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 

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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

What to do when you don’t know what to do

February is difficult for me. It is always cold, cloudy, snowy, icy, and/or rainy. I struggle with grief as it is the anniversary month of several deaths, both family, and friends. I struggle to find my center and don’t know what to do with myself. I usually cope by writing, immersing myself in a world of my own making, where no one dies unless I want them to. This year my timing is a bit off because of some health issues I had in December. So I’m at the brainstorming part of my next book but not ready to write. I haven’t known what to do with my grief, anger, overwhelm, anxiety and stress. I found the answer in an article about resilience. As a parent, I want to model resilience for my kids so they will have an understanding of how to cope with life.  I tell my kids all the time. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Do your best with the things you can control.

I took my own advice and I made two lists: Things I Can’t Control, and a list of Things I Can Control. Here are some of my entries: I can’t control the weather, other people’s behavior, time, space, the events of the world, or reviewers (for the authors out there). I can control what I eat, what I read, what I listen to, what I do with my time, the way I speak with other people, how I listen, and who I spend time with.

Listing calmed me, reminded me I am in control of the things that can help with the rawness that February brings. If you are as discomforted by February as I am I hope this post helps.  If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts contact this hotline. Call. Text. Use online chat. Reach out.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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

Invest in Yourself

This past month I signed a contract for my third novel. And as anxious as I was to start my forth, because starting a new project is the best way for me to deal with the stress/anxiety/freak-out of submitting a manuscript for review. I make it a point to take some time between novels to study my craft, either by attending a conference, taking an online class, reading books about the craft of writing, and/or reading widely in my genre.

Why? Because on one level, writing is about doing that, siting down and putting words on paper. Nothing can replace that practice. There is no way to “hack” becoming better at writing than by writing and practicing your craft. I’m at the journeyman point in my career, with a collection of short stories, two novels published and a contract signed on a third. I’m not a beginner. But I am not seasoned writer with twenty novels to my credit either. I was not an English or Journalism major and I don’t have a MFA, and I want to make it clear: none of the above degrees are necessary to write a novel.

But it is possible to improve your craft with out signing up for formal education. You can invest your time and money to learn new ways to communicate your ideas and entertain your readers. I’m a health professional and educator by training and am all about making plans to achieve your goals. In order to construct an educational plan for your writing career look at reviews of you work. What do readers complain about? And I’m referring to thoughtful reviews here, not troll-type reviews. What problems do your editors point out? Pacing? Structure? Plotting? Character development?

Here are some thoughts on ways to address recurring problems in your manuscripts. Have a problem with pacing? Study screenplays, or take a screen-writing class. Issues with dialogue? Study stage plays, watch movies from the 30’s and 40’s when special effects were limited, and dialogue had to carry the story. Problems with plotting and structure? Read, read, read in your genre, take time to see how the novelist did what they did by making an outline of the novel. Flat characters, or poorly designed character arcs? Read biographies, ethnographies, and memoirs, connect lived experiences with human behavior and character arcs. Struggling with world building and setting? Study filmmaking and photo journalism to see how setting is as much a part of the story as the characters.

Writers conferences offer opportunities to learn about the craft of writing but not every one  has time, money, mental, and physical health required to attend a writing conference. If a writing conference is not on your list of things to do, take advantage of the many low stress, free, or low cost resources for writers. My number one recommendation for resources is the public library. Most libraries are free, or low cost, and once you are a member you can use interlibrary loans to get just about any book or movie you want. Many libraries have a way to provide digital loans, saving you time, and the hassle of remembering to return your books/films/music. If you live near a university or college, check out their library and their theater productions. Creative Live offers courses on screenwriting, (https://www.creativelive.com and no, not I’m not getting paid to recommend them, they often have sales on their courses, so it pays to sign up for their newsletter.

Indie Film Academy (http://www.indiefilmacademy.com) is free as is Ted Talks (https://www.ted.com/talks) for interviews and lectures about writing, inspiration, and living a creative life.

Take time to invest in yourself and your writing career. You and your career are worth the effort. 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave