Changing the Blade

I had to change my lawnmower blade recently after an unfortunate run-in with the curb. If you’ve never broken a lawnmower blade, I do not recommend it. The unbalanced blade creates havoc, and the best thing you can do is just shut the whole thing down and let the engine cool off before you attempt a repair.
If I had to choose an image of my brain when I am between writing projects, this would be it.
My ADHD brain is a wild, out-of-control machine tearing up the ground without really doing anything.
Like most writers, I feel out of sorts when I’m not writing. My mind is full of what-ifs and storylines most days, but it’s overwhelming when I don’t have a project in progress. The amazingly wonderful editor Alissa McGowan offered some of her precious time to talk about writing.
We talked for well over an hour about all the different projects I had banging around in my brain. Near the end of our time, after Alissa had patiently listened to me rattle on about no less than five fiction and a non-fiction project I have been thinking about, she said the magic words. “Do the thing you are most passionate about right now.”
That was like a new blade for my mower. The plot idea that had been a fuzzy image came into sharp focus. After much preparation, including character sketches, scene card sorting and playlist creation, I started the fourth book in the University Square series. 
Thank you, Alissa, for being generous with your time and for your encouragement. And if anyone else is struggling with choosing their next project.  Follow  Alissa’s advice:  Do the thing you are most passionate about.

Chasing Fireflies

 

For the first time in 5 years, I am not participating in National Novel Writing Month. I’m a bit sad about not participating in the silly/chaotic/exhilarating rush to write 50,000 words in a month. Since 2017 I have, on average, written two books a year, with one of those books being my NaNoWriMo project.
In the past two years, I have added a novella to that count, and that doesn’t take into account blog posts, short stories, and all the other words I usually manage to come up with over the year. Staying productive while the world burned was an excellent way to deal with my rising anger and anxiety. As a creative, I strive to provide respite in my books. My goal is to offer readers a safe place to enjoy a world where you know no matter what happens in the story; my characters will get to have their happy endings.
But this year, I have struggled to write. I am currently two-thirds of the way through completing the third book in my new series, and I’ve lost the thread of my story. It’s not the first time this has happened.
I’m not a strict outliner, preferring to create a scaffold of scenes for my characters and then start writing, trusting my process, and chasing story ideas and words like a child running after fireflies.

If you’ve never caught fireflies or lightning bugs as some call them, it’s tricky. They only start their display at dusk, and it only lasts for a short time. You need to wait until they flash their soft yellow-green glow, run to that spot, and then gently, ever so gently cup them in your hands.

If you’re patient, they will light up again while you hold them, a delightful bit of magic. That is the closest thing I can relate to how I create stories. And this year, I’ve had a tough time following the fireflies of ideas that generally fill my head.

This year, there was no in-person time with my extended family, no time with sister friends, and no time to fill the well at my favorite conferences and writer events. Because no matter how wonderful it is to see folks over Zoom, it is not the same as warm hugs and laughter and staying up way past bedtime to tell silly stories and laugh until our stomachs hurt.

I have no doubts I will finish this book. I always do. And it’s not the first time I have had to stop and reassess a story direction. I have the tools to figure out where the story needs to go. But this year, I’m going to give myself a little bit of extra time to chase the fireflies and enjoy the magic along the way.

 

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. Her novel Double Six won the 2020 GCLS Goldie for Erotica. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering on her front porch and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.  Sign Up for her email list and receive a free erotic short story at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Owning it and help from a friend

It’s been a wild few months since I won the 2020 Goldie for my erotic novel,  Double Six. The award still doesn’t have a permanent home in my house. It is in its lovely box on my shelf because I moved my office at the start of the pandemic. I have a desk now in the corner of my living room and am back to writing where ever I can find space to sit with my laptop.

This photo makes me nostalgic for the time when I could drop the kids off at school and head to my favorite tea shop, have an oaty biscuit and a pot of tea and lose myself in my imaginary world. Both the tea shop and my ability to physically remove myself from my home to write are gone. But the ability to lose myself in my imaginary world remains.

But it feels a little different now. The Goldie award lurks in the of my periphery of thoughts. I worry if my next book will be as well received. If I think about it too much, I can find myself paralyzed. I’m super fortunate to have a very good friend who, when I mentioned this imposter feeling and struggle I was having offered this advice. First, she reminded me of things I tend to forget, for instance, this is not my first book, that folks wanted to read my stories. And she said the words I needed to hear:

“Get on with it. Write your damn book.”

