Make it Your Own

 

Tomorrow the kids are back a school and my work life is back on schedule. I moved my office over the summer and I had worked in it only a tiny bit because it just didn’t feel like my office. I couldn’t figure it out. I was restless, and edgy and not productive preferring to sit on the couch or in a coffee shop to work.

Why? My usual reason for discomfort is that change is hard for me, as it is for many folks with ADHD/ADD. Patterns and routines are what keep us moving forward, as much as we might rebel against them sometimes.

Last night as I not sleeping, because I struggle with sleep issues, I was thinking about my production schedule for the week. It occurred to me as I visualized sitting at my desk the arrangement was totally opposite from former office. Many folks would not care if their desk was on the east wall of their office or the west wall, or if the office door was to their left or right, or if they would have their back to the door while working, but it made a difference to me.

The impulse to fix my problem was so strong, only the fear of waking up the rest of my family and then trying to explain to them why three o’clock in the morning seemed like a good time to move furniture stopped me. Today with the help of my very industrious twins we completely rearranged my office in half the time it would have taken me to do it alone.

I haven’t always been this aware of my feelings of discomfort. For years when things were off, I would just ignore them or push through or abandon doing things because of my unidentified negative feelings. Because my kids both struggle with identifying their feelings and being able to articulate what is bothering them, I ask them, especially when they are acting out, or overly upset, “what is wrong?” and “how can you fix it or make it better?” I want them to know they don’t have to settle or deny their discomfort, and that their feelings are valid. Even if other people don’t understand. Especially if other people don’t understand.

Notice I don’t ask “how can I fix it?” I want them to understand what it took me years to figure out. If something is wrong or doesn’t feel right to you, stop and think, take time to check in with yourself. Fix it yourself if you can, and ask for help if you can’t or it’s overwhelming to do it alone. Such a simple lesson and yet so powerful.

Before I had the privilege of having my own office with a door  I worked while sitting on the corner of the couch, or at my dining room table. In both places, I did little things that made it mine, and comfortable,  even if it was only during the time I used them.

Are there things in your life that are making you uncomfortable or are the source of negative feelings?  Have you abandoned your writing or creative space because it didn’t feel right or you were unable to be productive? Or have you never been able to settle into a creative space? Take a moment to check in with yourself, and then take the time to make your space your own, even if it’s a corner of a room or a place at the kitchen table do what you need to do to be productive and create. Now go make/write/do something amazing.

Brenda Murphy writes erotic romance. Her novel, Knotted Legacy, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot. She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking here.  Sign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

Back to Work

It’s the beginning of a new school year at our house — a time of new lunch boxes and backpacks and school supplies. My kids love school, and as much as I love our lazy summer days, I crave the structure that the school calendar brings to our lives. I have taken most of the summer off to reset and recharge, including an almost two weeks long social/screen sabbatical. During part of that, I took my kids’ camping for the first time, and it went well. The best part was the campground had no cell or internet connection, true freedom from 24/7 overload, and a fantastic digital detox. I am energized and well-rested and finally out of the blender.

What is the blender? It’s those times in your life when, just as you are getting settled, starting to get used to the new normal, something else occurs which requires you to change your plans, to find a new way to accomplish the five million and two things on your to-do list. And for those of us who struggle with our ADHD on a good day, and schedule disruption can send us right off the rails and destroy our ability to focus. The unstructured time of summer is both marvelous on one hand because I do like spending time with my kids, but I also struggle because I crave alone time to create. I coped this summer by using my bits of time to research and outline three projects.

Are things going to settle down now? Nope. There will be all the craziness that fall brings. But my kids will be busy at school, and I will have uninterrupted time for writing, or as I like to think of it, playing with my imaginary friends on paper. Now that my kids can read, and read very well, it is hard for me to work with them around and I can’t sneak in the time I used to when they were younger. The fall and winter are my most productive time, and last year, I managed to write two novels and a novella between September and March. I cheat a bit by doing NaNoWriMo every year, and that pushes me to complete a novel in a month.

