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 

 

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 

Making Space

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It has been a busy Summer for me with family, travel, edits for a short story collection to be published in September, research for more stories, book reviews, correspondence, lining up interviews for my blog, recipe testing, blog photography, you get the idea.

When people ask how do I get so much done, I always say that I am blessed with the H (hyperactivity) in the ADHD diagnosis and that it is my super power. I find it difficult to sit still. I have to move, to do, to be active. It is not always a blessing. I can be exhausting to be around. I take on too much at times. I have to regroup and rethink when facing deadlines. I have to make space and pare down by make room for all the things that are important.

It is not uncommon for folks with ADD/ADHD to find themselves swamped with projects, overwhelmed and frustrated. Right now I’m working on my plans for my blogs and my writing projects for the year, and it occurred to me that the real answer to getting things done is not just the blessing of being a high energy person, it is also the ability to discern what to let go of and what to hold on to. I like to garden and a big part of gardening is weeding. Weeding to make space for what you want to grow. I had to let of blogging for a bit to focus on other writing projects. I’ve had to let go of my gardening projects to make time for my family. I’ve had to let go of social media a bit to have time for me.

It doesn’t mean that I won’t go back to these things, but it does mean that the process of picking and choosing what to spend time on is key in accomplishing anything. The one question to ask when deciding how to cut back in order focus on a specific project or goal is: “What can I let go of to make room for what I want to happen?”

Let go of things that are crowding out the things you want to grow.

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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.

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ADHD and Exercise: Ten Steps to Finding What Works for You

Exercise. A word that can stir up the worst case of “shoulds”.  Because we know we should, because we want to be healthy, because we want to loose weight, because we feel like it is something we should do for what ever reason, and that is the problem. We listen to other people’s reasons and we don’t know what our reasons are. I place exercise in the same category as saving money and eating a reasonable diet. A causal browse of a book store or the Internet will net you tons of advice about what to eat, how to save money and exercise, so much so that in all the noise we forget to listen to the one voice that matters: our own.

Finding a form of exercise that we enjoy, that remains challenging, and that we can do consistently is of vital importance for individuals that have ADHD. We have to move. We are the pacers, the doodlers, the kids that spin, climb, and try just about anything that is physically challenging and jacks up our adrenalin and endorphins. Run a marathon? Fifty mile bike ride? Climb a mountain? We are into it. We are also the people that will just stop an exercise program when we get bored and because most people with ADD/ADHD have the attention span of a goldfish on cocaine, this it happens frequently.

People with ADHD also struggle with their minds wandering, coping with thousands of thoughts rushing through our minds every day. Exercise is a way to wear your body out in order to quiet your mind.  I wrote a post about focus and risk here , about how martial arts training helped with my focus.  The part I left out is how much easier it is to calm your mind when your body is tired.
Meditation is terrific for most people, but for people with ADD/ADHD it feels impossible. Finding a form of exercise that exhausts your body will make it easier to quiet your mind.

Here are ten steps to finding a form of exercise that works for you.Take your time and go through the list. It may seem like a lot of steps, but answering the questions will help you choose wisely, and find a form of exercise that works for you and fits into your life.

1. Make a list of physical actions you like to do, such as dancing, swimming, walking, running, team sports, biking, lifting weights, jogging, hiking, or climbing. Choose two that you like to do the most and mark them in someway.

2. Where do you like to spend your time? Outside or indoors? If you live some place where your ability to be outside will be limited by the weather, keep this in mind.

3. Do you like to exercise alone or with others?

4. Are you competitive? Do you like to play against other people?

5. Do you have any injuries or physical limitations? Many exercise programs can be adapted to accommodate physical limitations, so do not let this limit your thinking, just write it down.

6.  Look at your list from question one. Investigate the options for pursing what you like to do. Make a list of all the options available. List the costs (outfits, equipment, shoes, etc.) for your top two choices from question one.

7. How much do you want/have to invest in your exercise program? Having a budget will help avoid impulse spending and signing up for gym memberships that go unused. Only join a gym if you already know exactly what you are going to do at the gym and when you are going to do it.

8. Really look at your schedule. Make a list of times that you could exercise, taking into consideration your energy flow and reality. If you are not a morning person, do not think that getting up at five in the morning to exercise will really happen, be realistic and do not set yourself up to fail. If you don’t have a planner, or are struggling with time management check out my post here.

