How to Get Off the Crazy Train

This is my first post in about four weeks. I’m glad to be back. The title of this post reflects how my life has been; I won’t bother with the details, but let’s say, two writers on deadline, twins, aging parents with health issues, work, travel, a cracked tooth, and root canal, collided in one spectacular episode of crazy train in our house. Sometimes I refer to it as being in the blender. Both are phrases to describe that awful can’t catch up, always behind, I really should be doing (fill in the blank with whatever you feel most guilty about not doing) feeling.

I know everyone struggles when life goes sideways, but for those of us with ADHD, the collapse of routine adds another layer of stress that we have to work hard to bounce back from. If your kids/partner/ other family members are also non-neurotypical the loss of routine becomes a tsunami of overwhelm. 

How do you get off the crazy train? For me, it means letting go of things that can be allowed go of without causing too much trauma. For me, one of the first things that goes are blog posts. And the social engagements that do not feed me and cause extra stress. After that, making fancy dinners, which means I raid my freezer for our home cooked stockpile of meals I make over the summer, knowing it will get crazy at some point in the fall. This week is the start of NaNoWriMo, and I’m doing it again this year. If you notice on my list of things I let go, working on my current novel was not one of them. And that is because, for me, writing grounds me, even if I  can only squeeze in thirty minutes of work, doing just that little bit keeps me in the game.

Here are my steps for getting off the crazy train. Your mileage may vary, but here is a list to get you started.

  1. The extra thing: Blogging or anything else you can lay aside and pick back up when life settles down. No, this does not mean skipping your exercise plans.
  2. Say no to social engagements that do not feed you. You don’t need to give a reason, just say no. Really.
  3. Eat good food. Drink water. As tempting as it may be to say eff it and eat everything and drink a bunch of wine, just don’t.
  4. Breathe. Take a ten-minute walk out side, make it fifteen if you can. Walk, without your phone, the world can rotate without you being plugged in for ten minutes. Walk, breathe, and remember that it’s okay to take some time for your self.
  5. Make some art, or cook, bake, or do that one thing that always grounds you.

This is my list. I hope that you will come up with your own list for the next time the crazy train rolls into your life.

 

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. Website: 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

 

 

 

Return of the Spiral Notebook

If you have followed this blog from the beginning, you might remember one of my first posts was about the simple spiral notebook. At that time I was a mostly stay-home parent with young children. I kept a spiral notebook at hand to jot down ideas, and storylines, and thoughts that I wanted to explore as blog posts, and short stories. Then my kids went to pre-school, and I had much more time to devote to my writing, and I dedicated two hours and forty-five minutes to my writing Monday through Friday (the time I had between when I arrived home from dropping them off and when I had to leave to pick them up). It was miraculous, and I managed to get a collection of short stories written and published, and then wonder of wonders they went to kindergarten and later on to grade school, and I had much more time to devote to writing. I focused on writing novels and managed to write four books in two years, not a prodigious sum but for me, but it was doable and not overwhelming.

And then we bought the house next to ours to renovate as a rental and future home for any family member that might need to live close enough for us to care for them. I have done ninety percent of the renovation myself. I was sick and had surgery in December of this year. And then my mom and dad had some health issues that required me to make the eight-hour drive to their house on a regular basis. And then my sweet dog passed away suddenly in the Spring, leaving me short one office companion, and melancholy. 

All of this means that this year, I’m not sure that I will manage to produce two manuscripts to submit to my editor. It also means that I have been carting around my faithful spiral notebook so that when I’m in the middle of painting, or plumbing, or laying floor tiles, and come up with a new thought/idea/storyline/blog post I have a place to capture it. I know that some people use their phone for these types of things but let us say a cheap notebook and pen is more forgiving of paint-stained fingers.

At this point, you may be asking what my point is, and it is this: Never be afraid of adjusting your goals to fit your life, don’t feel bad about it, do what you need to do, and hold tight to those ideas for future projects. Life is full of seasons, don’t give up, be willing to bend, and ready to snap back when the storm has passed. 

