Writers and coffee shops go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Especially when the coffee shop sells delicious dark chocolate peanut butter cups. You'll also find writers working in libraries. And at work. If you're a busy creative with a full-time job, finding those moments when you can work on your writing is key to productivity. The tools have changed over the years, but the one thing I have done is write anywhere I get the chance to write.
Last night while I watched an older episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon mentioned the Yerkes-Dodson law. It came up again today in a post on surviving readathons at BookRiot. As tempting as it might seem to try and create the perfect writing space, that's also very limiting. If you need the perfect space to write, you will only write in that space.
I've worked since I was old enough to get a job. As a kid working my first job, I strapped notebooks to the back of my bike and took them to work with me (I'm sure there must be a reason I didn't use a backpack). I learned to write anywhere along with learning to write. Doing so has enabled me to finish multiple novels each year even while working several jobs and going to college.
Instead of perfect, figure out the tools or process that you can use to unlock time to write. I'm going to suggest several options that I've tried over the years.
I started this way—and I still use it for some things that I write. Who doesn't love a new notebook and excellent pens? When I started out I used ledger-sized lined notebooks because they were cheap and the extra length made it possible to write more per page.
Today, I've used Moleskines, Field Notebooks, and others. I use Frixion pens or Fisher space pens, though I have a bag of other pens and pencils for drawings and sketches. I frequently combine drawing and writing in my notebooks. Most of my writing falls into notes about ideas rather than finished work.
Pros: Quick, easy, works anywhere, doesn't need batteries, WiFi, perfect lighting or much space.
Cons: For most work, it needs to be converted into a digital format. Whether that's retyping a story, or scanning a sketch, it takes extra work and time.
After notebooks, I moved up to Palm OS PDAs with addon keyboards. Initially, these had tiny monochrome screens, but even in the limited platform they had great word processing software. Over the years since, I've gone through several variations including phones and iPads. The options now have only gotten better and even include using Scrivener these days.
Pros: Quick, pretty easy, works anywhere, easily syncs content to cloud and desktop for additional work.
Cons: Electricity! Though batteries last longer now, travel anywhere and see how many people are looking for spots to plug in and charge their devices. Lighting can also prove problematic for some devices.
From simple and inexpensive Chromebooks to MacBooks, laptops are the goto device for many writers. A laptop can replace a desktop. I choose to use inexpensive devices for mobile work. I use a Chromebook for online work. When it comes to writing new fiction, I'm currently using my Scrivener laptop. It's a low-power, low-cost laptop that I use just for Scrivener. I back up files on my USB drive to transfer them to my desktop. I find having a dedicated writing device helps with the creative process. Sitting down with it, I'm in the frame of mind to write. It doesn't matter where I am because my writing environment goes with me. I even use it when I'm home.
Pros: Greater choice of software and options. Easy to sync with other devices. Potentially larger screens and keyboard options. Able to replace desktop, if desired.
Cons: Cost varies from inexpensive to very expensive. May not start as fast as some devices if you have to wait for it to boot up. Heavier.
What about you? What techniques do you use to write anywhere? Share in the comments!
Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publish, and in On Spec Magazine.