Finish it.

Whatever you’re writing now, finish it. Even if it takes you two years, finish it. Why? Because every time you abandon a manuscript, it becomes that much harder when you get to the soggy/awful/sticky/why-the-hell-did-I-even-start-this point in your manuscript. This is a lesson I learned from my track and field coach in high school. I had signed up to do field events. I loved field events. I’m built for field events, and they were easy for me. But our team was short an 800-meter runner (that’s a half-miler for you metrically impaired folks), and that was how I found myself having to practice with the real runners, the people who do 400-meter sprints and enjoy running and smile when they run. And I hated it. I was sucking wind one sunny spring day as I rounded the curve having run the first 600 meters, and I stopped running 200 meters from the finish line and stepped off the track. I leaned over a few minutes to catch my breath. My coach’s shadow darkened the ground at my feet. I raised my head and met her gaze.
“Are you hurt?” She said quietly.
“No.”
“If you’re not hurt you need to finish, I don’t care if you crawl over the line, but every time you give up, you will struggle at that mark in the race. Don’t quit. It’s the worst thing for your mind.” She walked away and blew her whistle and had us all lineup and we ran again. And this time, when I hit the mark I had quit at she was standing right there. No way I was going to quit with her right there. So I pushed myself and finished. And a little fist pump from my coach, her acknowledgment of my effort.  And that is how it went for the next week, every day at practice she would be standing at the sticking point to remind me to keep going. To not quit. To push through.

My sixteen-year-old self held on to those words and the look on her face every time I ran through the sticking point and finished. Those words got me through the rest of high school, nursing school, Army basic training, and every other hard thing I’ve ever done since then. Including writing my first book.

Those of you doing NaNoWriMo right now may want to quit. Perhaps you’ve fallen behind in your word or questioned why it’s essential to finish. NaNoWriMo is not about winning, it’s about finishing. No matter what your word count on November 30, complete your NaNoWriMo project. Don’t quit. Finish your draft. Even if it’s terrible and it takes you until next November to complete it, finish it. Don’t quit. I’m cheering for you.

PS Coach K, if you’re out there, thank you for all your life lessons, but most importantly, this one.

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

Complex Dimensions

Knotted Legacy

Both Ends of the Whip

ONE  

Sum of the Whole 

Dominique and Other Stories 

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 

Slow But Steady: Any Progress is Progress

I love this turtle because he helps me to remember that no matter how slow you are moving, if you keep moving you will get there. Through kids being sick, through family illness, through birth, death, and all of life’s messy bits, and most of all through your own inability to focus, if you keep moving you will reach your destination. Remember this when you are frustrated with your creative output: keep going.

I had a short fiction piece accepted this week for publication in an upcoming anthology. My kids think it is pretty awesome that I’m going to have a story in “a chapter book”, and so do I.   I’m not going to go into how long it has been since I had a piece published, or how many rejections proceeded this acceptance, or how many times I have submitted manuscripts, because none of it matters. The point of this post is this: all those days that I squeezed in fifteen minutes of writing made a difference. Not giving up is what matters. If you quit writing, it is impossible to get anything published.

I will confess to struggling mightily in the warm months to stick to my writing schedule. The lure of outside kicks my ADHD into high gear. After a winter of being inside all I want to do is play. My kids are home in the summer time, and that cuts into my writing time as well. I have some ways of dealing with kids at home and last year I posted some tips for sticking to your writing schedule when your kids are out of school, and you can read them here .

Even if you take some writing breaks over the summer, make it productive, read that To Be Read Pile, collect photographs, experiences, and memories to feed your writing later.

Most of all don’t give up, if you keep writing you will finish. Just keep moving. If you can only write one sentence, write a sentence. Like snowflakes it will add up. It may take years for you to accomplish what others accomplish in a month, it is okay, just keep writing.

Stick with it. Keep going, don’t quit, enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Research for Writers: Ten Tips for Location Research

 

This is the beginning of a series of posts on research for writers. Some writers do a large amount of location research before they start a project, some do research as they go along, others of us may pick up bits and pieces like crazed crows gathering up every little shiny object or fact that catches our eye, add a little ADHD to the mix and location research can become overwhelming.

I fall in to the crazed crow category, and have talked about how I have organized my bits and pieces and ideas using flat files here , and how to make the most of collecting ideas when traveling here. I wrote about how to know when to stop researching and start writing here.