This year my goal is to complete all three of the books I outlined by May of next year. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to give it a good go, and having the framework in place makes me feel like I can. Not writing over the summer was super hard. Writing is essential for my mental health. Blogging, one of my favorite things to do, and the one thing I try to keep with, no matter what, has been hit or miss the last few months and that has made it much more difficult for me stay on an even keel. Writing, art journaling, and telling stories are my touchstones. The past four months have made that clear to me that no matter what I need to provide time for myself to create. Going forward, I’m getting back to work, knowing that when everything is wacky, and I’m in the blender, the one thing I can do to anchor myself, is writing. My advice, if you are a creator and you’re struggling, set aside a few minutes to create. Even fifteen minutes of writing/drawing/painting or whatever is your creative outlet, can make a difference, make time and create.  

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows and yes, those are her monkeys.  When she is not loitering at her local tea shop and writing, she wrangles two kids, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.  She reviews books, blogs about life as a writer with ADHD and publishes photographs on her blog Writing While Distracted. You can find her on Facebook by clicking hereSign Up for her email list here  www.brendalmurphy.com

Books available at

Amazon 

NineStar Press

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

 

Hitting the Reset Button

 

If you follow my blog, you know that this spring was a difficult one. We lost my brother-in-law to depression in March. To say we’ve been on a spinning wheel of emotions is not an exaggeration. We are in the process of organizing a celebration of his life, and dealing with all of the feelings that accompany that: sadness, grief, anger, overwhelm, frustration, and disbelief to name the most often occurring ones.

In spite of everything I managed to finish and submit a novella I had been working on, and now have no deadlines to meet which feels odd at the moment. I’ve worked steadily since last September and was able to write and submit two novels, and a novella.  I have to remind myself that it’s okay to take a break. That it’s enough for now. The photo at the top of this blog post also reminds me that writing is not a race and that maintaining a constant state of production is not healthy for anyone. It’s okay to sit and think for a while, to take time to plan and daydream and watch a storm from your porch. Slow progress is still making progress toward your goals.

My way of hitting the reset button and filling my creative well is home repairs and improvement projects. I have two rooms to strip wallpaper from, patch and repair and then paint.   It may seem odd that home improvement projects are one of my favorite forms of self-care, but it is very relaxing for me to spend hours solely focusing on avoiding brush strokes and roller marks. I also keep a notebook nearby because more than once I have had to stop painting and write down story ideas that pop up while my focus is elsewhere. Never be afraid to hit the reset button and give yourself the time you need to fill your creative well. For you writers and creatives out there how do you hit the reset button? 

 

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 sneak peeks, information on new releases, appearances, and occasional recipes 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 

 

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 

Writing: Job or Business?

I was reading a thread a few weeks ago about writing, specifically about the need to write every day and the idea that if you didn’t, you weren’t serious about being published. One of the you-must-write-everyday proponents wrote, “I treat writing like my job and show up every day.” As I turned that thought over it occurred to me “Is writing my job or my business?”
Now, in case I have been unclear in the past,  I’m am firmly in the camp that recommends writing when you can, making use of whatever time you have to write. Working this way has seen me through four published books with another novel set to release in September. A job usually has set hours and an expectation of working a set time. As a small business owner, in addition to being an author, I can tell you that working on your business is a matter of finding/making time to do what needs to be done. Owning a business involves thinking and dreaming, strategic planning, cash flow management, and setting goals.

