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The Laptop Comes with Me: Writing Across My World

I think most authors could identify with the fact that my writing pretty much comes with me everywhere I go. Whether because it’s because I want to be ready to jot down any ideas or inspiration that comes my way or because of simple necessity, I find I need the tools of my trade with me whenever possible so I can write my way across the little slice of the world I call my own.


One of the things authors, whether traditionally or independently published, wish for people to understand about us is the fact that most of us do not make a full-time living off our writing. I work as a teacher, a friend works as a disability specialist, and another friend works as a banker, just to name a few. We are workers, spouses, parents…and many times those things have to take precedence over our passions as writers and creators. In order to give the time to our writing it needs and deserves, we often find ourselves writing in little slivers: during a child’s nap, a wait for something to start, a car trip (though of course not while driving ourselves…never that), late at night or early in the morning, or a rare pocket of downtime at work.


I think the picture of a writer sitting in a café, a notepad and pen in front of them (perhaps alongside some fancy-looking books) is a fairly ubiquitous one. Just as common, of course, is the picture of a writer sitting in a café, a laptop in front of them as they tap away on their latest masterpiece while sipping a chai latte. I have found myself in both situations, though far more often in the laptop one. Writing in cafes and coffee shops offers a change of pace, a delicious beverage (and maybe a pastry, too), and just general exposure to the outside world for a subset of people perhaps most comfortable in their own homes.


But what about those other times? What about wandering around your world with the means to write available as often as possible?  I am very thankful for the digital age in that respect: because of cloud syncing, I once wrote about a thousand words of my manuscript on my phone while sitting in a doctor’s office with a ridiculously long wait, a couple hundred while waiting for my daughter to finish show choir rehearsal, and so on. Though I don’t necessarily prefer writing on my phone for many reasons (including clumsy thumbs), it’s nice to have that tool and the ability to use it for writing even when I’m not otherwise in a place where I could do so.


The tablet is a little better: with a Bluetooth keyboard, my tablet becomes a mini-laptop capable of almost everything my real laptop and even my big machine are. The tablet goes places with me I might not have the space or the carrying capacity to take my laptop: festival tables, coffee shops on the way to and from other places, other people’s homes, and my job. Once again, the cloud allows me to work in sync with my other devices, so whatever I tap onto the tablet immediately lives on every other device I have. It’s truly delightful.

T.J. wearing a purple shirt, typing on a laptop in front of a window to the Gulf of Mexico.


This week, I am working on vacation: my partner and I opted to spend spring break aboard the Regal Princess in the Gulf of Mexico, and I have the absolute privilege of writing against a backdrop of breathtaking blue ocean, trying not to doze off from the gentle rocking of the waves beneath this behemoth of a ship. That brings me to the other part of writing throughout my world: not just practicality, but inspiration.


As we were boarding the ship yesterday, my partner asked me if I was now going to place Alanda on a ship in the ocean in tribute to our week away. The answer was, of course, no – Alanda is a land-bound creature. But it got me thinking about how my surroundings can and do influence the stories and characters I write. Perhaps my current surroundings won’t lead me to place one of my characters off the continent of Ilbeor and into the Sundering Sea, but looking out over that expanse of blue out my window does lead to other thoughts not directly related to the immediate plot of the Legends or Ilbeor saga. I have considered how one of my characters might view the ocean upon seeing it for the first time; I have considered what happens when you are sequestered away from the familiar in the cabin of a ship (whether luxurious or not); I have considered how the sudden addition of thousands of strangers into a character’s world might affect how they behave; I have considered the sheer power of large amounts of water. Though it might not be as straightforward as putting one of my characters on a ship, the inspiration and thought processes that come from my surroundings just can’t be underestimated.


Really, reader, what it comes down to is this: I and other authors are often thought of as creatures of habit, stuck in a study or other room with our writing (and perhaps some very messy bookshelves in the background), spinning worlds inside our heads in defiance of what is actually happening in the wider world around us. And sometimes, that’s absolutely accurate. But far more often, the writer must write where he or she can, and must draw upon their own experiences or observations about the various facets of their piece of the world to create compelling narratives.


P.S. In case you were wondering, the writing tool I use to write across devices and location is Scrivener, which – if paired with Dropbox and the iOS/Android app of the same name – allows me to seamlessly work wherever I am. But Scrivener is not the least bit unique in this ability, and the answers you would get from authors regarding their chosen platforms is as varied as the authors themselves.

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