Four Tips for Managing Temporal Distortion

Temporal distortion sounds like the name of an 80s indie rock band, but it is a genuine part of having ADD/ADHD and other mental health challenges that affect our attention. Time for folks who don’t deal with these challenges experience time as a liner event. It just is. Sure, they may seek to manage, organize, or make the best use of it, but very few systems address handling time when your perception it is not like everyone else’s. Temporal distortion can take several forms. Here are three types of temporal distortion.

Hyperfocus is that state of being where time stops for the person who experiences it. It’s those times when whatever you’re doing becomes so consuming that you forget to eat, drink, or go to the toilet because you are so focused. While it can be a positive issue in some cases, in that you may be very productive, it can also create massive problems if you neglect yourself or your family because you let everything go when you are in the groove. 

Contrast this to time exaggeration. It usually occurs when we have to do something that doesn’t grab our attention. It’s as if time is going in reverse. It takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r and a day. This is a symptom of time exaggeration. We exaggerate estimations of the time required to complete a task. We convince ourselves it will take hours, so we don’t even start to work on the task believing we will never finish it.

And finally, what I like to call time evaporation. It occurs on those days we sit down to write, with hours of unscheduled time ahead of us, a blissful infrequent occurrence and a luxury. We then sabotage ourselves by opening a browser to research just one thing. We lie to ourselves that it will only take a few minutes. We fall down the internet rabbit hole, and when we come out, we’ve eight ideas for new stories, learned more about an obscure topic than anyone needs to know, and our writing time has evaporated. 

So, how do we create an environment that can help us improve our perceptions of time so we can get some writing done? Here are my top four tips for preventing/minimizing temporal distortion.

