Friday, November 18, 2011

The Traveling Writer

Writers can write anywhere; it’s not only a maxim, but a definite benefit of the craft. Trouble is, we’re expected to take our work, or the tools for it, everywhere we go. On returning from a recent three-week getaway, I realized I’d transported more equipment to work with than clothes to wear. What does that say about me? But it also occurred to me that packing for an extended trip involves a fair amount of organization if you're to have what you need. Aha, fodder for a blog post! So here’s a rundown of what I normally take:

Travel journal:
I like to keep a record of where I went, when, and what I did on certain days. It comes in handy later, when people are scratching their heads, wondering what year we went where. It’s also great for settling arguments!

Research books or materials:
You may not need this item. I always do—especially if I don’t have it with me.

Printed manuscript pages, as needed:
Proofreading on the printed page is far more accurate than proofreading on a computer screen. Why? The screen doesn’t display as much text as a page, so you miss repeated words and phrases. Also, its glare often obscures missed commas or periods. In addition, the printed page is more like printed text so sentences read differently, are perceived differently by the brain. All right, I have no proof of the last, but it seems that way to me.

Notepad—actual, not electronic:
No matter how integrated with the digital world you may be, there will always be times when a low-tech paper-and-pen combo is faster and more convenient than a high-tech gadget.

Pens in your favorite brand and style:
Pens are illusive things. No matter how many I drop into my purse or stand in the pewter cup on my desk, there’s never one available when I need it. I buy them by the box, and, still, the only thing I can find to write with on the spur of the moment is one of those cheap pens everyone lifts from hotel rooms. Do the best you can.

So you may look like a road warrior—you still need some means of keeping all your paraphernalia together. I have a leather hard-sided briefcase, a leather soft-sided one, two rip-stop nylon soft-sided ones, and a cheap one with wheels and a handle that I bought at Wal-Mart. Guess which one I use.

Laptop, Notebook computer, or tablet:
This is an indispensible item, even if you’re absolutely positive you won’t be writing anything longer than research notes, character sketches or scene notes. Leave it behind, and I guarantee the complete plot for the opus of the century will arrive full-blown in your mind while you’re somewhere over the Atlantic or in the middle of Texas.

Padded cover(s) for your precious electronics:
Nothing is sadder than an iPad with a cracked screen from being dropped on a hard surface. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.

Chargers for  electronics:
Between the two of us, my husband and I had nine different chargers with us on this last trip—phone (x2), laptop (x2), camera, eReader, iPad, iPod, and GPS. Too wired, yes. But guard these with your life, for you can do nothing without them. It’s a good idea to buy a carrying bag of some kind that’s dedicated to nothing but chargers. I also like to put each charger in a separate zip-type plastic bag and label it. No, I’m not compulsive; it just annoys me to have to scrabble through a bunch of wires to find what I want.

External hard drive or thumb drive with appropriate stored files:
Yeah, yeah, I know you’re connected to the cloud, but what if there’s something between you and it? It can happen in the Wild West where canyon walls and mountain tops often block signals. Bad weather can intervene anywhere. Better safe than sorry.

Paperclips or bulldog clips:
I hate having to reorganize papers when a simple paperclip would have saved the time and irritation. How colorful or fancy these may be is up to you. Have fun; writing has become way too serious these days.

Pre-glued Notes
Sometimes, it’s useful to attach your handwritten note to the MS page it’s meant to elucidate. It just is, trust me. And an idea per page, and the pages in a neat little pile, is… Fine. Maybe I am compulsive. But organization is still a good thing.

Since publishing her first book at age twenty-seven, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jennifer Blake has gone on to write over sixty-five historical and contemporary novels in multiple genres.  She brings the story-telling power and seductive passion of the South to her stories, reflecting her eighth-generation Louisiana heritage.  When not traveling, Jennifer lives with her husband in northern Louisiana.


Landra said...

When you mentioned traveling with chargers in seperate ziplocs, I though I would share my travel secret on chargers. To keep them all nice and need I fold the wires, and bind them with a twist tie. It's a little odd but keeps the wires from getting twisty on the trip.
This handy trick also works great in the home office too! Thanks for sharing your travel tips.

Jennifer Blake said...

Good point, Landra. I discovered the hard way that it's not a good idea to wrap the wires around the chargers. They definitely do not appreciate being twisted! Many thanks for sharing.