Thursday, March 7, 2013

Friday Is Outdoor Office Day by Megan Crane

My husband draws.  I write.

(We're sitting under one of his paintings in this picture, in fact, in a newly-reopened speakeasy in downtown Los Angeles.)

What this means--among other things, like very intense debates over "proper" time travel-- is that we spend a lot of time far, far away.

In our heads.

Slumped over our desks, panicked and over-caffeinated, brutal deadlines hanging above us and laughing maniacally...

(Oh yeah.  Deadlines laugh.  Loudly.)

It also means that we don't have proper work weeks.  We try.  I rant on about boundaries and free time and refilling the well ( which sometimes means traipsing about glorious Ireland, of course), but if something's due, it's due.  And that means we sit there until it's done.  All night.  All weekend.  To the exclusion of everything else, and I do mean everything.

That's a lot of sitting in one place, no matter the traveling we might do in our imaginations.  And the funny thing about sitting that long?  Day in and day out, focused that intently on stories inside our heads?  We go a little crazy.  We breathe less and worry more.  We crumple in on ourselves, stress leading to stress, until it's a self-fulfilling prophecy of panic and deadlines and more panic and more deadlines...

And by "we" I mostly mean "me."  Especially the "not breathing" part.

Recently, we decided we had to be a bit more proactive in our attempts to clear our heads.  It gets crowded in there, after so many years of so many stories, so many deadlines, so many long nights and blurry weekends spent writing and drawing and pushing our own envelopes just that little bit further on project after project.

So we instituted Outdoor Office Day.  Once a week we lace up our hiking shoes and we... go outside.

We're lucky.  We live in southern California and this is our backyard.

(Well.  If you consider an hour's drive to a state park in northern Malibu your backyard, which, frankly, I like to do.)

We've been teaching ourselves how to breathe again.

How to play.

How to jump for joy in a grassy expanse without another soul in sight, only mountains and the sea and a blue sky above.

We've been learning how to focus on the beauty in a perfect view, in a hard climb up a steep hill, in the wonder of a pretty morning spent far, far away from our office.

We've been learning that happiness is cultivated as much as encountered, and I'll tell you that I've worked out more story problems while not thinking about them somewhere outdoors than I ever have spending fifteen hours a day procrastinating on social media.


So my writing advice to you is this: go outside.  It doesn't matter how long, or in what weather.  It doesn't have to be during the work week if you have a boss who wouldn't take too kindly to that idea.  Take a walk in the rain without caring how wet you get or how long it takes to splash around around out there.  Give yourself permission to get muddy.  Bundle up and move around out there in all that snow.  Make a snow angel or two.  Throw a snowball.  Better yet, start a snowball fight.

Move and breathe and play and marvel.  Let the world remind you why you wanted to create things in the first place.  It's amazing how much better things seem when you've spent a few hours physically far away instead of just mentally elsewhere.

Just go outside.  I promise, it's the best work you can do.

Megan Crane and Jeff Johnson 
have told hundreds of stories through books and comics and animated television and movies, possess a personal library to rival most bookstores, and have somehow ended up with entirely too many domestic animals.

He lives in the moment.  She stresses over every last detail in advance.  Together, they get on the correct flight at the correct time, but then they enjoy the journey.  A lot.  

You can find out more about her at or, and more about him at


  1. Love this post, Megan! What a great reminder that "Happiness is cultivated as much as encountered." Thank you!

    1. It's taken me a long time to learn that, Lori. Glad to share!

  2. You're so right about the outside, and I'm sooooo awful about pulling my butt up off my chair. My husband, thank my thighs, is the one who insists I breathe something other than manufactured air and makes me trot around the neighborhood with him. I love the idea of outside office day!

    1. "Thank my thighs," indeed! Ha!

      Husbands are good like that.

  3. I loved this post. I do spend entirely too much time in my head, and less than I should enjoying the great outdoors. To my poor dog's chagrin. Loved your husband's work in the speakeasy!

    1. I have two dogs and still, it's a struggle.

      And thank you--I love that painting too!

  4. LOVE! Outside is so healing. Thank you for the reminder. I'm going to take the toddler and go walk in the snow right now!

  5. Oh, Megan, I loved this post so much!! Even though it is snowing in New York, you just reminded me that I need to get outside and breathe!!

    And thank you for sharing those amazing pics-- each one is a gem.

    1. Brenda, thank you! Most of them were taken in Mugu State Park. It's a gorgeous spot!

  6. What a great post, Megan! It's also terrific timing here! We've been talking about just that! I think it's one of the best things writers can do for themselves! But it's also easy to ignore, for all the reasons you so wisely state! I will take your advice, but can I wait until tomorrow? It's not exactly a Southern California weather here! Just a another snowy New England day!

    1. New England is so pretty in the winter--I'm jealous! Have fun!

  7. What great advice. I'm jealous that you and your husband get to work "together" in a way.
    I find I get to both clear my head and come up with ideas when I run around Prospect Park here in Brooklyn. I also think of it as my backyard. Making outside time a priority is really important for people who spend their days hunched over a screen.
    Nice post.

    1. Prospect Park is gorgeous! I have a friend who lives near it and it really is like an extended backyard.

      And you're right: we really do have to make going outside a priority.

  8. "Let the world remind you why you wanted to create things in the first place."

    Loved this, Megan!! Thank you for the reminder... I need to do this (even here in snowy, freezing IL :).