One wonderful feature of Mar Vista is the farm’s deeded access to the private beach across the street. After a two-minute walk through a private alley and down some stairs, one tiny spot of ocean is all mine.

I’ve spent a little bit of every day at the ocean, but not more than a few minutes before today.

For one thing, I’m here to work. For another, the water at this spot is as placid as this still photo suggests. While there is a tiny shore break, it is not enough to hold my interest while my manuscript and the farm’s hammocks are competing for my attention.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ve been grateful to include my daily beach walk in my writing break activities this weekend.

I leave Mar Vista tomorrow morning. This evening, I sat on the beach for an hour, reflecting on the work I’ve completed this weekend.

The time away has been essential. I have only two months to finish my manuscript for a summer release, which is non-negotiable when you’re writing a book about surfing.

And given how quickly I scheduled and finished my interviews, the tight turnaround is doable, as long as I keep buckling down. I’m not writing multiple chapters that weave together, after all. I’m writing thirty perfect profiles. No big deal.

Except for the part about how every piece of writing takes longer than expected. This has been true for all writers since time began, and for a perfectionist like me, it always will be.

So when I devote an entire holiday weekend to my manuscript—even extending the three days to four to squeeze in that much extra writing time—I must remember that the space and time and solitude don’t speed up the writing. Laying down the proverbial bricks takes the time it takes.

And when you write a book of profiles based on interviews with real people, there’s a lot of project management involved. There are charts and checklists and emails to write. Thankfully, organizing is fun for me, but it still means many moving parts and much invisible work.

I did a lot of work this weekend, and there’s more to come tonight and tomorrow morning. I don’t have as much to show for it as I’d like, but I moved every part of the book forward, in both the visible and invisible ways.

I had already marked my calendar for the slots when I would write all thirty profiles. None of those calendar entries included this weekend, so all my work here has been a bonus. It’s great to know that.

On the beach this evening, I recalled Anne Lamott’s wise words about writing and life: that you must handle both bird by bird.

This concept arose from her childhood, when her brother had procrastinated on a school project he was supposed to create involving multiple birds.

When he came clean to their dad the night before his work was due that he’d done none of it, their dad said, “It’s OK. We’ll take it bird by bird.”

I didn’t procrastinate on anything. I’ve been moving quickly toward my deadline since my publisher and I set it. But the adage still applies: I can get done in any given moment only what I can get done, and I must take each piece bird by bird.

As I thought about that, a bird flew from the beach onto the water. A little ripple wave, which probably felt to the bird like a ten-foot rager, passed under the bird, who stayed seated on it.

I took this avian bodysurfer’s photo after its big moment, but you can imagine how gracefully it navigated the wave by how calm it is as it waits—facing the wrong direction, this surfer must point out—for its next one.

After this weekend of rest and writing, I feel as serene as this bird looks, as I tap out this post on my favorite Mar Vista hammock. I hope I hold onto this feeling for the next two months.

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About the Author: Katie Burke

Katie Burke
Katie Burke is an award-winning author, San Francisco attorney, journalist, and surfer. Her first book, Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco, was critically acclaimed. Her next book, the forthcoming Sea Change: Women and Nonbinary People Reshaping Surfing Wave by Wave, is scheduled for publication in July 2023.

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