I already covered the benefits of using a cloud service to help you keep documents easily accessible–but many cloud services only allow you to view files, not edit them. Editing files stored in Dropbox, for instance, requires opening them in another application.
In the past, I’ve had iffy success with iPad and iPhone word processing apps. Although great when they worked, they had the unfortunate tendency to crash unexpectedly. If (like me!) you’re used to the autosave features of your desktop machine, you might not remember to save as often as you’d like–resulting in hours of lost work.
It’s important to choose a program or app that works and plays well with your primary computer, your mobile device of choice, and the cloud service you decide to use.
Recently, Dropbox integrated with Microsoft Word for iOS. I’ve had a good enough experience with the iPad version of Word that it’s now my go-to app for editing Word documents. Unlike other iOS word processing apps, it doesn’t strip away or mess up formatting or Endnote codes–which means that files transfer seamlessly from mobile device to desktop and back again. (Note: that some functionality, such as Word’s Track Changes feature, are unlocked only if you have an Office 365 subscription.)
Simplenote, Evernote, and Onenote, mentioned last week, are also good options for writing and note-taking. Whatever program you choose, make sure you will be able to access files while offline. Some store files exclusively in the cloud, so you’ll need an Internet connection if you want to access previous documents.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, just a list of the apps I’ve specifically tried. You can find more great apps for writers here; the list is a few years old, but almost all info is still accurate. Definitely chime in if you have others to recommend!
Best Practice #4. Take along power.
As recently as 2013, rechargeable power sources for handheld devices were ridiculously expensive. On top of that, they didn’t work all that well–lost their charge quickly and couldn’t fully recharge your devices even when freshly topped off.
This summer, I purchased an Anker 2nd Gen Astro E5 16000mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank, which holds enough juice to recharge my iPhone 3 to 4 times and weighs just under 11 ounces. Then my husband brought me another, smaller rechargeable battery–a giveaway at a conference he’d attended. A week later, I ended up with a solar charger as well–a Mother’s Day gift, in preparation for my upcoming backpacking trip to Zion National Park, where (of course) I’d need battery power for writing and taking photos.
Yes, this is more battery backup than you’ll generally need, but my surfeit of chargers means that I can report that these 3 work great!
The bottom line: It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to find a rechargeable battery to power mobile devices when you’re away from your desk. The trickiest part is establishing a routine that ensures you’ll have a battery when you need it!
And that brings me to the last, perhaps most important, best practice:
Best Practice #5: Foster routines that make your writing portable.
I’ve found that having a few essential writing routines in place makes the difference between thinking about writing in new locations and actually writing in new locations.
Want to boost creativity by writing in new places? Create routines to help you access your materials on the go.
You’ll have to decide what, exactly, you need to write away from your desk.
Questions to Consider:
- Do you need the latest version of your entire work-in-progress or just the most recent chapter?
- Do you need research materials in digital format and an e-reader?
- Do you need full word processing functionality on a tablet or laptop, or could you work more effectively in a simple text-based app?
- Do you need Internet access or will you be less distracted if you work offline?
- Do you want the ability to work on a large document, or is your “away from desk” time better spent completing short assignments–such as brainstorming a character’s past or overcoming that knotty plot problem in scene 5?
Based on the above, figure out what you need for an effective writing session, in terms of
- Equipment (eg, tablet, laptop computer, keyboard, headphones, pen & paper)
- Plans (eg, a list of “short assignments” or end-of-writing session notes about what you need to work on next)
- Reference and research materials (eg, digital copies of important articles or web pages, plot outline documents, character descriptions, hard copies of longhand notes)
- Work-in-progress (WIP) (eg, entire document, most recent chapter, all drafts vs most recent draft)
Next: Translate Into Routines
Your final step is to translate your list of writing essentials into routines that make sure the information and equipment are available whenever and wherever you need to access them. For me, those routines mean:
- At then end of each writing session, I copy relevant documents to the cloud (which has the added benefit of creating regular backups of my WIP)
- Keep several list of “short assignments” on Simplenote. These include ideas for future blog posts as well as topics I want to research, freewrite, or brainstorm for my WIP.
- Keep my iPad and power pack charged and in their assigned locations–or I’ll spend 15 minutes searching for them when it’s time to go.
Writing in different settings and locations can spark creativity, help overcome writer’s block, and re energize your writing. With a little planning–and a few new habits–you, too, can make writing-away-from-home part of your creative practice!