Monday, July 11, 2011

This Writer's Work Habits

by Maggie Marr

Well let's see the above title would imply that there is work going on or that my work is in fact a habit. And as of this moment (okay the last two weeks) there has been little work and not much that's been habitual aside from long sunny days and much family. The habits I've cultivated the last two weeks have me a bit (as always) worried. You see...I've been on vacation. By vacation I mean vacation. I've spent the last two weeks visiting family in the heartland. My in laws live seven miles from a town of 4,000. Yes, you read that right...I didn't forget a zero. I went from LA to rural (by way of a writer's conference in NYC.)

Every year me and mine head homeward to the farm where my husband was raised and an area in which a large number of my extended family still reside. My family manages to pack a year's worth of 'family time' into fourteen days. These are lazy summer days filled with pools, horseback riding, firefly catching, pick up trucks, acres of corn, giant skies, brilliant sunsets (did I mention the pick up trucks?!) and late humid filled evenings with the droning of frogs and cicadas. My in laws have no internet and I can't get a cell phone signal for 7 miles. The pace slows to a dull sort of plodding, my brain turns to slow running sap, and well...I don't write...much.

In fact, warning, these are the first words I've cranked out of my mind in nearly twenty days... All this family and summer fun arrived at a good time for me this year as I am waiting on an editorial letter for a manuscript which is the first in a three book deal. So while I re-read the manuscript and think about the problems I know must be addressed (and I am sure my editor will confirm my suspicions) I haven't actually written in weeks.

Is not writing a good thing? Well I don't slow my pace to an output of zero words unless I am ill or the kids or ill or we go on vacation so while the Midwestern work ethic part of my brain screams that I am being L-A-Z-Y unless I work from sun up to sun down the creative part of my brain is resting. I know from experience that this vacation from words will in fact create a huge output upon my return to LA LA land. Thank goodness that this slow time creates productivity because upon my return to LA I must hit the ground at full speed as not only will my editorial letter greet me but I must finish up the outline for the second book in this three book deal.

So this yearly habit of winding down in the summer time sun is one that I have to believe helps my mind, increases my output and strengthens my roots. Besides, there is little else that can ground you like getting your toes into some warm wet mud on the side of a crick while your daughters skip stones... LA it's not, but lovely it is.

Maggie Marr lives in LA with her husband and children. She writes for film and tv. She also writes books. You can find her on facebook and twitter. She also writes a blog.


  1. Maggie,
    I hear you. I've been so discombobulated this summer. So many great projects to work on but such a crazy schedule that it's heard to work it all in and with kids, aye, aye, aye!

    I do think stepping away from writing helps our minds simmer good things for when we do start cranking again.

  2. Hi Maggie, Just store up all that inspiration! And if it strikes while you're knee-deep in the crick (can you be knee-deep in a crick?) go for it! If not, you'll probably be home and back to your routine before you know it!

  3. Maggie, I think your vacation sounds lovely! I'm feeling pea green in fact, as I try to finish a manuscript without taking a day off (and no pedicure, hair cut, lunches with friends, etc., until I'm DONE--sigh). I have such trouble taking time off, and I honestly DO believe it's essential to us as writers and Type As who always try to do too much. So enjoy your time away from words because you'll be at your keyboard going gangbusters soon enough! :-)

  4. You sound so emotionally healthy, Maggie...and you're a writer! I'm afraid my mind is too unquiet to ever do what you do. Ooh, look: squirrel!

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