A Year of Problem Solving

 I recently had the opportunity to talk with Suzi Carr on her Curves Welcome podcast about problem-solving, and you can listen to the podcast  here

I loved having the opportunity to speak with her and discuss my problem-solving approach, which the past twelve months tested to the limit. 

Last March, my kids came home from school on a Friday and never went back. The problems presented ranged from technological issues raised by remote schooling to logistical issues like sharing the dining room table and mental health issues as we adjusted to their new routine, death with grief, fear, and uncertainty as the pandemic progressed.   No one in my house is neurotypical and that added layers to our difficulties. It is super hard as a parent to handle/manage/cope with your own ADHD and PTSD and assist your neurodivergent kids with their own challenges. 

I had spent much time in January and February 2020 planning my year, pitching a podcast, and outlining new writing projects. By April it became clear that I needed to revamp my plans and figure out a way forward. 

In the podcast, I discuss using the following approach to solving problems. It’s a method that I’ve used for years. 

  1. Get clear about what the problem is, write it down. Is it a question of money, time, space, personal issue, or a combination? Is it in your locus of control? If it isn’t within your ability to address the difficulty, your focus shifts from solving the problem to coping with the situation.  Is it a problem or just an inconvenience? Is it time-limited or ongoing? 
  2. Make three lists concerning your problem: What do you have? What do you need? Options for acquiring what you need.
  3. Brainstorm solutions to the problem; think of as many possible solutions as you can. Don’t limit yourself in thinking of solutions, be bold. Organize your list; some solutions will take more to put into place than others. For each answer, list the steps you will need to take to solve the problems using that solution.
  4. Do it. Put in place one of your solutions, test it out. If it doesn’t work, try another; keep trying until you are satisfied with the result. 

This system may seem like a lot of work, and not every problem requires this amount of time to sort out. But for issues that derail your progress/work/happiness, it is worth the time put into the thinking/planning to arrive at a solution that works.

Until next time, be safe and well.


Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. Her novel Double Six won the 2020 GCLS Goldie for Erotica. The first novel in her University Square Series is a 2021 Goldie Finalist.  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 short stories at   www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at


NineStar Press



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


NineStar Press

Double Six

Complex Dimensions

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip


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


NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip


Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 


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.






Recover and Reset

I had planned on taking a break from novel writing over the Summer. I had home projects planned. I had visions of spending lots of time at the pool, hiking, and gardening and hanging out with my kids. I had planned on some promotion and marketing of my novel, Sum of the Whole,  set to release on June 19th

But then my mom had some serious health issues, and then this happened:

 My kiddo tumbled off the pirate ship. Surgery, two pins and one hot pink cast later I needed to change my ideas about summer.  Heartrending? Yes. Stressful? Yes. Overwhelming? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Anxiety level off the charts? Yes. So I did the thing I always do when I don’t know what thing I should do next, and want some imaginary control over my life. I wrote.

 I wrote an outline while my mom was in the hospital.

The day after my daughter got home from the hospital I started writing my next novel.

I’ve left the deadline the original one that I set when I had planned out my summer and work projects. I don’t expect to finish writing it this summer, but when I sit down in the Fall when the kids go back to school I will be a bit ahead of schedule. It also gives me a sense of accomplishing something on those days I feel stuck.

My advice when life veers off the expected trajectory, take time to recover and reset.  Do the thing that grounds you, the thing that makes the rest of the world fall away even if it is just for an hour. Do that. And remember this:

“Nature never hurries, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu 







Preflight Checklists_ Not Just for Pilots

BLM_1688Checklists are very simple time management, and organizational tools. Pilots have used preflight checklists for years, as a means to ensure that everything that needs to be done before take off is complete. Most medical facilities have incorporated checklists for safety in operating rooms, prior to procedures. As a mom with ADHD, getting my kids and myself out the door for school and work in the morning can feel overwhelming. I wrote about this last year in this POST. In that post I talked about creating morning checklists for yourself to help organize your mornings. Checklists are an easy way for adults and children to overcome the difficulties with organization and distraction that individuals with ADD/ADHD battle every day.This year the kids want to manage their own checklists. As they are just starting to read, I added visual clues to the checklists to help them and laminated them so that they can use dry erase makers and reuse them. Our mornings are not effortlessly organized, but they are a heck of a lot better than they are without the checklists. Checklists can help both adults and children feel more in control, and relieve the anxiety that can accompany ADD/ADHD that occurs from the chronic worry that we are forgetting something important. “But what if I lose the checklist?” I hear you saying, and prior to finding an application for my phone, my checklists were on scrap paper, and I would loose or misplace them and create more stress for myself as I ransacked my house or desk trying to find them. Trello (HTTPS://TRELLO.COM) is an application makes it easy to create note cards and checklists.  The best part is that it is free, and no, they do not pay me to recommend this app. Unless you are using it for your business the free version is powerful enough to use for most people.  Checking a list electronically lacks the joy that comes from scratching through a paper checklist but the benefit of not loosing my checklists has me hooked.Analog or virtual, checklists can be powerful weapons against forgotten items and tasks, try them and see if they make a difference in your life.