  1. Hyperfocus: Set alarms to combat hyperfocus: Set a timer is the traditional advice for interrupting yourself so you remember to eat, pick up your kids, or whatever crucial thing you may forget to do if you get into your work. However, alarms only work if you don’t ignore them. For folks with attention issues, not responding to and ignoring alarms is not purposeful. Folks in hyperfocus don’t hear or see the world around them. We miss flights, bus, and train stops because we don’t hear the announcements. We lose track of time and miss appointments because we don’t hear the alarm. So alarms may work or not work for you.  For essential things, like picking my kids up from school or meetings, I set my phone alarms with labels so that when it goes off, it does two things, not only does it interrupt me, but it also reminds me why the alarm is occurring, because, in the fog of hyperfocus, it is possible to forget why you need to stop, even for things that are reoccurring like picking up your kids or regular appointments. I also place my phone in a location that forces me to get up from my desk to silence it, put the volume up as high as it will go and set it for an obnoxious sound so that it breaks through my focus. Your mileage may vary but this one thing has worked dramatically for me, in that I can relax and enjoy in my flow state without worrying I am going to miss something important. 
  2. Time Exaggeration: Time yourself doing tasks you dread. I hate folding clothes. Truly hate it. But I hate it a lot less after I timed myself doing it. Taking my time and using our largest laundry basket doesn’t take me more than fifteen minutes. And that is freeing because I know that no matter what, it will not take me more than a quarter of an hour to finish the task. So I can schedule it. Combining it with a labeled alarm means I don’t leave laundry in the washer for days (ugh) and don’t have to dig through a basket of unfolded clothes for the least wrinkled shirt to wear. How does this help with writing? For those things you hate to do, like editing, revisions, or proofreading, time yourself editing a page, keeping in mind that copy editing and story revisions will be different than proofreading. Knowing, on average, how long it takes you to do a task means you can stop procrastinating because you “don’t have time.” You can make the most effective use of your time by scheduling them. It is a way to get through the tasks you don’t like so that you can get on with the ones you prefer instead of fretting about not doing things you hate.
  3. Time Evaporation: One task at a time. If you set time aside for writing, write. No research, mood board creation, character worksheets, or whatever is allowed. Put words on the page. All the other writing adjacent tasks are not writing. The hard truth is that unless you get the words out of your head and on the page, you are not writing, and you will not finish your project. Research, character development worksheets, mood boards, and outlining are all important, but you can become so involved in prewriting tasks you never get to the writing part because, let’s be honest, they are more fun. How to stop yourself from wandering away from your writing? Schedule prewriting tasks separately from drafting. Use an app like Focus (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/focus-time-management/id777233759?mt=12) or Freedom (https://freedom.to) to block access to the internet and other distractions. If you come to a place in your writing and you decide you need to research a topic, or have a question, make a note of it, put it in brackets into the text, and get on with your writing. Preventing distractions can also be as simple as setting your phone to do not disturb, turning it off, or putting it in another room. Numerous studies have shown that mentally switching between tasks requiring different thought processes is ineffective. Multitasking is a myth unless it involves using your body/mind for tasks: like listening to an audiobook while running or answering email while on a stationary bike. 
  4. Create an environment that supports your writing. Do you like to work in chaos? Or does it not matter if you are locked in? I confess to being able to write in just about any place or situation if I have music and headphones. Once I start writing, I don’t notice anything else visually. I realize that for most folks, this may not be possible. I have many friends who can’t write if their kitchen needs cleaning or their house or desk is messy. For those folks, prioritizing creating an environment that supports your writing is vital. Start by listing what your ideal writing space would be. Dream, and let your imagination run wild. After creating your wish list for your perfect writing space, look at the list and figure out what you can do to make it happen realistically. I wrote at a tea shop for years, I would drop my kids at school, and at least three days a week, I would go to Tempelton’s tea shop in my little town and write for 2-3 hours. Over four years, I wrote 12 books in that shop because being there meant I didn’t have anything that distracted me. I treated it like an office. The rent was the price of a pot of tea and a scone. The owners were terrific, and I miss them dearly as they moved back to Scotland a few years ago. After the shop closed, I struggled to get into a groove again. Panic set in as my routine was disrupted. I feared not being able to write as effectively had been. I sat down and made a list of why working at the tea shop worked for me. The bottom line was that I didn’t have to get up to make individual cups of tea, the shop didn’t have windows, and I worked with headphones. All of those things were achievable at home. I purchased a thermal carafe and turned my desk to face the wall. The bonus for this change was more time to write as I reduced commuting time as my house was closer to the school. Nothing lasts forever, and now whenever my routine is disrupted (looking at you pandemic and homeschooling) I go back to list-making and rethinking the situation, focusing on the question: how can I make this work? Check out this video by Struthless (https://youtube.com/watch?v=ikz3ECL5NEk&feature=shares) about your environments and its effect on your art/work/life.

If you are struggling with temporal distortion, I hope these suggestions help you find ways effectively use your writing time. I’ll be back with the next post in this series. Dealing with Disruptions: Two-Legged and Four-Legged.

 

Outlines, Trellises, and Discovery Drafts

Do you outline? I can’t think of another question that will start a conversation quicker among writers. Folks that believe they must have an outline before they write the first word find it hard to understand how some folks start writing and let the story take them where it will. And for folks just beginning to write, it can be a massive source of frustration and confusion. How to create an outline becomes just as problematic as the question of if you should bother with one. 

The truth is this: the only way to find out if an outline works for you is to try writing with and without one. 

Outlining can take many forms. My outline is nontraditional in that it is a collection of scene cards. I’m visually oriented, and my book comes to me like films in my head, so this works for me. I have friends that can’t write until they have a detailed outline and others that never outline. We all get our books written for two reasons: we never stop writing and are comfortable with our process. 

So what are discovery drafts? And what do trellises have to do with outlines?

I have lost count of the folks who say to me, “I really want to write a book, but I can’t get my outline finished/started.”

 I tell them to start writing with what ideas they have to see where the story leads them, creating a discovery draft. The first draft is a discovery draft. Even with detailed outlines many author find that after they start writing their story changes and their path to writing ‘the end’  is not as straightforward as they had planned. 

My novels often goes wildly off script as I write it. I discover things I thought would work don’t work at all, and I find other things I’d not thought of while creating my scene list. My list is enough of a trellis for my story to progress naturally. It’s not too constraining, so I don’t risk becoming bored with my story.  Nothing kicks off my ADHD like being bored.