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. Or if Twitter is your thing follow me @BMurphySideshow 

Website: www.brendalmurphy.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Writing-While-Distracted

Books available at

Amazon

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

You are Not Your Paycheck

I want every creative person to write this down and put it where they can see it every day. Because it is the number one way non-creatives assign value to what we do. “How much did you make for that? Did it sell? Are you still wasting your time? Why don’t you get a job?” The hidden message in these type of statements is your worth as a person depends on your ability to make money.

After a steady stream of these types of questions, it is easy to think you are wasting your time, that no one will ever pay for your work, that your work is worthless. None of this is true, the act of creating has value. Letting other people suggest that you have no value as a person because you don’t make money with your creative work, is ridiculous, but oh so easy to believe. Stop. Don’t listen. You are not your paycheck. You have value. Your work has value. Do not let other people derail your creative endeavors. So what if you choose to spend your time writing, taking photographs, painting, drawing, or making collages? So what?  Hold fast to your creativity. Hold fast to your dreams. Hold fast to your own values and beliefs. Do not let other people stifle you.

This waterfall starts somewhere as a little trickle. Keep going. 

 

 

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Recover and Reset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Finding A Way

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So earlier this week a friend shared an article on Facebook that I’m not going to link to here because I don’t want to send any traffic to the article. I generally try to keep my blog posts positive and the article in question was one of the most pathetic excuse filled articles about writing I have ever read. The author was whining because she thought publishing one book that people raved about would mean she could quit her day job and just be a WRITER.  Yep the “W” word in all caps. In other words she believed her own press. She stopped writing when the offers did not come pouring in and she managed to give herself a big old case of writers’s block and in case you are unclear about my opinion, this is my post on writer’s block.

I have a book that will be released on Monday and you know what I’ve been doing while I was waiting for the book to be published? Writing. While I was doing all the things you need to do when you have a book coming out, i.e. revisions, edits, plans for publicity, etc., I have been writing.

Why? Because I know that writer’s write. Even on days when I can not sit down at my computer because of day job/ kids/ other obligations I write in my notebook. I make story notes on scraps of paper, or collect photos of places that inspire stories, or write blog posts like this one. And that is my point. You can’t stop writing and wait for things to happen, you have to keep going.

When you coach T-Ball one of the things you have to work on is getting kids to run after they hit the ball instead of standing there watching to see where the ball is going. Writing one book and not having plans for the next project is like standing at home plate waiting to see what happened to the ball you hit.

So in case you are struggling with my sports analogy or if  you publish a book to critical acclaim and you think that is enough, here is the advice the woman should have gotten.

KEEP WRITING

because you are a writer and writers write. We write when we are sad, overwhelmed, overworked, anxious, happy, frisky, exhausted, hungry, frustrated, angry, sick, or convinced that no one but our Aunt Edna will ever read our work. We write because we are writers and writers write. Don’t quit. Find a way to write and do it.

 

Busting Creativity Myths

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Creativity is often defined as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” The problem with this definition is that it leads to the first myth of creativity: Creativity  is only expressed through Art with a capital A. This is not true. Creative acts are not limited to painting, singing, playing an instrument, writing, photography, etc. Creative acts include everything that requires thinking and problem solving. So add cooking, raising kids, playing games, and just about every other part of your life to the creative acts lists.

The second myth of creativity: Creative people sit around smoking/day drinking/ looking out the window/ holed up in a bar waiting for an idea to pop in to their head, perhaps aided by a muse like this:

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In my world I know many creative people and every one of them works at being creative. That’s right they work at their given medium: writing words, making up recipes, making photographs, designing buildings, using biomimicry to solve human problems, drawing, painting, sculpting, and coloring. None of them wait for inspiration, or the muse, or some stroke of divine insight to light them up, they work.

The third myth of creativity is the most insidious. Some people believe they are not creative beings. These people are the people that comment on  another’s creativity and it usually sounds like this: “that is so cool, I wish I was creative.”