Here, There and Everywhere: Ten tips for Traveling with Kids


We took our kids on their first big road trip this Summer. Three states, another country and back home again. Throw in a family wedding, visits with friends and family along the way and it was the kind of trip you think about and smile. Our kids have been traveling since they were two months old. They are really good at rolling with what ever happens and dealing with things being different than at home. I know that I am fortunate that my kids are like this. As a family we have worked to find ways to travel with them that make it easier for all of us. Here are some tips that I hope help make travel with your kids a little easier.

  1. Pack snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. Our kids say they are hungry as soon as we pull out of the driveway.
  2. Expect to stop, many, many times. You are not going to make your best time traveling with kids, so plan accordingly.
  3. Potty accidents and spills will happen, pack extra clothes that are accessible without having to unpack the entire car.
  4. Let the kids pack an activity bag for the car. The rule in our house it that everything must fit in the bag, and they must be able to pick it up and carry it themselves.
  5. Pack your lunch. This will save you time and money. Find a road side stop with picnic tables, eat and let the kids run.
  6. Check the web for activities related to your travels. The national park service junior ranger program is free, fun, and has age specific activities
  7. If your kids are as freaked out by automatic flush toilets as mine are, use sticky notes to cover the electric eye. Thank you LeeRay Costa for this sanity saving advice.
  8. If you are staying at a hotel, it is worth it to find one with a pool. After all day in the car, the pool is a great way for the kids and adults to get some exercise and have fun. If a hotel is not in your plans find a park or playground near where you are staying and plan on arriving in time to take advantage of it.
  9. Pack something for meals that your kids will always eat and that can be made quickly. For us this is a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly. This has saved dealing with hungry/cranky/crazy kids and adults more times than I care to admit.
  10. Breathe. Be kind to yourself, and remember that most things do not go according to plans, relax and have fun along the way.



















Starting from Scratch

My kids think I can build or fix anything and this past weekend they asked for a pirate ship.  So after carefully surveying the collection of scrap wood and various other bits and pieces of raw materials in the basement, garage and recycle bin. This is what we ended up with:

It won’t win any prizes but they had a lot of fun helping me build it and making decisions about how they wanted the ship to look, and what amenities would be included. We had some things that didn’t work, we experimented, we were creative, and most of all we had fun.

I didn’t start out trying to teach them anything, but when they tell people the story of how they built their pirate ship, they are very proud of their contributions, and glory in the telling of how we problem solved.
Listening to them, I realized that beside being a really fun day, they had also learned a little bit about being resourceful, using what you have, and starting where you are.

I feel the same why every time I start a writing project. I inventory my lists of story ideas, found objects, interesting news bits,  and old story files to create something. Any creative project starts with an idea, a whim, a scrap of thought, a problem to be solved, or a request.

Many people say to me that they want to write but don’t know what to write about. This is my answer: Use what you have, start where you are, and don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Just like our pirate ship, it needs the rough edges smoothed, and a coat of paint. That is what editing is all about, but you can’t edit a blank sheet of paper.

Even if you don’t have little pirates in your life asking for ships, take time to build /create/ write /draw/ photograph something. Quit staring at life waiting for something to happen, and make something happen.

Happy Sailing!




Adventures and Knowledge

My kids love adventures. They don’t care if it is just around the block, they see everything as an adventure.  They ask me more questions in a half hour walk than most people ask in year.  As exhausting as it can be at times, it is a great reminder, and good advice for all of us. Never stop asking questions. Keep adventuring. Learn as much as you can about everything, observe, catalog, read, pick things up, and enjoy having knowledge for the sake of knowing.