9. If it has been over a year since you have been to see your health care provider, go and get a check up. This is really important for people over fifty. Please read the Mayo Clinic’s advice for when you need to have a check-up before you start an exercise program here .

10. Do it. Just start. It can be really hard to find a way to start but the rewards are worth it. Do not compare  yourself with anyone else, do the best you can and be kind to yourself.

Use these questions to find what works for you, if your first attempts do not work, check out your options and expect that at times of major life changes (babies, small children, caring for older parents), or if you have an illness or injury you will get off track or may have to find another way to exercise.  When that happens go through the list again, take as much time as you need, to find what works for you.

 

 

 

For Your Consideration:Ten Tips for Submitting Creative Work

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While most often associated with gambling, the phrase ” if you don’t play you can’t win” is what I say to myself every time I send off a submission for review, not because it is a gamble but because of the truth of the statement. If you are one of the many who dream of having your work traditionally published, displayed in a gallery, or publicly recognized, you have to submit it for consideration by other people.
Is is easy? Yes, it is easy to hit send, but it can be incredibly stressful to assemble a submission package, book proposal, portfolio, manuscript, short story, or any other creative project. Some people get so overwhelmed they never submit anything. It is an act of confidence for any creative person to submit their work for review. As Erykah Badu says ” I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my sh*t…” and Ms. Badu is so right. I have yet to meet a creative person who is not personally invested in their work.

Just reading submission guidelines can be overwhelming and knowing that making a mistake can get your submission rejected before it is ever reviewed can create so much stress that many individuals give up. A large percentage of creative people have attention issues and struggle with details. Here are ten organizational tips to make the submission process less stressful.

1. Read the submission guidelines. Read them again. Print them out, underline, and highlight the requirements for the submission.
2. Enter all deadlines on your calendar. What no calendar? Read my post on keeping track of multiple deadlines and projects here.
3. Start a computer folder, a flat file or file box and keep everything related to the project in one location.This keeps key information and work together.

4. Date all drafts, or versions of your project. This prevents you from sending the wrong version of the file when it is time to send in the final version.5. Set reminders for key dates, these can be written reminders or electronic reminders.

6. Have another person, preferably someone who is detail oriented review your submission before you send it. Give them the guidelines and ask them to review your submission to see if you have everything required. Buy this person a beverage of their choice for helping you.

7. Be realistic and take your time. This is very difficult for many creative people, and particularly difficult for people with ADD/ADHD. Creating is fun, paying attention to details not so much, but if your brilliant work is never reviewed because you did not follow the submission guidelines you are defeating yourself.

8. Remember that as hard as it is to hit “send” or mail that package, it is the only way it is going to get reviewed: If you don’t play you can’t win.

9. Expect to have some anxiety after you submit your work. See Ms. Badu’s quote above, then get to work on your next project.

10. Celebrate. You have done something that many people dream of and never ever do. Celebrate your determination, celebrate your work, celebrate no matter what.

So hit the send button, drop off the portfolio, submit your creative work, jump in with both feet.

Money for the Distracted: Getting Off the Paycheck to Paycheck Merry-Go-Round

The paycheck to paycheck merry-go-round is a soul sucking ride that leaves most people feeling like this when it comes to their money.
So, how to get off? The B word. That’s right a budget, spending plan, or what ever you want to call it that does not give you  hives. A plan for your money, so you can see where it goes. Before you stop reading know that I understand that accidents, unexpected illness, medical emergencies, veterinary emergencies, and other acts of nature can shoot the best made budget out of the sky. How do you try to get out of a deep hole of debt? Here are seven tips to get started:
1. Stop. Just stop and gather all of your financial documents in one place. Figure out where you are. The library is full of books that will show you how to budget. Turn off the TV, shut down Facebook or Twitter, get off Pinterest and take an evening and sit down with your partner and lay it all out. Do it together. If you are worried about having the conversation or talking about money with your partner, read my post here for tips on how to talk about money.
2. Commitment to improving your financial situation.  Forgetfulness, procrastination, impulse spending, late payments, and general inattention cause problems with money management. Folks with ADHD/ADD struggle with all of the above. I once found a tax return that I was supposed to mail in my raincoat pocket two years after I was supposed to mail it. Why? Because in the two block walk to the post office on my way to work, I forgot to mail the tax return. Set up systems to help you keep your commitment and remember important financial dates.
3. Understand that there is a difference between being underwater because of poor money management, and catastrophic / unplanned life events. Do not see your situation as a symptom of poor character development.
4. Spending to save money is not saving at all. Too many people have bought into the whole coupons-stockpiling madness. Having thousands of dollars of food and household products in storage that rot before you use them is a waste of time and money. Yes, you can save money by stocking up when things are on sale and you have a coupon but only buy what you need/will eat, and enough to last until the next sale.
5. Figure out if you have an outgo or income problem. Do you not make enough to cover your basic expenses? If you can not afford food, housing, utilities, transportation, and medication costs on your income you have an income problem. Do you spend more than you make on non-essentials? That is an outgo problem.  No blaming here, just figure out what you need to work on, or if you need to work on both.
6. Take advantage of free resources to get help. The library is a great place to start. There are many free on line money management tools also. Check them out. Mint is a great place to start, and no they do not pay me to say that.
7. Getting out of debt is like losing weight, we all know that we should, how is the problem. Everyone needs to find ways that work for them, there is no one way. The keys for ADD/ADHD individuals is that the system needs to be simple, easy to remember, and automated as much as possible. Complicated systems that require large investments of time will be difficult for most people but for those of us with the attention span of a goldfish they are impossible.
Find a way to start your journey towards a place of calmness with your money. Financial stress can kill relationships and contribute to depression. Start where you are, be kind yourself, and believe that you can get off the merry-go-round.