Please believe that anyone can become more creative. We all are creative as children. We make up games, and stories and draw. I have to believe that the people who tell me they are not creative had someone tell them they were not “talented” or “gifted”  or “artistic” or make a harsh comment about their work. Let go of that. Tell that voice in your head to shut the hell up. Close your eyes and remember how it was when you were a kid and could fashion an entire adventure with nothing more than a cardboard box.

I believe that the drive to create is in all of us, it takes many forms but it is there, it just needs to be fed.  Give yourself space and time to think. Don’t think that what you create has to be shared, because it is fine to create to please yourself.  Don’t let other people’s opinions define you.  I believe that creative acts are self-care . Create. Feed your soul.

This is only a moment round as a peach you have not yet bitten into.” The Moon as Cat as Peach, Marge Piercy, from The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems 1980-2010

Getting back to it


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Why is it so hard to get back to work after a break? This little guy peeping in my window is not helping.  For people with ADD/ADHD, we struggle with staying on track most of the time, much less with the craziness that surrounds the holiday madness that starts with Halloween and proceeds through the roughly twenty-three holidays that end with New Year’s eve.  Many people make all kinds of resolutions. I wrote here,  about how I did not make resolutions but instead make goals. Goals are fantastic and wonderful and how I manage to get things done, but goals are hard to remember sometimes in the everyday chaos that is life.

This year at a New Year service with our kids, we each wrote a word on a bit of tile to remind us of what we most wanted to do this year, a word to remind us of the one thing that if we accomplished it would make us feel happy /proud/ content/ calm/ wonderful.

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It seems simple enough, but the process of distilling a goal down to one word is powerful. If you are struggling with getting back to writing/ work/ exercise/ eating well, try this: choose one word that will remind you of what you most want to accomplish this year. Write it on a stone or small tile. Keep it on your desk, or in your pocket, and when you feel like you are drifting, hold it in your hand, let it anchor you, remember what it is a that you want most. This exercise was brought to us by our friend Chelsea, and this post is a way to say thank you Chelsea for this wonderful idea, and the start of a new family tradition.

 

Creative Acts and Self-Care

When I make time to write and create I feel like this 

powerful, strong, and alive. 
When I don’t take care of my creative needs I feel like this
 cranky, cantankerous, and bitter.  
Taking care of yourself by making time to do the things that you like to do is vitally important to your mental health.  If you have attention issues, and struggle with keeping up with day to day household activities, making time to write or draw, scrap book, or just sit and read a book may make us feel like we are cheating, because we are not doing the thousand and one other things we “should” do.   
The truth is it is okay, and very necessary to take of our creative needs.  Self care goes beyond exercise, eating well, and sleeping. Spending an afternoon writing, painting, drawing, or doing crafts is a way to get your brain to shift out of overdrive.  Sitting meditation is very difficult for ADHD individuals, although the benefits are fantastic, sitting still is so torturous that often we fail, and then feel bad about failing. Creative pursuits are a form of meditation. Getting lost in a project is soothing.  The problem for many people with ADD/ADHD and creative outlets is that we want to try and do everything, then we feel overwhelmed, and wind up doing nothing.  Here are five tips on how to balance creative needs and the rest of your life.
1. Schedule creative time at least once a week.
2. Limit yourself to three creative pursuits.  One that can be done indoors, one that can be done outdoors, and one to do when you are tired or need a break from the other two.
3. Set a budget! This is hard but necessary. By limiting what you can spend on your chosen creative outlet, you can cut down on the overwhelm that can occur with too many supplies.
4. Give yourself permission to be the creative person you are. If others do not understand your need/desire to spend an afternoon writing about your imaginary friends, or making scrapbooks, or painting, or making bird houses, find supportive people who do understand. 
5. Set a timer!  It is so easy to hyper-focus and lose track of time, a timer will keep you on schedule. I set a timer when I write so that I don’t forget to pick up my kids from school.  A timer is also useful when bargaining with kids/spouses around creative time as in ” please leave me alone until the timer rings”.
Make time to create.  Enjoy the process. Take care of yourself.