Michaeline: The Mobile Writing Unit

Taken May 17, 2014 in the library, Shihoro, Japan by Michaeline Duskova

Writing on the go — on location in Shihoro!

Today, I’m writing from location in the beautiful Shihoro Integrated Training Center Library, waiting for my kid’s badminton practice to finish.

We’ve talked about home offices before on Eight Ladies. Most recently, Nancy remodeled to reflect her new career goals.  Kat gave thanks for her tidy office last November. A dedicated writing space can be not only practical, but a real talisman. It says, “I AM devoted to having a writing life, and I make space in my life, my home and my schedule for it.”

But there are many roads to Oz, as Jenny says, and it can be very productive to have a mobile writing kit so that we can write on the run. Michille touched on this in her post about a cool new writing notebook, and how she used it while squiring her kid around.

My kit consists of:

*My computer. Any writing utensils will do. I like that mine has a USB modem so I can connect to internet resources like the Merriam-Webster dictionary anywhere in Japan – but when it’s time to just write, I can disconnect the modem so I’m not tempted to “look up just one thing.” Of course, paper and pencil are very satisfying writing materials, and studies have shown that writing longhand makes the brain process things differently – and we all need to take a different view of our processes every once in a while. Use a folder or binder to keep the papers from getting ruffled in transport. You can tie or tape your pencil on, too. Just use a paper punch to punch a sturdy hole.

*Earbuds and something to listen to. I have two old “Brain Wave Theta” tracks by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. At first, the new-spiritual sounds helped me block out my surroundings and go deep into my writing. But now, just listening to the track makes me think, “Oh. Writing time.” I only use it for writing. You can use anything you like – classical, the soundtrack to your novel that you’ve compiled, or whatever says “writing time” to you. If you work best in silence, look into noise-cancelling headphones. At any rate, people are less likely to bother you if you are wearing headphones or obvious earbuds.

*Lucky item. I wish I weren’t superstitious, but the human brain looks for omens and patterns in everything in a desperate attempt to predict the future. My lucky writing item is my mousepad, which looks like a magic carpet. I like looking at it and thinking, “OK, now it’s time for adventure!”

*A reward. My monkey gets sushi today after I finish writing. I also like Lindt chocolates when I’m working on the community center at the top of a local department store. You could treat your monkey to some nice music, a fun game, some trashy journalism, or anything that makes you feel calm and relaxed. Writing is its own reward, but it’s lovely to recognize that your monkey has been dragged out of its comfort zone into an exciting and stimulating new space. The reward should be a nice transition from Writing Space back to Real World.

Do you write on the go? What tricks or tips do you use to get into writing abroad?

15 thoughts on “Michaeline: The Mobile Writing Unit

  1. I have a little netbook—one of those 10-inch gizmos—which I like in general and find very useful when I can put it on a hard surface. When I’m in airports, which I am a fair amount, I hate trying to balance that thing on my lap or my carry-on. It just isn’t stable enough. The keyboard is 75% size, which is pretty good, but the small and tippy gizmo, the smaller keyboard, the no mouse—when I’m sitting there at the gate, trying to work drives me crazy. I’m thinking I have to invest in one of those fold-up, hard-surface writing desks if I want to write in the airport.

    • I have a terrible time with lap writing, too. I think Krissie (Anne Stuart) had a picture of a darling little lap desk either on her blog or the ReFab blog. I see a lot of people using their track pads very effectively, but I tend to hit it by accident too often, so I prefer a foldable mouse. I got mine for free with my computer, and while I was worried about too many bendable (therefore breakable) parts, it turned out to be really good.

      I think I’d have to hunch over my carry-on as a desk if I were in the airport writing on a computer. I’m going to have to test my theory next month when I meet my kid at Narita — not only will it be writing time, but I’ve got a character who needs to spend a lot of time on her computer in Narita. That part probably won’t be in the book, but the aches and pains might.

        • All I can see on it is “Microsoft”. It takes up a USB port with wireless (not connected by a cable) but it doesn’t make such a lump in my computer bag. I do need to replace batteries every four months, so I have to carry batteries, as well. Trade-offs, trade-offs. (-:.

  2. Glad to hear that you’re taking care of your monkey, Michaeline! I love your mousepad, and your mouse looks cool, too.

    What I take with me really depends where I’m going and how long I think I’ll have. On the bus or the tube I use my phone to make notes about plot or character problems. If I’ll be stuck in town for an hour or two I’ll take my ipad and a set of headphones and write in the nearest public library. Same at the airport. I have a wireless keyboard and an origami stand but I wouldn’t bother to take those unless I was going to be away for at least day, or if I’ll be on a train or plane for a solid chunk of time. Whichever option I choose, afterwards I have to incorporate whatever I’ve done into my latest working draft, which lives on my clunky laptop, which stays at home. That’s the one I’ve promised myself I’ll replace later this year when I … Finish The Book. Really, it can’t come soon enough.

    • When I wrote this, I was just thinking about the “hook” — ie: I was writing out of the office that day, so I might as well make use of it, since it’s something I often do. But . . . with this advice, I realized that I’m going to be away from home for extended periods of time this summer. I don’t want my writing to come to a standstill.

      You wouldn’t have a link to that origami stand, would you Jilly? I’d like to see it and hear more about how useful it is. I think I’ll mostly be writing in hotel rooms and from other people’s kitchen tables, but the airport time is really something I’m going to have to think about. Kay, if you’ve scouted out a good fold-up desk and want to share a link, I’d love to see it.

  3. I have a 13 inch Macbook Air that I use a lot when I’m away from my office, but I find I’m usually too distracted on the road to write new words for my WIP. Usually I’m editing or writing notes. I’m intrigued by the idea of writing a scene the old fashion way (pen and paper). Maybe that will shake some things loose for me.

    • It’s really hard writing on the move, I know. I’m exhausted in the evening, and usually looking up the day’s itinerary in the morning. I think it helps to make a definite time-slot for it in the schedule, tailor the writing to the situation (ie: on a research trip, maybe instead of straight writing, work on sketches that capture the sights and sounds you want for your novel) and block out the world.

      Writing, when it’s really really working well, seems almost like a trance state. I’m not able to invoke it reliably. Most times I just slog through.

  4. I have an iPad that I use when I’m on the go, with an Origami keypad (if you look on Amazon and search Origami iPad keyboard, you’ll find it). The keyboard snaps in and folds around the keyboard, then a velcro piece keeps the back together to create a stand for the iPad to sit in. I take it with me everywhere (homeowner’s association meetings, the kids tae kwon do practice, the car — when someone else is driving, the plane, etc.). That said, I don’t generally WRITE with my iPad, mostly take notes or sketch out scenes for later. The writing happens on my laptop at home, in my office, at my desk, with my “writing music” playlist going (a lot of Mozart). A bit of a rut, but that’s how it goes.

    • Took a look at the Origami keyboard on Amazon — looks super-cool. But, does it fit on your lap? Looks like it might slide off. When I’m in the car, wedging my notebook between my steering wheel and my stomach holds it stable enough for reading and some light writing work. Probably super-bad ergonomically. But, better than just wrestling with ideas in my head while I’m waiting for the kids.

        • Cool! Sounds like a great extra device for marketing and that sort of stuff, then. Checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. I want to keep my marketing (especially Facebook, which I just don’t trust!) in a different device. If I get hacked or en-virused, at least it won’t eat my manuscript or my other lives like my day job stuff and my personal things.

          I was thinking about doing an iPod with an extra keyboard, but it really seems like it won’t be that much cheape than an iPad/keyboard combo.

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