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 

For Your Consideration:Ten Tips for Submitting Creative Work

IMG_1520_2

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.

When People Don’t Get It: Tips for Parents and Children with ADD/ADHD

This is my face whenever someone makes comments such as: “ADD/ADHD doesn’t exist, you know we are all a little ADD”.  Most of the time these are well meaning people, trying to make me, or someone whose child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD feel better. Let us just be clear. It does exist.

If you have it, you know you do not think like everyone else. You know that most individuals learn to control their impulsive behavior by the time they are adults. You know that everyone does not have a brain that highlights and underlines every single thought and piece of information that it encounters.  If you are hyperactive, you know that what you do in an average day would exhaust someone without your energy. You know that hyper-focus can be your best friend or worst enemy.

Everyone may feel like they are distracted and can’t keep it together at times. Some people are forgetful, or they might even feel like they can’t sit still occasionally. This is not the same as the compulsion to move that accompanies hyperactivity, nor is it the brain that refuses to shut down so your body can sleep.

It is also not the feeling that you have, as a kid, when it seems like everyone else has some secret knowledge that enables them to turn assignments in on time, write neatly, and accomplish tasks in an orderly, timely fashion.

 As a child, even with the best of intentions, I struggled with behavior and focus in the classroom.  I grew up before medication. I can remember overhearing other parents telling my parents that what I needed a was “firm hand” and to learn self-discipline. More than one of my teachers labeled me lazy and unmotivated.

What saved me was a mom that understood that I needed to move, that I needed an outlet for my energy and creativity, and that I needed help with organization.  My mom made sure that I had space to run, a garage for my experiments, and tools and supplies for my creative pursuits. She encouraged me, and always told me I was smart. I am grateful that my mom figured out that I needed help with learning how to manage my time and organization. She was always willing to try new things to help me succeed. She never made me feel that school was about my grades. She wanted me to understand that working hard and learning were what was most important in life.

If you have a child that struggles with organization, procrastination, and focus, with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, or without, please remember: no one willfully fails. These are my tips for working with kids that are struggling with focus, procrastination, and organization. If you are a parent who has ADD/ADHD implementing these tips may be difficult, do the best you can. There are links at the end of this post to organizations and websites that provide more information and support.

1. If your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, accept it. Educate yourself. If you suspect that you may also have ADD/ADHD get tested. Many successful and creative people have ADD/ADHD. When I say accept it, I am not saying that you will not have grief and sadness. Feel your feelings, but do not let them paralyze you. Your child needs to know that you love them, and that they may need to work harder than their peers, but that they can succeed.

2. Do not rely on medication alone to help your child. Medication is only part of ADD/ADHD management. Eating well, getting adequate sleep, designing and implementing individual education plans, healthy routines and habits are integral parts of the management plan.

3. Plan, Plan, and Plan some more. You have to have a plan for the day. Get your child to assist in the planning. Write your plan down, post it where your child can see it if they get off track. Instead of squelching spontaneity, having and implementing a plan will create time for your child to work on their own projects and creative pursuits.

4. Allow your child the space to explore their own interests. Creative acts are an important part of self-care. Many ADD/ADHD individuals are very creative and need an outlet for their creativity. I wrote a post about self-care and creativity (here). Working on their own projects can be used as motivation to complete tasks that are not so fun.

5. Do not waste time feeling guilty, blaming yourself, etc. Love your child. Love yourself.  Life may be more complicated with ADD/ADHD, but you will never be bored!

6. Use timers. Get your kids used to using timers to help them manage their time. I wrote a post (here) that addresses using timers to manage your time and get things done.  Children can learn to use timers to check themselves and gain confidence in their ability to self-manage.

7. Avoid negative, ignorant, and foolish people. You know who they are. The people that want to minimize what it is like to live with a child who has ADD/ADHD.  The people who make you feel like you are an inadequate parent, or that your child just needs discipline. This may be difficult if you are related to them. Limit your interaction with people who are critical of your child, or your parenting skills. Stand up for your child and yourself.

8. Do not give up. If you try something and it does not make things better, than try another method. Expect setbacks but do not give up on your child or yourself. Keep trying.

