Writing as Gardening: Tending Your Creative Soul

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. My novel Complex Dimensions released in September, and then I attended Surrey International Writer’s Conference, and now I’m amid National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For anyone that doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual quest to write 50,000 words in November. I have participated in the last few years, and those novels have gone on to be published. I always count on NaNoWriMo to help me meet my goal of completing two manuscripts a year for submission. The concept of planing your writing/creative projects from a year-round perspective is what keeps me sane in a world that thrives on production at all costs. I young kids at home, and my creative schedules revolve around the school year. I also like to give myself a break around Christmas and New Year’s to spend time with my family.
When I plan my new work for the year, I enter significant commitments into my calendar first. Trips I have scheduled and conferences I plan to attend, family time, and self-care, all the things that fill my creative well, and let me come back to the blank page ready to write are my priorities when planning my work.
I have known too many writers who burn out and find themselves blocked, unable to write a thing because of pushing themselves to meet someone else’s idea of productivity.
So what does this have to do with gardening? I have a garden, and as part of taking care of it, I put it to bed when the weather turns by adding leaves and other organic matter and then covering it, trusting that everything will mellow and break down over the winter. I will have a lush soil to grow in when spring arrives. Some people grow things year-round, using covers and greenhouses and force their gardens to keep producing, but crucial to their success is to rotate their plantings, taking time to let some parts of their garden recover.
Much of writing is providing time for your mind to create, to think, and to wonder ‘what if?’. Taking time to reset and recover is essential after a considerable period of productivity.
Read, take walks, draw, paint, listen to music, hang out with your family and friends, visit museums, and travel. Do all the things that feed your creative soul, knowing that when it’s time to work again, you will be ready to 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 here.  Sign Up for her email list here  and get your free Erotic Short Story 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 

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 

 

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