Minimum ‘stuff’ to take so you can write
What is the minimum you need to port your writing wherever you go?
There are different ways to write when you are away from your home base, and I’ve tried many of them, with the intention of taking advantage of small (few minutes to a couple of hours) to large (several weeks) periods of away time.
I find it useful, with my fogged brain, to work the details out on paper ahead of time – everything below gets a place on my checklist for packing. Then I take what I will need – without having to think in a hurry.
In my regular, mostly stay-at-home, life I have a very nice setup: hubby got me a huge high res TV for a monitor – 42” (diagonally, but who’s measuring?). I have my printer at my fingertips, plenty of desk space (if I keep it even moderately tidy), and file cabinets and drawers and plastic file trays galore.
I brought my daughter back to her college apartment, and am staying with her until she’s organized and ready for the new term. Not to be in the way when she doesn’t need me, I brought ‘my writing.’ We made the decision to go – within hours we were packed; she made an appointment at school and we didn’t have a lot of thinking time.
But I have had to do some thinking about what it means to be portable but still fully functional. I have all that storage at home for a reason – keeping each finished chapter in its own hanging folder makes it easy to find it later; keeping space to shove the WIP when a crisis arises and I have to use my writing desk and computer to do something in the real world also makes it easy for me to resume work once the crisis-du-jour is over.
I have an external hard drive, and the Mac Time Machine does an automatic backup every hour. At home I’m connected to Dropbox – which, as long as I don’t have the internet blocked with Freedom, will keep my files synced with the ones online. On travel, backup is taken care of IF I have access to WiFi – Dropbox will keep me safe. And I can email copies to myself for extra safety. I forgot to bring a USB portable thumb drive – will have to remember that next time.
I am a big go-to-paper person when stuck, so I need some kind of connection to a printer most of the time; I usually print out the text I’ll be working on and any auxiliary material before I leave home – this time I didn’t have time, so I’ll be figuring out how to connect to a non-Mac printer at someone else’s home.
The last part is the minimum configuration necessary to enable me to actually type text in, and that consists of the laptop, an extension cord for power (or working off the battery and charging overnight – the Macbook Pro has a decent battery life).
For a short period, I can live with the laptop keyboard. I prefer my IBM Selectric-like Unicomp keyboard at home (as a classically trained typist, the feedback from the keyboard is something I find soothing – though when my daughter fell asleep in my office I realized the clicking IS a bit noisy), but I adjust fairly quickly.
But I have to bring a real mouse and a mousepad of regular size – I tried using only the trackpad and drove myself nuts. I just shove my regular mouse and pad in with the laptop automatically now, after trying to do without on previous trips.
Software and paperware
Now that I have Scrivener and Dramatica, all those paper files that I used to need to organize things have become a relic of the past – I rarely use, and even more rarely update, those folders of sheets of paper for notes or research. My plot is neatly stored in a format I’m used to using, and it is completely portable and transparent: since I know I can find anything I want instantly, it makes no sense to print things out – I’m going to change them anyway.
Last addition: my current notebook and a handful of gel pens, so that no idea has a chance to escape just because I’m somewhere without the laptop, and voilà, we are portable.
Ready to go? Packing quickly
I noticed that on this trip everything came together in minutes. It used to take planning and notes and worrying about what I would need that I couldn’t take with me. So, progress.