Who Else Wants to Take Writing on the Road This Summer? (Part 2)


Inspiration Can Be Anywhere! (www.cherylreif.com)Best Practice #3. Find a writing app (or apps) that works for you.

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

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5 Steps to a More Productive Year

I must have productivity on the brain. It seems like every blog post and Twitter link I click these days has something to do with




Hmm…maybe this is delayed-onset guilt for not writing up New Years’ goals or resolutions this year?

Thomas8047_Flickr Photo – Thomas8047, Flickr Creative Commons

In any case, I doubt I’m the only one who’s a month into 2015 and wondering why I’m not getting more accomplished, so enjoy this terrific roundup of tips, tricks, and inspiration for getting more done this week!

Productivity Strategy #1. Find and use a few great time-savers & productivity tricks

  • Time-Savers for Writers: Ways to Automate and Delegate
  • 3 Weird Productivity Tricks You Probably Haven’t Tried Yet
  • Yes. I’m trying #4. Want to do #3~7 Insanely Productive Habits of Successful Young Entrepreneurs
  • 51 Life-Saving Holiday Hacks That Are Borderline Genius http://bzfd.it/1ytaeHc ” (via @JoannaShupe) (yes, I know this is about the holidays. But it’s awesome, and I’ll never remember it by the time next December rolls around, so you’re getting it now!)

Productivity Strategy #2. Commit to maintaining some white space in your life

  • Still recovering from the holiday crunch? This might help: “Adding More White Space To Your Life” bit.ly/1zVRulP

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Time-Savers for Writers: Ways to Automate and Delegate

For two weeks this summer, I got to set aside other writing projects to focus on transmedia storytelling. (I know, I know…you never would have guessed!) In case you’re curious, here’s a screenshot of what I’ve been working on (and will *hopefully* unveil before the year’s end–fingers crossed!!):


It was pretty darned exciting: my brother-in-law flew into town to help with website and database coding and my husband/co-conspirator and story inventor took time off work to help with writing, story structure, and all the little details involved in telling a story through multiple media channels. We started each day early with an update on where we all were and worked pretty much nonstop, bouncing ideas off each other, brainstorming, troubleshooting, critiquing…

Sounds like fun, right? It was! It was also a ton of work. And a ton of time. We only had two weeks together, and needed to make the most of it.

Can you say BUSY? Yes, that would describe us!

The truth is, though, we writers are often usually busy. Even if life and work obligations don’t fill up your to-do list, don’t you find yourself cramming in as much as possible, because there are so many cool ideas to explore, so many projects you want to work on? Or maybe you’re simply busy because it’s November now, and with or without NaNoWriMo to fill your spare time, this time of year can easily get out of hand.

Whatever the cause of your busy-ness, I thought you might appreciate some of the time-savers that help me stay afloat when my schedule gets crazier than usual :).
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Things to Love About Life…or: Why Stress Hurts Performance

This post is part of an ongoing series (first mentioned here) about looking for what’s going right in my writing life. It’s so easy to focus on everything else, don’t you think? On rejections, failed queries, long hours, or negative feedback…and yet, when we start looking for it, there are so many things to celebrate. I have an ulterior motive in all this: to increase my “positivity,” as defined by Barbara Fredrickson in her book of the same name. (Take the positivity quiz here.) Positivity is like a many-fingered vine, its tendrils twisting through our mood, productivity, family harmony, stress responses, creativity, and more. Join me in my journey to boost positivity, and along the way find more joy in writing and life!

It’s really hit me this week: when I write about what I love about the writing life, I’m writing what I love about life.

Tatters-smileemoticon Photo by Tatters:) on Flickr Creative Commons

When you think about it, the two aren’t that different. When I struggle with mood in my daily life, it’s often because I’m struggling in my writing life and vice versa. When I search for what’s going “right” in writing, the very act of looking shines joy on the rest of my life, too.

And as tempting as it is to claim that this connection exists because I’m a writing creative-type, I see this relationship everywhere I look.

Our feelings of success or failure at work spill over into our lives outside of work. The result? Stress hurts performance, creativity, and productivity.

Positivity in one life arena pulls us up, whereas negativity in another life arena drags us down.

John Medina sums it up in his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School:*

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