My biggest challenge this year has been to keep creating on the road. I’ve traveled more this year than I have in years, essentially the equivalent of three months have been spent in hotel rooms this year. That means that my writing and creating “system,” or routine, has to be portable. It is and it isn’t let’s just say. I used to carry my hated MacBook Pro with me when I travel, and honestly, it’s what I should do to solve half of my mobile creating problem. But it’s heavy and carrying two laptops is a pain.
The problem is, I don’t ever want to write a single word on my work laptop. I need to keep these completely separate, so the onus is me to have some second piece of equipment to use on the road. I’ve been using my iPad with a keyboard pretty successfully until recently. With the last update, my iPad slowed down a bit, and there’s a delay when I’m writing from the keyboard to Evernote. That gets pretty distracting, but I manage to power through it.
The biggest problem I have on the road is I have trouble getting up at 4 AM local to do my own work because I can never go to bed early enough when I travel. At home, I’m in bed shortly after 7 PM and read for at least an hour. But on the road, I always have evening events, late dinners, etc. that cause me to have to adjust when I go to bed. So in the morning, I stay in bed. “Just one more hour,” I tell myself. It always causes me to rush my morning routine and writing. While I’m able to knock out my word count, the part that I don’t get to do is polishing posts (editing) or any idea creation. Cleaning the litter box is the mindless activity that gives me ideas at home. I need to find a similar activity on the road that allows me to find ideas. I also need more sleep.
I am not a morning person
People think that because I get up most days at 4 AM, that I’m a morning person. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would love to stay up late and sleep in late. The reality is, the world gets going about 7 AM, so if I want any time to myself, I have to be done by 7. Here I am on a Saturday where my wife and I stayed in bed, and it’s now 7:08. I won’t get all the stuff I want to get done today, most likely. If I’m lucky, I’ll find time this afternoon because it’s a Saturday, but that is never a guarantee. There’re chores to be done.
So most days, I force myself out of bed to write. I brush my teeth and make coffee, and that’s it. The same on the road, but I have to use whatever coffeemaker is in my hotel room, but one or two cups gets me going in the morning, so I try to keep on that routine at least.
Ideas fuel me and keep me going
It’s the lack of ideas that ruin me, though. When I write, although I gather ideas throughout the day, I find most of the ideas that get me excited the next morning are the more recent ones. I have 606 ideas in my ideas folder as of today, but the one I grabbed for this morning was from two days ago. So as soon as I stop filling the bucket, the whole process seems to get harder.
I recently did a three-week travel stint. Not the whole time, but 3-4 days each week. It was enough to upset the flow of my routine, however. It was about 11 days by the end of that month, which represented at least 11,000 words. I hit the word count, but I should have had 30+ ideas as well. I have to figure that part out next year.
I just need 15 minutes
I finally finished Dorothea Brande’s book “Becoming a Writer.” She has a section on creating ideas, although she doesn’t deem it as idea creation, she explains it similarly. Writers find that not writing and not having anything to do with words for an hour or two at a time causes motivation. This is where the walk in the woods comes from, the sitting on a park bench for hours, etc. Anything that doesn’t involve reading or writing should do the trick. I now have to find something like that from a hotel room. Sounds like meditation is the key, which I’m going to try. If I stick to the same amount of time as my litter box routine, it’s only 12-15 minutes per day. The one thing I’ve learned this year, I can always carve out 15 minutes.
All I know is that all the times I’ve struggled over the past several months have been caused by failed equipment, lack of sleep, and lack of ideas. When I’m not generating ideas, I find that my writing lacks a sense of flow. It’s harder to write, it’s definitely harder to write 1000 words.
Equipment can distract you
As for the lack of sleep and the equipment, I can try to do something about those. I have a backup keyboard that works with my phone, for emergencies, but it’s not ideal. I think the solution is to sack up and buy a small MacBook. I talk in my eBook about the struggles of finding equipment that doesn’t hinder you. The Apple keyboards feel the best to me, although the operating system is more difficult to use than a PC. All I need it for is a web browser and Evernote, however. But having Adobe on there, and some of the other apps will definitely be a plus. I just really don’t feel like dropping $1300 on something I really don’t want. Unless I can find a decent laptop that I can try out first, I don’t have much choice. The iPad is not going to keep working. I was leaning towards a Microsoft Surface Pro, but the reviews about longevity are horrific, so I don’t think I can stomach the same money on something that will break as soon as the warranty ends.
At least I know the MacBook will still work in a few years. Mine is a 2013 model, and my love-hate relationship with it has nothing to do with the hardware. It’s all the Apple bullshit and different way of doing things that drives me nuts. It’s what you’re used to, and I never had a Mac product until I bought this a few years ago. Even running Windows on a Mac platform isn’t right. It’s like the guys who put high-end badges on their low-end cars. It’s just not the same.
So wish me luck. I’ve tried several things and still don’t have a solid routine for generating ideas that compares to cleaning the litter box. Mindlessness is what I’m after, but I have to be mindful enough to be able to write down the ideas once they come. I so wish someone would invent a decent voice recorder that’s voice-activated and portable. I’ve even looked into Alexa, but that seems to be overkill for a notes app.
Those coroner voice recorders are looking really good. And they’re waterproof because, you know, being a coroner can be messy. I’m not sure I could have one of those and not think of some guy in a plastic face shield with a mini bone saw every time I use it. That’s NOT the type of ideas I’m looking for. Such is life.
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