Pro tip: If you are bored writing your story, if it feels flat to you, it will feel that way to your readers. And if you lose the thread of your novel and become confused while writing it, your readers will find it confusing as well. Having some form of an outline, trellis, or scene list in place will help you find your way back to the storyline. 

I am not against writing by the seat of your pants, also known as being a pantser. I know plenty of folks who have written some of my favorite books who have never outlined anything in their entire writing life. I am pro whatever gets your manuscript written. 

Below are some websites that offer more in-depth discussions of outlining methods. Check them out, and then, if you have never outlined, are struggling to get an outline written, or want to see what it’s like to write with more of a road map to ‘the end’, pick one of these methods and try it. You have nothing to lose and might find a stress-free way to keep yourself on track and start/finish a manuscript.

  1. Traditional Outline: A detailed list of scenes, characters, and what is going on in the background, story beats, etc., in chronological order. This link leads to an article on how to create a more extensive outline: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-outline-your-novel
  2.  Scene list/Script: Creating a scene list using simple sentences about the action in the scene, who is there, and what is going on, for example, similar to a movie script, transferring that list to index cards and sorting them until they make sense/tell a story. This is the method I use, and this is the youtube video that inspired me to use this method. https://youtube.com/watch?v=vrvawtrRxsw&feature=shares
  3. Sticky Notes: Using sticky notes or whiteboard to sketch your story’s bones and then using that as a guide when writing your story, this is a good discussion of that method: https://youtube.com/watch?v=pGs5ksCmjEQ&feature=shares
  4. Synopsis Outline: A synopsis outline is a paragraph-style outline that tells your story. This is a good article that discusses how to do that https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-novel-synopsis-step-by-step-guide
  5. Mind Mapping: When you create a mind map, you start with your central idea or theme and then form clusters of scenes around pivotal points/story beats. This is a detailed discussion of how to do it. https://www.zenflowchart.com/guides/mind-map-in-writing

I tried four of the five methods on this list before combining the synopsis style and the scene list/script method to create a form of outlining  that fit my style and brain. If you are wondering if outlining will help you finish your manuscript, or get more books written a shorter time, use this list as a guide to different methods. Have fun with them. The very best thing about being a writer is we get to make stuff up, even our methods of work. 

 

See you next week for my next post: Feeling the Fear and Doing it Anyway

Begin at the Beginning or Not

 