 Here are some links to organizations that offer tips and support:

http://www.chadd.org

http://www.add.org

http://www.additudemag.com

http://www.ldpride.net/

http://www.drhallowell.com

If you are a parent with ADD/ADHD  and your child has ADD/ADHD it may feel hopeless at times. Don’t give up. It is possible to become more organized and have less drama in your life. Work together with your child. Reach out to other parents and friends who are supportive. Believe in you ability to help your child and yourself.

Thanks Mom, for not giving up.

Embrace Your Attention Issues: Terese Ramin Interview

 

The bar. Again.

I met Terese Ramin at my first writers’ conference. Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling 2012 to be exact. I was loitering at the bar waiting to register. I noticed Terese’s conference badge, and struck up a conversation. She was presenting at the conference. We spent
most of the evening laughing, talking, and getting to know each other over
fries and good beer.

Terese is gracious,
encouraging, and supportive. She is also has ADD/ADHD, and is a successful novelist, and editor. She very kindly agreed to do an interview for this blog.  I have enjoyed Terese’s books.   This is the link to Terese’s Amazon page.   Her biography follows the interview.

1. When were
you diagnosed with ADD/ADHD?

 Terese: **I
was officially diagnosed with ADD in 1996 when I took my son for diagnosis at
his high school’s request. I took the test with him to be supportive.
2.
Was there a specific event that caused you to seek a diagnosis?
Terese:**My
son’s high school requested that he be tested (and put on medication).
3.
Do you think having a diagnosis helped?
Terese: **Yes,
it helped *me* realize what had always held me back / been “wrong” with me, and
why there were “bad conduct” marks on my school records. Girls didn’t have
ADD/ADHD when I was in grade school.
4.
Have you faced any discrimination because of your diagnosis?
Terese: **No.
As an adult, the only people who know about my ADD/ADHD are those I choose to
tell. And since being ADD/ADHD affects my entire life, I let people know. My
son, on the other hand, didn’t want people to know, didn’t want to take meds,
etc., because it would have labeled him in high school as “one of those kids”
who got called out of class to take a prescription medication. We worked with
his ADD/ADHD in other ways and, boy, am I glad! He’s very successful as a
teacher now.
5.
How did you organize/ focus yourself to write books?
Terese: **When
was first diagnosed, I saw a therapist who gave me suggestions to help keep me
focused – creating a CD that looped with the question “Are you on task?” played
at 5 and 10 minutes  intervals.
I
also used a CD called High Focus that essentially
plays white noise. It was highly effective, especially played softly. I also
used guided meditation and a couple of “In the Zone” CDs that are used to help
athletes maintain focus while they work out.
6.
What is the biggest challenge for you when writing a novel?
Terese: **Oh
man. <G> For writing a novel, I need to get to the place in the book
where I can go into hyper-focus. Hyper-focus is something I’m good at – as long
as I’m being stimulated by what I do, or as long as what I’m doing is a
relatively simple, repetitive task (I’m a great editor due to hyper-focus, and
I’m pretty good at detail work – as long my brain doesn’t decide the details
are boring.) Boredom is my biggest problem.
Another
thing that works is for me to be able to get up and wander around doing simple,
non-thinking tasks as I write – taking care of the laundry, loading the
dishwasher, dusting, etc. Those are things I hate to do, but when I do them
during the process of working on a novel, I don’t have to come out of the
“zone” or the story to do them. Doing
simple tasks allows me to daydream the next line, paragraph, or scene, and
return to the computer able to write a few more pages.
7.
Are you an Outliner or Pantser?
Terese: **HA!
I wish I could outline a novel or create a beat sheet, then just fill in the
blanks on the pages. The moment I start to do that, my brain screams “lunch!”
and refuses to budge – it’s that boredom thing or the restless ADHD thing
kicking in: an outline causes me to tell the story to myself, which means I’ve
already written it, which means “bored now” when it comes to trying to write
all 70-85,000 words.
To
counter this, I give myself a blurb to remind myself where I need to get to
from here, post that on the wall where I can see it, and slowly make my way
toward the end goal: a completed novel.
8.
How do you handle the distraction of the internet?
Terese: **Badly.
I have a routine of getting up in the morning, handling my email, reading the
online news, doing a little Facebook / Twitter / social media to keep my name
out there, but that means I also use up my best creative time. I might be
finished with all of those internet things by 8 a.m., but then the dogs need
attention, there are dirty dishes that need attention, the laundry needs to go
into the dryer, etc. It would be far better for me to revise that routine and
start with writing, but it takes a long time for me to create a routine that
works for me. It’s much easier to fall back on the routine I have. The bottom
line is that I’m much much more productive
if I follow a daily routine, but creating the right routine takes thought and discipline that I sometimes don’t
have.
9.
Do you think that it would have been helpful to be diagnosed at an earlier age?
Terese:**Possibly,
in today’s climate, yes. Back when I was growing up? Maybe – at least then my
parents and teachers would have understood the reason for why I was the way I
was. But being diagnosed earlier – especially back in a time when using
ADD/ADHD medication properly was still pretty new – might also have meant being
medicated, which brings up a whole new world of issues.
10.
What advice would you give writers struggling with attention issues?
Terese: **Embrace
your attention issues. I look at my son who’s always done seven or eight things
at the same time – and that worked for him. When he was in school, if he wasn’t
listening to at least one sporting event, playing the guitar (or the bassoon,
or something), reading a book, talking on the phone, trolling the internet AND
doing his homework, I knew he wasn’t getting his schoolwork done. He’s never
needed to be medicated and I’m proud of the man he’s become.
But
I also look at the way he innately handled his ADD/ADHD and I realize that my
own process of staying in the zone by doing housework while I’m writing is much
the same thing. I just need to “stay on task” get back to that routine.
 I hope that reading Terese’s interview inspires you to start writing if you haven’t and to keep going if you have stopped.
Biography:
Terese Ramin is the award winning
author of eleven novels and numerous short stories. Her autobiographical essay,
“Two-Puppy Theory”, is included in the anthology The Sound and the Furry, sales of which benefit the International
Fund for Animal Welfare. The Cured,
her most recent release with author David Wind, is her first suspense-thriller.
Her next release will be an urban paranormal romance with writing partner Dawn
Johanson.
Aside from writing, Terese works
as an editor, ghost writer, book doctor, and a paranormal investigator. She
lives in Michigan with her husband and a bunch of rescued dogs.