Taking the Long Way Home

After six weeks, ten thousand six hundred and ten miles, four suitcases, two sets of grandparents, and a wonderful start to the year, I am finally home. Happy, exhausted, and full of new ideas for this year’s posts. I enjoyed writing my Year of Women’s Voices series and will continue the book review series this year.  The blog will continue to feature tips for living with ADHD, time management tips, inspiration and ideas for writers and creative people of all types.
Last week I started a new series about money management and ADHD, follow this link if you missed it . Today I am starting another new series: Silent Sunday. Once a month I will post photographs / photo essays. Use the photos for inspiration, a story prompt, or just enjoy them.

 

 

Keeping Track: Tips for Managing Multiple Writing Projects

It is not uncommon for me to have at four or five writing projects in progress. The gift of ADHD means that I always have projects. Some are large, long term projects such as developing my editorial calendar, manuscript drafts and edits, others are short such as website content and blog posts, and some fall in between, think short stories and journal articles. Although I love the reminder feature on my Google calendar, as a visual person I have difficulty conceptualizing time when it is represented by little boxes on a computer screen limited to a one month view.

 

Click here for my post on Creative Acts and Self Care

I need to see it all. My solution is a twelve month wall calendar. I like a Write on/ Wipe off type, ever so helpful if deadlines, or project details change.
I know some people are able to just work on one thing, and then move on to their next project, but my mind does not work that way. I need to be able to move to a different project when I get bored with what I am working on, and want to start something new (because new always feels good), going back to another project gives me the same feeling of doing something different, and yet it propels me forward in that task so in the end it all gets done.

Click here for my post on using flat files to keep my big projects organized

I also make notes in each file, listing the next steps to complete the project. For example, word count goals, scenes left to write or rewrite, necessary research, lists of of photographs/ images needed, correspond with a co-author, conduct an interview, follow up on an email, etc. I make these notes at the end of the manuscript and/or on the outline.  What, no outline? Read my post about outlines here. Outlines really are helpful.
I started keeping my Next Steps List when I was working on my master’s thesis. It kept me on track so I could finish my thesis on time, using every second of time I had to work effectively.
A Next Steps List helps in three ways:
1. You know what you need to do next to move toward completing your project and can get right back to work after a break in writing, invaluable with limited writing time.
2. A Next Steps List clears your brain so you can move on and work on other projects without the distraction and worry that you are forgetting something.
3. Crossing out tasks as you finish them is a visual reminder that you are making progress. A visual reminder of your progress helps maintain motivation on long projects.

In addition to my other writing projects, I write this blog and am starting another in February. (Stay tuned for details).  If you are a blogger, or want to be one, the best thing you can do for yourself is to create an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is simply a calendar that you use to plan posts that you want to write, give them publishing dates and plan your posts. Keep it loose, give yourself permission to change what your post is about if you don’t want to write about that topic that week. Your editorial calendar allows you to plan in advance, gives you a place to park all your ideas for posts, and keeps you focused on your goals for the blog.

Most writers deal with deadlines, family obligations, work, holidays, and travel. Having a long term plan will help you stick to your writing schedule, turn projects in on time, and increase your productivity.  Make a plan. Hatch your dreams. Keep writing.