Just showing up every day and putting words on paper does nothing if you don’t have a plan for what to do with those words. If having your book traditionally published or indie publishing is your goal you have to have a plan, and then you must take advantage of every second you have to work your plan.
As someone with a day job, who is also a spouse, a parent, and a daughter with older parents and in-laws this is the only way I’ve been able to get any writing done with the goal of publication. I’ve researched publisher sites and calls for submission databases sitting on the couch while my kid with a fever dozed next to me. I’ve written in hospital waiting rooms while various family members were having surgery, and in medical offices and occupational therapy waiting rooms, and very late at night when the house is quiet, and I can’t sleep.
When my kids were little, I had exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes to write between when I dropped them off at pre-school and when I picked them up. I wrote like a fiend during that time, unless I need to grocery shop, or had to run some other errand that would have been incredibly stressful with three-year-old twins in tow. Writing every day does not make you a writer or indicate the level of your seriousness. The things that indicate a serious approach to publishing your work are writing, editing, submitting your work, finding ways to improve your craft, and working steadily towards what you want. Writing for publication is not just about writing, it is about learning your craft, striving to make the next book better than the last, and most of all it is about not listening to people say you have to do X, Y, or Z to be considered serious writer. You do you. Find your way. Don’t listen to people who insist there is only one way to do anything, even me.

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

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories

 

The Four Stages of Submission

 

No. Not that kind of submission. I’m talking about hitting the send button after I’ve polished my manuscript to hell and back and send it off to my editor. That kind of submission. With all due apologies to my friends who have to deal with me between the time I send a manuscript out and hear back from my editor, this is what I experience every time I send a book off for evaluation.

  1. Elation. The highest high, I’ve finally sent it off. Woo hoo I am done. Now I can start on that awesome idea I had for a book in the middle of this book.
  2. Anxiety. Oh hell, what was I thinking? It wasn’t ready. I should have spent more time editing it. Damn it’s too late. They’ll hate it. I better get to work on the next book.
  3. Anger. The hell with it. What do I care if they don’t accept it? I have other stories. So many  other stories to write. Let me channel my anger into this scene.
  4. Relief. The editor has responded. No more wondering. No more obsessively checking my email fifteen times a day.
    Substages: *1. They accepted it. Woohoo. Time to celebrate and then get to work on the next book. 2. They rejected it. Damn. Time to wallow in sadness for a bit, soothe myself with old movies, and bourbon. Then I let it go and get to work on the next book.

The key to surviving as a writer is to always get back to work. Feel the feels and then sit down and write. 

What are your stages of submission?

 

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Creativity: Habit or Gift?


One of the questions writers hear over and over is: Where do you get your ideas?, often followed by the statement: I’m just not creative. I don’t have a hard time answering the first. I get my ideas from everything I see, read, experience, and bits of the world I discover, often while looking for something else. Like this picture of my grandmother and her best friend.

One day I will tell a story about this photo. I found it looking through a photo album at my mother’s house.  I made a copy of the photo and added it to my flat file where I keep bits and pieces of ideas until I have enough to put together a project. 

The second statement is so hard to hear. I detest the idea that creativity is a gift. I don’t think it is, because there are so many ways to be creative. It is not only writing, drawing, or painting or any of traditional ideas of what being creative means. Being creative is allowing yourself time to think, to do something only you could produce with your thoughts, and hands, and time.

Lack of time is the greatest barrier to creativity. If you want to create you have to set time aside to think, to plan, to play with your ideas, and to experiment. If you want to create make a plan, schedule it into your life. Set aside time to think and discover. Anyone can create. Fine arts are only one aspect of creativity. Do you like to make changes and adapt recipes? That is being creative. Do you spend time decorating your home or planting a garden? That is being creative. Creativity is what happens when you stop and let yourself imagine, and dream. Give yourself permission to look at life sideways. Take the walk, visit the museum, read, and absorb the world around you. Creativity is a habit. It is work. Rewarding, delightful, soul filling work. Do the work. 

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Invest in Yourself

This past month I signed a contract for my third novel. And as anxious as I was to start my forth, because starting a new project is the best way for me to deal with the stress/anxiety/freak-out of submitting a manuscript for review. I make it a point to take some time between novels to study my craft, either by attending a conference, taking an online class, reading books about the craft of writing, and/or reading widely in my genre.