Embracing the Work of You: Ten Tips for a More Organized Life

Bucky 2009

Staying on top of your “to do” list. Being on time. Having clean clothes. Being able to find what you need when you need it. Staying on a task until it its complete. ADD/ADHD makes each of these tasks seem impossible at times. I often feel like Sisyphus, rolling that dang bolder up the hill just to watch it roll away again.

The truth is, no one ever has it all together. Everyone struggles to keep up with their lives. For those of us with distraction issues it feels like we carry extra weight on our journey.

I have a great brain for remembering every little bit of information that comes my way, but I still have to put the car keys away in the same place every time, or I can not remember where I put them.  I label the shelves in the refrigerator so I can remember to put food back where it goes, and my toothbrush has colored tape on it because I can’t remember which color toothbrush is mine. Silly? Maybe, but it keeps my from brushing my teeth with other peoples toothbrushes!

 When I get frustrated with myself have to remember that most people do not contend with a brain that will drop everything to watch, and perhaps follow a stray ant that happens along. Most people can filter out the unimportant from the important. Most people would comprehend that starting that wallpaper stripping project at midnight,  just because you notice that part of it is already starting to peel anyway, might not be a good course of action.

After years of being angry and frustrated with myself, I finally decided to make friends with my brain, and to find ways to work with what I have.  If you are struggling with organization, and keeping up with events in your life try these organization tips.