Here are ten tips for being productive when you research locations for your non-fiction, creative non-fiction, novel, short story, screenplay or other creative writing project.

1. Location research does not have to be long distance. Google Earth  has put much of the world just a mouse click or finger swipe away. If you are setting your story in a real place, even if the characters are fictional, readers will take you to task if you are mistaken in your geography.

2. Travel guides are your friends. If you are able to visit a location, take advantage of travel guidebooks. Most libraries carry travel guidebooks.  Lonely Planet travel guides are my favorite and no they don’t pay me to say that. If you are not able to travel to the location, a guidebook is helpful for researching your setting.  If your work is not contemporary, library sales are an excellent way to find out of print/ older guidebooks and old maps for getting the scenes right.

3. If you are going to travel, plan before you go. Plan, plan, and plan again. I work from a thick outline, and make notes to myself in the margins about research, that needs to be completed for the story. Using my notes, I create a list of places to visit, things to experience, and people I would like to interview.

4. Borrowing from the film and photography industry make a shot list.  For photographers and film makers a shot list is a list of photographs to take or scenes to film.  I use photos for much of my research because I am a visual organizer. If you are not into taking photos this is simple a list of places or events you want to visit or observe. Some writers sketch locations if photographs are inappropriate for the location or event.

5. Local guides can be invaluable if you have limited time.  Members of historical societies, hiking groups, amateur photography clubs, and/or friends of friends can be more than willing to answer questions, point out the best places for photos, accompany you to events, or provide history and details that only locals know. Be respectful of their time, offer to pay for fuel or food or both if they take you on a tour that involves motorized transportation. A thank you card is always appreciated.

6. Be respectful of local culture. Dress appropriately, this is another instance where local guides can be helpful. People should never be treated like animals in the zoo. Always ask permission if you wish to photograph people, and respect their answer if it is no. Most people will answer polite questions. If they ask why you want to know, be truthful. Many people will be happy to answer respectfully presented questions, and if not, move on.

7. Journal your experiences, even if you don’t normally keep a journal. Find a way to record your impressions, feelings, tastes, sounds, and what you see. All of this can be used, if not for a current project for a later one.

9. Push your limits, try new things, but be safe. Pay attention to your surroundings. Leave an itinerary if you are traveling alone. Listen to your gut, if something does not feel right if most likely is not safe.

10. Travel light, keep your gear simple, and have a back up plan if the location/event you planned to visit is not available.

Don’t be afraid of location research, use these tips, make your trip productive and most of all have fun.

 

Travel Journals

 

 

Challenging is the best way to describe writing while traveling. Routines are disrupted, changing time zones can be wicked hard physically, and with ADHD the distraction of new places can make it very difficult to focus on writing. If you are traveling with your family, kids, or even with other adults it can be difficult for them understand why you need to have time alone to write. Negotiation is critical for having an enjoyable trip and getting the creative time you need. I am grateful that my family understands that I need to take time out to write, and I am careful to not let it keep me from enjoying the moment.

Taking time to get out of your head to see and experience the world around you provides raw material for writing. Travel brings with it the opportunity to see new things, taste new foods, experience new cultures, and to meet new people. Take advantage of these experiences and collect your impressions in a travel journal, notebook, or other writing tool of your choice. I prefer paper for travel as I never have to worry about not being able to record my thoughts because of a lack of electricity. Small notebooks are great for this, and I am very partial to 5×8 hardcover sketch books. These kinds of books become a permanent record of my travels, fit in my flat filing system that I talked about here, and are unobtrusive. Although I adore fountain pens, I only carry cheap ball points while traveling, they don’t  leak and are easy to replace if lost or broken.

Embrace the chaos that travel brings. Record your thoughts, feelings, and impressions. Capture bits of overheard dialogue and make character sketches. Use what you experience to enrich your writing.  In the past I have relied on a small point and shoot camera to record pictures as resources for my writing, this trip I am using Evernote to take pictures and write extensive captions so that I remember where and why I took the photo. No matter what you are writing having images to remember your experiences is invaluable. If you are Blogger this is a fantastic way to collect images for future posts as well as generating ideas for your blog. If you write fiction it is great to use images as part of your character and location sketches.

Enjoy your trip. Make memories. Record your life. Use it all.