Begin at the Beginning or Not, Part One
This is the time of year when everyone starts looking back at the year and wondering if they have accomplished their goals. For years as the year came to a close, I would struggle to remember what I had accomplished. I let myself wallow in negativity and focused on what I had not done, goals missed, and resolutions abandoned. In the end, I would be down on myself and frustrated. One way I have learned to overcome this is to look at my consistency versus my output.
Consistency means sticking to a schedule, whatever that looks like for you. It does not mean, as some author coaches insist, writing every day, writing at the same time every day, or even a specific word count, although those things can work for some folks.
My life and brain are chaotic on the best days. When working full time, after a twelve-hour shift, I would be so tired and brain-dead after work that I only wrote on weekends. When my children were small, I wrote when they were napping unless I also fell asleep, then I wrote late at night or whenever I could squeeze in the time.
If you listen to some folks who pontificate about how to be a writer, they will spew all kinds of rules and imply that there is only one way to succeed.
Here is the number one secret: there are no rules other than getting the words out of your head and onto the page, be it electronic or paper. It does not matter how you accomplish it.
So what does begin at the beginning or not, mean? It means that to start planning for your writing this next year, look back at your consistency and start there. Make your plan to get words onto the page based on achievable consistency and a measure that works for you.
I work to word counts per week, Monday through Friday, because I need to see my progress, and moving the green line in Scrivener motivates me. I don’t write on the weekends because I tried the everyday thing, which led to severe burnout.
Some writers base their work plan on minutes spent writing, for example, fifteen minutes a day, three hours every weekend, or thirty minutes during their lunch break.
The hard part of all of this is that what works for one year, half a year, or three months may not work the entire year. So taking a page from the book The Twelve Week year (https://www.amazon.com/12-Week-Year-Others-Months/dp/1118509234), make a writing plan for the next twelve weeks.
At the end of that time, evaluate how it went. Ask yourself: Did you get words on the page? Were you happy with your productivity? Did you have fun with it, or was it a chore? What could you do to make it work? Or did it work for a bit, and then something changed that didn’t work?
If it didn’t work for you, make a new plan for the next twelve weeks. It doesn’t matter if you follow a famous writer’s schedule or anyone’s advice (including mine, as your mileage may vary). Do what works.
Begin at the Beginning or Not, Part Two:
In the next twelve weeks, set yourself up to succeed. Start slow. If you had never done more than jog to the car when it was raining, you would not start running by entering a marathon. Every year writers set themselves up to fail by choosing some arbitrary number of words to write each day because a multi-published author said that is how to do it.
Unless you know you can consistently produce a specific word count in an hour, or can work continuously for several hours, do not expect that you will magically be able to do that come January 2023.
Start with baby steps because even the shortest step forward will still move you toward your objective. Writing a book is not a race, do not compare yourself to other writers, especially if it is your first or second book. Learning what works for you is part of the craft.
Your homework is to make a plan. Notice I did not say to make a resolution. Numerous studies show New Year Resolutions do not work, so skip that part.
What does work is a plan.
For example:
I will write for an hour every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Or,
I will write for thirty minutes every Monday through Friday.
Or,
I will write five hundred words every day
Or,
I will write five thousand words each week,Monday through Friday (this is my plan because it has worked for me for the past twelve weeks.)
These are all examples of plans. Figure out your plan. Write it down, and put it where you can see it. If you keep a bullet journal or planner, enter your planned writing sessions as a date with yourself. Do whatever you need to help yourself get where you want to go and above all do what is right/works for you.
As part of setting yourself up to succeed, check in with yourself about why it might be hard to get yourself to produce words. Are there internal blocks you are dealing with? Such as grief, distraction, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, fear of success? Don’t know what to write? Don’t know how to start?
Or are there external blocks that are interfering with your writing? Such as no desk, crappy chair, lack of privacy, physical discomfort when writing, or no pc/laptop/tablet?Kids/dogs/cats/partners or other household members not respecting your writing time?
There is a page in the Silencing the Voices Freeing the Writer Within workbook that has a page entitled “What is Stopping You” and two columns labeled Internal and External blocks. Take some time to list those and then pick one to work on to remove it from blocking your writing. If you haven’t downloaded your copy yet, you can find the workbook here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/4b1my1xmkd
As this blog series moves forward, I will address some solutions for the above-listed blocks. This is the final post for 2022. I will return in January with the next post in the series, Outlines, Trellises, and Discovery Drafts. I wish each of you a joyous New Year, and I will see you on the flip side.

 

Eight Tools to help you write your Book

One of the most searched questions per the website Answer the Public is ‘How to write a book?’

I was one of those searchers for years. And while I could find checklists and articles that broke down writing a book into small tasks. I often ran into trouble implementing a checklist because I didn’t have the tools to assist with tasks such as creating character sheets, organizing my research notes, and tracking my word counts. Let alone wrapping my brain around all the little things that go into crafting a manuscript.

 A task list without explanation or mentioning tools to help you accomplish the task is not particularly helpful. The two truths about writing a book are these: You have to actually have to write or dictate the words, and there is no one way to write a book. A large part of the difficulty of writing your first book is learning what works for you and continuing to tweak your methods until you arrive at your formula/checklist for creating a book. 

Just as artists copy the work of master artists when learning their craft, copying other people’s methods will allow you to find what works best for you. The most exciting thing about trying different approaches is if it doesn’t work for you, you are free to try another method. Keep what you need/works for you and let the rest of it go.

If I were to go back to when I first started writing a book, what tools would I have wanted to know about? I am a natural short story writer, it was and still is my favorite form of writing, and it took a lot of study to figure out how to expand my stories into novel-length fiction.

This first post of my revamped blog is my list of tools/apps that have helped me organize my thoughts and write.