  1. Automate everything possible.  Sign up for E-Bills, schedule up automatic bill payments, schedule routine deliveries of household items (toilet paper, etc.),  subscribe to mail order/ automatic prescriptions refills.  Take advantage of services available. 
  2. Use labels on the outside, and on the inside containers, drawers, and cupboards to help you remember what goes where and where things are.  For young kids pictures work well. The inside label system  works well for chests of drawers and helps to keep clothing organized.
  3. Use a checklist for groceries. There are many free downloads on line. Find one and use it, or create your own. Train everyone to check things off as you use them.
  4. Create a landing zone and have a routine for entering the house. This works for kids and adults. Create a routine, such as: hang keys up, shoes off, coats hung, bags/ backpacks/ purses/ etc hung up, hands washed. Cubbies, hooks, key racks and shoe racks work well to keep things off the floor and where you need them when you leave. 
  5. Create a household task schedule. It can be a simple as knowing that every Wednesday and Sunday you are doing laundry, and cleaning the bathroom every Saturday.
  6. Clean the kitchen after each time you cook. This will 1) save you money as you will not be as tempted to go out to eat, or order a pizza, and 2) provide a sense of accomplishment because at least the kitchen is clean!
  7. Lay out out your clothes for the next day, have your kids do the same. This will save time in the morning, and prevent last minute scurrying around trying to find clothes that fit, and that are clean. 
  8. Have a place to open mail and pay bills. Do not open mail anyplace else. Train everyone to place mail in the same place.  This system will prevent lost misplaced bills, etc. 
  9. Have a main calendar for the family. Place it where everyone can see it. Use different colors for each person’s schedule.  REVIEW the calendar nightly!  If you don’t look at it you might as well not have one.
  10. Maintain a sense of humor. Everyone misses appointments, forgets things, has to find the cleanest dirty shirt to wear, or scrambles at the last minute to get things together.  Give yourself a break and go back to your system.
These are some of the things that I do to keep my life going on a somewhat even keel. I hope they help and if you have suggestions, send them along! 

Help- My Brain is Full!

Koi Pond National Arboretum 2011

My brain is full. I don’t think that I am only one with a full brain. I think that most of us live like this now, whether we have organic distraction issues or not. My brain feels like the fish in the video, snapping up everything, and anything.

The world is full of shiny objects, any and all of them can trigger a desire to write a story. The young girl at the library focused on her cell phone, ignoring the eight-month old at her feet?  That is a story. The note I found in the park “I spank you car please to call may (sic)” with a phone number?  The two old dudes arguing loudly over a woman in the library?  Yep- all stories waiting to be told.

I pick up objects, print out news stories, take pictures, and collect dialogue like a pack-rat on cocaine. As a kid it drove my mom crazy. What the heck do I do with all these bits and pieces of inspiration and observations?

 I talked before about my first love- spiral notebooks. But spiral notebooks can be awkward to carry around, so when I leave the house my spiral notebook stays home.  When I am out and about I use Evernote (http://evernote.com).
Evernote is an amazing application that lets you save everything, an endless spiral notebook for your phone.  If you are not using it, you should be, and they don’t pay me to say that. Using Evernote I can take pictures, record sounds, type, or dictate a note about what I have seen or heard.

So how do I sort these images, clips,  random thoughts, observations, scraps, and whims?  First, I use letter size flat box files. Like this:

Letter size flat file boxes are not expensive, they can be labeled pretty easily, and stack on shelves. They are available in different colors so if you wanted to organize by color you could. They are portable. Each novel gets a separate box. Short Stories and Ideas for Future Works each have a box.

When I have things that are too big to photograph like maps, old postcards, prints, programs, or more tactile souvenirs from research trips, I stash them in the project box. When I am working on a project, I can pull it down and go through what I have tucked away. I print out photos from research trips and print them on contact sheets.
Sorting through the box lets me immerse myself in the details of my story, reminds me why I wanted to write it, and grounds me when I feel like the words are just there, fluttering out of reach.

Will I ever live long enough to tell all these stories?
I really hope I do. But if for some reason I don’t live to 120, when they go through my things, and find all the random stuff I have picked up and taken pictures of, at least now they will know why.

 Be a kid again. Pick things up. Write a story.

The Black Hole of Research- Are We There Yet?

Oahu 2013-My father-in-law was driving, ’nuff said. 

This is how my mind feels when I start researching anything.  So many roads to information. The library, and yes, I still use one, the internet, historical societies, museums, interviews, and my favorite field trips.
I always keep a journal when I travel, nothing too deep just my impressions, notes on where I went, and what I did. I treat every trip as an opportunity for research. Why?

Because everywhere is a potential somewhere in any work of fiction.  Stay with me!
For folks that write fiction, the key word is fiction, but there must be enough of what feels real to keep a reader in a story.
 I have read stories about frozen wastelands that make me want a sweater no matter how hot it is outside. The stories that make you stay up, turning pages are stories that feel so real that you are in the book.   My goal with my writing is to capture real feelings of place, creating a make-believe world as real to my readers as it is to me.