Why? Because on one level, writing is about doing that, siting down and putting words on paper. Nothing can replace that practice. There is no way to “hack” becoming better at writing than by writing and practicing your craft. I’m at the journeyman point in my career, with a collection of short stories, two novels published and a contract signed on a third. I’m not a beginner. But I am not seasoned writer with twenty novels to my credit either. I was not an English or Journalism major and I don’t have a MFA, and I want to make it clear: none of the above degrees are necessary to write a novel.

But it is possible to improve your craft with out signing up for formal education. You can invest your time and money to learn new ways to communicate your ideas and entertain your readers. I’m a health professional and educator by training and am all about making plans to achieve your goals. In order to construct an educational plan for your writing career look at reviews of you work. What do readers complain about? And I’m referring to thoughtful reviews here, not troll-type reviews. What problems do your editors point out? Pacing? Structure? Plotting? Character development?

Here are some thoughts on ways to address recurring problems in your manuscripts. Have a problem with pacing? Study screenplays, or take a screen-writing class. Issues with dialogue? Study stage plays, watch movies from the 30’s and 40’s when special effects were limited, and dialogue had to carry the story. Problems with plotting and structure? Read, read, read in your genre, take time to see how the novelist did what they did by making an outline of the novel. Flat characters, or poorly designed character arcs? Read biographies, ethnographies, and memoirs, connect lived experiences with human behavior and character arcs. Struggling with world building and setting? Study filmmaking and photo journalism to see how setting is as much a part of the story as the characters.

Writers conferences offer opportunities to learn about the craft of writing but not every one  has time, money, mental, and physical health required to attend a writing conference. If a writing conference is not on your list of things to do, take advantage of the many low stress, free, or low cost resources for writers. My number one recommendation for resources is the public library. Most libraries are free, or low cost, and once you are a member you can use interlibrary loans to get just about any book or movie you want. Many libraries have a way to provide digital loans, saving you time, and the hassle of remembering to return your books/films/music. If you live near a university or college, check out their library and their theater productions. Creative Live offers courses on screenwriting, (https://www.creativelive.com and no, not I’m not getting paid to recommend them, they often have sales on their courses, so it pays to sign up for their newsletter.

Indie Film Academy (http://www.indiefilmacademy.com) is free as is Ted Talks (https://www.ted.com/talks) for interviews and lectures about writing, inspiration, and living a creative life.

Take time to invest in yourself and your writing career. You and your career are worth the effort. 

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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.

 

The Deep End of the Pool

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My kids have been swimming in this pool since they were twelve months old.  The first time we came to visit their grandparents we would all take turns with them in the water. We used tiny life jacket and floats to help them learn to navigate the pool.  Back home we spent hours at the YMCA pool with swim classes and family swim time. Beside the fact that I think that everyone should know how to swim as a matter of personal safety,  I wanted my kids to be comfortable in the water. Notice I said comfortable not cocky. I wanted them to respect the process of swimming and to understand that not everything in life can be “hacked”.

Work, practice, and more work are the keys to getting better and experiencing success at anything. And work means that, doing the thing you want to be better at, swimming, cooking, writing, whatever,  not reading about it, or talking about the thing. You have to do the thing. Short cuts are for road trips, not skills. There is no substitute for time and practice.

 I am constantly amazed by the people I meet who expect overnight success as a writer. Writing, just like swimming requires time and commitment and overcoming your fear. Submitting a  short story, or poem, or novel, or play, or whatever it is that you write is like jumping into the deep end of the pool.  

 Don’t expect the first time you submit your work to go smoothly.  You will freak out and stew and worry before you press the send button or drop the package in the mail.  You will most likely be rejected and flail and struggle to get to yourself to submit again. Don’t quit, be fearless, jump in with both feet, honor the process of learning and practice.  

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Do the work, hit the send button, then get back to work so you can jump again.