 My biggest issue with how to write a novel is its inherently linear nature of outlines and many folks’ insistence that you need one to write a book. Newsflash: Many famous and well-respected writers do not use outlines. My brain does not work that way. My thoughts spiderweb out from a book idea. Scenes come to me out of order, characters I never planned show up halfway through a book, my characters go off script, and my short story becomes a novella, becomes a novel. How to wrangle all of those changes/possibilities/issues? Before we move through this series and get to the actual “how to write a book” part, here is a list of tools that have been helpful with the nuts and bolts of writing. Some of these tools are free, and some are paid. Most have a free trial that you can use to take advantage of to see if it will work for you. I advise always trying to free a long while before you spend cash for a program. {*Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links and I receive a small commission if you purchase through them. It does not increase your cost but helps defray blog expenses.}

  1. Pomodoro App( https://apps.apple.com/us/app/be-focused-focus-timer/id973130201) to keep your butt in the chair and working for set periods. The key to getting any writing done is to keep your butt in the chair and do the work. That can seem daunting some days. A Pomodoro timer keeps you on track with short bursts of work followed by rest periods. Here is a link to a lengthy explanation of why it works. (https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique )
  2.  Mind Node Mind Mapping App (https://www.mindnode.com) This app lets you work outwards from your central idea and link them together. I use it mostly for nonfiction articles and blog posts, but I know folks who also use it for fiction. If you are a non-linear thinker, it is magic to be able to add ideas as they come to you and then link them together. Here is a longer explanation of Mind Mapping (https://www.adelaide.edu.au/writingcentre/sites/default/files/docs/learningguide-mindmapping.pdf )
  3. Scrivner (https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview) this the word processing tool that made a massive difference in my productivity and the ability to keep track of all the things that go into writing a book in one place. No more crashing my computer because I had too many windows open or losing my place while I cut and pasted trying to rearrange my manuscript and, at last, a way to keep track of word counts so I could stay on target to have completed a manuscript. Literature and Latte offers an actual thirty-day trial period, so you really try it out to see if it will work for you. The trial period allows you thirty days of use, not just the calendar period. It does have a learning curve which is where the following recommendation comes in to play.
  4. To go along with trying Scrivner, check out this free Learn Scrivner Fast webinar with Joseph Micheal. Learn Scrivner Fast was one of the best investments in my writing career. It is a tool that lets you create the way you think, loose enough that you can bend them to your will. It is flexible enough to capture your thoughts on the fly, hold your research notes, and yet organized enough to keep you on track so you can finish your project. My book production doubled after using Scrivner because I spent way less time trying to organize myself to write. I could open my document, secure in the knowledge that everything I needed to write my book, such as character worksheets, setting worksheets, images, notes, and visual organizers, was there waiting for me to start creating. Disclaimer here: There is a learning curve; it is not intuitive and does not work for everyone. But for me, with my distraction and organization issues, it is perfect. I suggest you download the free Scrivner trial and follow along during Joseph’s free webinar. You will learn enough to use Scrivner and will be able to try it out to see if it will work for you. The next free webinar is December 15th at 4 pm EST, and you can sign up here: (https://murphy.krtra.com/t/p5c2PVxq3tYf) If the time does not work for you, if you register, there will be a replay link sent out to you. 
  5. Grammarly (https://app.grammarly.com/apps) If you are writing short fiction or articles within the 100 to the 5000-word range, Grammarly is a game-changer for editing your work. It has a more straightforward interface than ProWriting Aid, and I like that simplicity. There are free and paid versions. I advise always trying to free a long while before you spend cash for a program. 
  6. A pack of index cards. A simple but effective way to organize your thoughts when you need to step away from screens. Why not a notebook? Because you can rearrange your thoughts easily. Don’t get me wrong, I love notebooks and keep my half-ass version of a bullet journal in one, but as I said, when ideas for a story hit, they come willy-nilly. Index cards are a cheap way to sort things. One rule for using Index cards is to write one thought/idea/scene per card, or sorting them later will be frustrating. 
  7. Pinterest Account (https://www.pinterest.com) Need to find images to represent your characters? Need to research a setting or occupation? As a visual search engine, Pinterest is a writer’s goldmine. It’s free and a great place to keep mood boards and images for your work. When I’m brainstorming a book, that is one of the first places to search if I need photos of characters/places/weapons/furniture/houses/etc. I drag the images to Scrivner later so that when I’m writing, they are at hand, and I don’t use up my writing time researching. Your boards can be made private, and I recommend doing that when working on a book for several reasons. 
  8. Timer: I mentioned the Pomodoro app above, but this timer is my favorite because it frees me from screens. I can lock my phone away and work without the distraction of it. This one is fun and easy to use. Just turn it to the length of time you need. Hexagon Rotating Productivity Timer with Clock, Pomodoro Timer with 5,15, 30, 45, 60 Minute Presets, Timer for ADHD Kids and Adults (Orange) by Znewtech ( https://www.amazon.com/Hexagon-Rotating-Minute-Preset-Countdown/dp/B07L2QN8MY