So my advice about research for fiction writers:

  1. If you have started a  writing project, use your outline. ( What no outline?! Go back and read my other post.) Plan your travels. Remember you don’t need a big budget. Find something close to home that you can see in a different way. Does your backyard seem the same at night, or is it a little creepy? 
  2. Use the internet to find maps and detailed views of places you want to visit but lack the funds or time. If you are researching a historical place, local historical societies can be helpful, and may be able to help you locate old maps and images. 
  3.  Are you world building in science fiction or fantasy? Search the internet for images that can be modified or built on.  Create image files for consistency and detail in your worlds.
  4.  Treat each day as an opportunity for research. Take pictures. Take notes. Remember how the sky looked. Use it. 
The Best Research Stop Ever- Because Scotch!
The Bridge to Eileen Donnan Castle 2006

Outlines for the Attention Impaired- No Really!

Outlining for the Attention Impaired – No Really!

Hanoi 2009

             
What has this picture got to do with today’s topic? The branches are blocking the view, or highlighting it, or hey, is that a bud? This is how I feel when ever I start to outline a project. Outline? I can hear some of you making bad sounds and see you rolling your eyes. This is not a debate about outlines.  Some folks write very well without them. Some people scratch a few notes to themselves on the back of a cocktail napkin and call it a day.  Others make outlines that are pages long and detailed.

Things to keep in mind before you run shrieking from the room shouting that you swore you would never outline again after Mrs. Ramrod’s sixth grade essay class.

  1. Outlines do not have to be set in stone (unless that’s how you roll). 
  2. Outlines are guidelines/maps to where you want to go with your story. 
  3. Outlines are your friend, particularly if you have attention issues. 
  4. Outlines are not straight jackets for your creativity.
  5. Outlines can be used for any multiple step project, not just writing.
Creating and using outlines serves five purposes.

  1. It guides your writing so you don’t end up wandering around trying to find the point of your story.
  2. If you get lost while writing a long piece, or have to take a break from a story because life happens (job, sick kids, snow days, etc.), you can come back to the outline and figure out why you went in a direction you did and where you wanted to go with your story. 
  3. If you have to write a synopsis, you can come back to your outline for structure. 
  4. Project outlines help in planing next steps, and allows you to plan your writing time so that you don’t miss deadlines.
  5. Outlines help you to focus, allowing you to make the best use of your writing time. 

For those of us with attention issues, the very thought of outlining makes most of us freak out, and remembering how defeated we have been by outlines before. Why? Because we do not think in straight lines.  We think in circles, tangents, and broad soaring what-ifs. We struggle with ordering things. Because all of our thoughts happen at the same time, and it all seems like the first step. This does not lend itself to writing conventional outlines, all neat and tidy with everything labeled with numbers and subheadings. So what to do if we want to take advantage of the benefits of outlines? Do I sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen, go to town, trying to force myself into straight lines and boxes? 
Nope. In the past I would use poster size paper and a fist full of markers. Lots of fun but a bit unwieldy. Now I do the same thing but I use MindNode  or Inspriation. Both of these applications allow me to capture thoughts as they bubble up and then drag them and drop them into an order that flows logically.

MindNode (https://mindnode.com) works well on my IPad and I use it for brainstorming projects, and outlining next steps for projects in process, allowing me to break a large task into less overwhelming parts.  It allows me to drag and drop ideas using colors and lines to to link thoughts as they occur.  I can add images and links to my mind map, MindNode with will automatically order my ideas. It is available for use on tablets and Macs but I prefer using my tablet version.

   When I want to outline a story,  a novel or  create a character sketch,  I use Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/Inspiration). Although marketed to a K-12 audience this is the best software I have found for creating outlines. It allows you to type your ideas into bubbles and then drag them around to where you want them. You can insert images, make notes, create mind maps and presentations. I have used it to write character sketches, novel outlines, and presentation outlines.
My favorite attribute of this program is the ability to move back and forth between a diagram view and a formal outline view. being able to drag and drop while in outline mode is the best thing I have found for ordering my thoughts. It even assigns numbers and letters to your outline in a way that would make Mrs. Ramrod proud.

What apps or system do you use? If the answer is none, give one or both of these a try.  If you are a parent looking for ways to help your distracted child with their writing give these tools a try.  Many schools have access to the Inspiration software. If you are a college student struggling with writing and outlines check out your learning resource centers, many have access to these programs or you may be able to be get a student discount.  In my next post I will talk about the outlining process and review some books that made me an outline convert.