The Modern Writer: Writing on the Go

There was a time, I’m told, when writing required that the author be firmly planted in front of a typewriter, slamming away at keys, hoping to not make a typo because there was no easy way to correct them.

Then came the computer and with it the word processor, allowing authors to easily correct their typos and rewrite sections of their work as they saw fit. But they still had to sit at their desk and stare at their screen.

Those days, however, are long gone. With the development of laptops, tablets, and Smartphones, the Modern Writer has an incredibly diverse set of highly mobile tools that allow him or her to range free. From the couch, to the porch, to the coffee shop, the Modern Writer is not tethered to a physical location anymore.

But with this massive freedom of movement comes some new problems that require solutions.

When you had to sit down in front of a typewriter in some secluded part of your home or office, you could easily close yourself off from the rest of the world.

Writing in the living room, I can tell you from experience, is a trial of patience and self control. Between a rambunctious 3 year old, a 15 year old needing help with homework, and a spouse who somehow has “Josh sat down to write, ask him to do something” radar, I struggle with keeping in task. And that’s not even starting in on the topic of distractions on the computer itself.

Writing at a coffee shop would, I can imagine, be marginally easier but there you have the hustle and bustle of a business to contend with and if you’re not a regular, perhaps the glare of a barista who thinks you’re drinking too little to be staying so long.

Mobility doesn’t just affect the actual writing process, though. It affects everything before that. My smartphone has become a research assistant and tool, helping me look up topics and gather information.

The biggest task that my smartphone has made easy is writing down ideas and developing the seeds of a story before I need to sit down and write the skeleton of the story. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve found this to be a valuable method to keep story ideas moving and get them out of my head (so new ones can land and take up space).

But much like the world of constant connectivity and the loss of “space” between author and audience, the ability to work on something at any time can bring a weight of its own to an author’s life. There have been times where just the ability to write down an idea or tweak a concept has distracted me from my task at hand.

So what do you think about the increased mobility of our modern world? Do you think that the ability to write anywhere, at any time, has improved your writing process or introduced unnecessary distractions into it?


3 comments on “The Modern Writer: Writing on the Go

  1. I guess it depends on what time of day, for me. It’s certainly more difficult to write during daylight; as I have house duties, children to take care of, and everything that comes with each, but it’s not impossible. I CAN write anywhere from .5k – 3.5k toward my wordcount, but it takes an immense amount of concentration, dedication and knowing which exact minute(s) I can make the best out of.

    Being a night owl who works the graveyard shift, my best work happens on my nights off. I find night hours to be more productive. Not only are they more quiet, inside and out, but for some reason it’s easier to cut out the distractions. I (unfortunately) don’t have a home office, which means I have to do my work from the couch, where I can also conveniently continue to maintain my Mr. Mom duties.

    That said, night-time offers very little in the form of TV on my current channel subscription. With nothing interesting on, and with the world asleep, I’m easily able to turn on some soft music and peck away. During the night hours, I can punch out an average of 8k toward my wordcount, though I have been known to occasionally punch out 18-22k.

    I like to joke that I have three jobs, and technically it’s true, but I don’t consider two of them to BE jobs. Raising my children is a privilege and a blessing which I enjoy more than words can describe.

    Writing is also a privilege that I hope to be able to continue to enjoy for decades to come. I certainly have the stories to tell, but it’s all a matter of whether or not my health will dictate it.

    My third is something I hope will only be a filler until my work is discovered/recognized. While I do enjoy what I do there, I would enjoy having two thirds of my time dedicated toward writing, instead of just one.

    There are always going to be distractions. The way I see it, if your passions are greater, then you’ll find a way to get past them. There’s always time to write, in today’s world, and it certainly IS faster with the devices we have available to us.

  2. As I’ve written somewhere in these pages before, I am an authorial cliche…a coffee shop writer. I find it nice to have a little distraction, but not anything that demands my attention like at home. I work best in the morning and following a set routine–certain days, certain times. That can also be a drawback, however, as when my routine gets thrown off (as life tends to make happen more often than I’d like), the writing can come to a halt along with it. In this busy age of distractions, flexibility is the key.
    I keep working toward it…I’ll let you know if I ever get there.

  3. I personally like to move my laptop around so i can find a quiet place to write,sometimes it is the bedroom, sometimes the living room, sometimes the dining room, I wanted to try the coffee shop, but you are right, too many people talking and walking near me would distract me.

    I have a 15 months old son and most of the time I have to wait for him to be asleep because he hates when I sit at my computer.

    I also have always my phone or tablet handy to write ideas that come to my mind in the middle of the night, and it is very convenient to not have to be fully awake and walk to the desk to write them on paper.

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