It is the perfect reminder of what makes the difference between committing yourself to write a book.  I’ve written them on a card and stuck them where I can see them whenever I find myself distracted or worried or being precious about my writing. If you are creative and stuck or if your struggling with imposter syndrome, I’m offering you the same tough love.

“Get on with it. Write your damn book.”

Thank you,  VT, and I think we need to make this a t-shirt and maybe a mug 🙂 

 

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. Her novel Double Six won the 2020 GCLS Goldie for Erotica. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering on her front porch and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted.  Sign Up for her email list and receive a free erotic short story at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

On The Square

Double Six

Complex Dimensions

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Full Circle

It has been a wild four months since I last posted. So much as happened in the world and in my life. As the pandemic spun out around the world, I helped my kids get through the last few months of school at home, planted five new raspberry bushes, and ten fruit trees. In April, I lost my dearest Aunt to a fall, and then I was informed I was a finalist for a GCLS Goldie, and then the most amazing thing, I won.

And through it all, I completed a novella for a project with friends. It took me as long to write thirty thousand words as it usually takes me to write sixty thousand. A big part of struggling to write was dealing with grief.

Grief over my aunt, grief for my kids not being able to be with their grandparents, and friends, grief for friends who died, friends who lost parents, siblings and partners, and grief over losing the ability to work undisturbed.

I started writing when my twins were little. I was home with them and wrote in snippets and margins of time I snatched for myself. And then they went to preschool, and hallelujah, I had two hours and forty-five minutes to myself.

I used that time to write my first two books, and then they went to kindergarten and my day stretched to 5 hours, and then the miracle of miracles they went to elementary school. I had full days to work. It was marvelous. I could stretch out, relax, and work as I wanted to, I even had a dedicated office. And then COVID-19. And now, my kids are home 24/7 and my wife is using my office for innumerable meetings.  I am back to working in the living room, or on our porch, or where ever and whenever I can snatch moments.

I fought against the change in my circumstances at first, raged, fretted, and whined quietly to myself. But in the end, I just needed to remind myself that I wrote and submitted two manuscripts a year for three years writing two hours and forty-five minutes a day.   I can do it again. Hell, my Goldie winning novel, Double Six was written during NANOWRIMO, and if I can draft a 60k novel in thirty days I can do anything.

What is the point of all of this?

Don’t let circumstances steal your art. Find a way to keep creating. I’ll be over here, sneaking in a writing sprint in the early morning before my kids get up, or doing edits after everyone has gone to bed, or knocking out a blog post when I can.

I won’t quit, I won’t whine, and I won’t dwell on what was. I will embrace new challenges and keep working, and keep writing because I’ve come too far along my writing journey to quit now. I won’t be precious about how and where I create,  I will just get on with it.

For you creatives out there, keep creating, the world needs your words and art, now more than ever.

Until next time, stay safe and well.

Available August 17th from Ninestar Press

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. Her novel, Double Six, won the 2020 GCLS Goldie for Erotica. 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 blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes random thoughts and 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 

 

Creating in Chaos

Hi folks,

Its been a while since I’ve posted here. I have been like many I suspect, overwhelmed. And unsure I had anything to add to the discussion of how to adjust to our lives with the specter of Covid-19 looming over us. My family has been sheltering in place for about three weeks now. It’s been an adjustment. After suffering the loss of my brother in law last year, I finally felt we had all adjusted to the new normal. And then we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic. 

In the past week we, (my wife, my kids and I) have snuggled on our couch, struggled with classroom technology and homeschooling, played outside, started garden, planted seeds, raged, cried, lay in our beds and stared at the ceiling, laughed at ridiculous movies, called family and friends, played games, helped each other with chores and housework, and eaten our share of our favorite snacks and desserts. We are surviving. 

I sent a new manuscript off to my editor right before all of the chaos started and I’m grateful I had competed it because I have been unable to get myself to sit down to write until today.

I have a new novella project that I need to start working on.  I know I’m not going to hit my usual word counts. I not even going to try. I’m permitting myself to go slowly, to adjust my writing pace to meet my deadline on time but not early. I’m also permitting myself to take days off when I need them for emotional and mental health. My imaginary friends have always been my go-to in any crisis, and I believe that once I get back to writing, I will feel better. How are you all doing? Are you able to create right now? Do you have any tips to share?  

Until next time, stay safe, stay well. 

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 

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