get my submission?  2.) Are you so unprofessional even a quick form rejection is beyond your ability? 3.) Am I not worth a response? 4.) Did something horrible happen in your life and you can’t even respond, or it has been so long that you don’t want to respond because you are embarrassed? 

A good rejection for a writer is a “revise and resubmit”, or  “I liked this but it does not fit with our anthology/brand/ direction”, or one that contains suggestions on how to improve your chances of being accepted. The best rejections end with “We would like to see future submissions or some such language that indicates the rejection is not a rejection forever, simply a rejection for right now, and that in the future it may be a yes.

The best way to respond to a rejection? Feel your feelings. Be angry, cry, fuss, swear, go for a run, eat ice cream out of the carton, do whatever you need to do. But do it away from the keyboard. Never write back a rude or angry reply. Just don’t. It will never serve you well in your career to respond with anger.  Remember publishing is a business, and as such decisions based are on more than the ability of a writer to write well.

Write this down. Post it where you can see it.  It is not personal. 

Send a very polite acknowledgment of the rejection. And if you are fortunate enough to have had an editor take their time to offer suggestions on how to improve your writing, be very gracious, and acknowledge their time and kindness. Editors are some of the busiest people I know, and for them to offer assistance when they owe you nothing but a professional reply, acknowledging them is reasonable and a good business practice. 

Writing is an exhilarating, frustrating, addictive career. Find constructive ways to deal with rejection. Do not let it derail your dreams. 

Brenda Murphy writes short stories and novels. She is a member of Romance Writers of America. Her nonfiction and short fiction have been published in various collections. Her most recent novel, One was published by NineStar Press. When she is not swilling gallons of hot tea and writing, she wrangles two dogs, twins, and an unrepentant parrot. She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog, https://www.brendalmurphy.com/blog.html

Website: www.brendalmurphy.com

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

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

 

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