Long post but one that I hope helps you on your way to finding tools to corral your thoughts, get organized and get to writing. I’m looking forward to the next post in the series: Begin at the Beginning, or Not. 

Back to Blogging and New Opportunities

typewriter is on top of a blue tableIt’s been a while since I’ve written for the blog, but I am dusting it off for several reasons. When I started the blog in 2014, I was anxious for a creative outlet. My early posts focused on book reviews, life with ADHD, parenting, and my experiments with different ways to organize myself as I worked toward submitting my work for publication.

After seven years work, I am an award winning author, with eighteen published books (soon to be nineteen). I am a hybrid author working with a traditional small press and indie publishing my shorter works.

So what does that mean for this blog? My new vision for the blog is one where I share writing tips, tools, software, and methods of work along with reviews of writing craft books. As before, you’ll never see pop-up ads or ads at all on the blog. You will see affiliate links from time to time when there are products that I use and think would help you. Affiliate links provide a small commission to me if folks purchase the item using my link. It doesn’t add to your costs, but it helps pay for web fees and keep the lights on for the blog.

When I started seriously working on developing my writing craft, I devoured writing blogs and craft books. I was always looking for ways to work with my brain, with my specific thought processes, and for help with my distraction issues. I found many blogs and books with great suggestions.  Some worked for me, and some didn’t. I’m still working on developing my craft and spend time each week reading craft books and putting into practice ideas and methods to hone my craft. No one ever achieves mastery in the writing craft, but you can always strive to improve your writing.
And that is key about future posts. If I present something on the blog as a method of work it has worked for me, or for folks I know, and your mileage may vary. So for better or worse, from now on, this blog will be focused on writing and working as a writer with distraction issues.

So no matter where you are in your writing journey, come along for the ride by subscribing to my new newsletter, also titled Writing While Distracted. In addition to exclusive newsletter content a few times a month, each time I publish the blog, it will arrive in your inbox. You won’t miss a post. This is a separate newsletter from my author newsletter so don’t worry about redundant content.

 Here is the link to sign up for the Writing While Distracted newsletter and your opportunity to receive my workbook on beating writer’s block. Sign up now because I have so many things I want to share with you all. Click below to sign up and access your free download. 

https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/p9n3t3

See you soon!

Giving Back

I met a life goal this year. Ever since I attended my first writer’s conference, way back in 2012, I’ve had on my goal/dreams/wish list “Present workshop at a writer’s conference.”
Why? Because I benefited from so many writers who shared what they had learned throughout their careers. After every workshop I attended, I experienced the sensation of being lifted up and encouraged. I wanted to share those sensations with other writers. I wanted to give back. Achieving my goal would also mean that I would have reached a point in my career where I had something of value to share.
This summer, I met my goal at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s virtual conference.
I had a wonderful time presenting my workshop, answering questions, and engaging with the audience. Silencing the Voices and Freeing the Writer Within is a workshop that offerss solutions and ideas for non-neurotypical individuals struggling with writer’s block. As part of the workshop, I created a workbook for folks working through writer’s block, and it’s available as a free download on my website.
I hope everyone who wants to share their words with the world will do it because it always needs more stories. Until  next  time  I’ll  leave  you  wtih  this  thought.


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 was 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, two dogs, 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

Amazon 

NineStar Press

 

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