This first quarter of 2013 has been absolutely frantic for me. At the end of January I started a new job which has been totally full on. There have been a lot of nights when I’ve arrived home and just crashed out on the couch/the bed/starfished with a cushion on the floor. Socially, things have been pretty hectic too. Over the past 3 months, I have been to three lovely weddings, two hen’s parties and a 21st birthday party (And yes, you can totally sing that sentence to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas!) Almost all of these have been outside of Melbourne, so instead of having time to relax on the weekend and get some writing done, I’ve found myself on flights to Canberra and Hobart or driving to Warrnambool, Winchelsea and Sorrento for the weekend. Plus amongst all of that I had a week away with my class on school camp. Whilst I’ve loved celebrating these special occasions with my friends and wouldn’t have missed any of them, it has been pretty tough trying to fit in some time for writing my next book and for promoting Diary of a Penguin-napper. I’m a creature of habit. I like writing at my desk, in my flat, with my giant cups of chai and I can sometimes find it difficult to get into ‘the zone’ if I’m not in a place that I feel comfortable and inspired to write in. Having said that, I’ve had to make a real effort to commit to being a writer these last 12 weeks – in any place, any time – as I haven’t been home very much. I’ve had to find a way to fit in writing life despite all of my frenetic activity and I’m pleased to say that I have still managed to fit in some time for writing and marketing.
One of the things that has had a huge impact on my ability to keep up with my writing when away from home is that I have achieved this is by purchasing a hard case, bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. When I first bought my iPad back in July, it came with a leather look case with a soft touch keyboard. I was really excited about this keyboard at first, but it quickly became apparent that trying to type with any speed on that soft keyboard was like trying to run a marathon on sand. It was really hard work! By September, I was already researching different keyboard options and by the end of October I had settled on the Logitech Ultrathin iPad keyboard. It is awesome because it essentially turns your iPad into a portable notebook computer and I’ve been able to take it with me on my travels. The combination of iPad and keyboard weighs next to nothing (I carry it in my handbag no problems!) and it is totally worth the $88 I paid for it on sale. It is up the pricey end as far as iPad keyboards go, but it has totally changed the way I use my iPad – from an occasion device for browsing the web to an everyday writing tool. 100% worth it.
Secondly, I have spent a lot of time thinking up story ideas. I often find that some of my best ideas come to me when I’m out for a walk or run or even driving longer trips in the car. I love having time to myself to just think and dream, so I have found that my time away over these last few months has been great for my plotting and planning. To make the most of this time, I try to make sure that I have some way of taking notes – whether it be writing into notebooks, onto Post-Its, typing ideas into Notability on my iPad or even recording voice memos on my phone when I’m out and about. There’s nothing worse than having a totally scorching brainwave of an idea and then having lost it by the time you go to write it down a few hours later or the next day.
Another way that I’ve tried to work smarter when I can’t be sitting at my desk at home is to use scheduling tools. On WordPress, for example, I can schedule my blog posts to go live at their usual times on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, even though I had written them all on the weekend before. When I was away on camp for a week back in the first week of March, I had zero internet and phone reception (like absolutely nothing – it was both liberating and annoying!), but at the end of the day it didn’t matter because I had my upcoming posts scheduled and ready to appear in my absence. Similarly, using Buffer (which I know I go on about a lot, but that’s because it is seriously awesome!) meant that I could have tweets and Facebook posts ready to appear at various times – without me even having to lift a finger.
Finally, time away from your desk can be a great time to research. When I’m away, I love visiting new places (and collecting information leaflets) and trying new things that often make their way into my stories. I try to visit writer’s centres when I can and love a good exhibition (like those at Seven Stories in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK and those hosted at the State Library of Victoria, Australia). Being out and about means that you see or hear different people talking, which can be a great way to gather and develop new characters. I don’t always have time to read the paper during the week, but being away on weekends has meant that I’ve had more waiting time and more opportunity to sit and learn more about what is going on in the world. I’ve also had more time to listen to writing podcasts whilst sitting in the car on long drives (check out The Write Lines and The Creative Penn for writing podcasts) and to listen to the stories of others (try The Vinyl Cafe to meet one of my favourite storytellers – Stuart McLean. He has a great sense of humour and seriously makes me want to holiday in Canada!)
Being a writer on the run (so to speak) may not be as perfect as sitting at your own writing spot at home, but time away from your normal routine doesn’t have to be wasted time. So today I want to know: Where do you write? When do you write? And how do you survive when you’re out of that routine?