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Sep 062011

1). Get ye a laptop.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It doesn’t have to be one of those sleek little Macs with their thousand-dollar price tags, although you’ll no doubt be the toast of the Starbucks if you splurge, you hipster. All you need:

1) A word processor.
2) Internet access.
3) Decent build quality.

You can get that for $200-300. (But be sure to spend some time clacking away at the keyboard in the store, so that you can tell whether it’s comfortable).

The reason you want a laptop is for mobility. Writers are lucky (?) in that they can take their work with them pretty well anywhere. I can’t say I recommend lying on the beach in Bermuda with a laptop – you’ll look like an idiot, and you’ll probably get sand in your keyboard – but it’s nice to to be able to get some work done while you’re waiting on an oil change, or sitting in jury selection.

Also, the benefit to getting a wimpy laptop that can’t run your Worlds of Warcraft and the like… is that it can’t run your Worlds of Warcraft and the like. Fewer distractions.

2. Know ye that computers die without warning.

My own laptop just conked out after a good… wow, eight years of service. One day, it worked perfectly. The next, it couldn’t get past the Windows loading screen. Being a responsible sort, I’ve been backing up regularly. If the worst-case scenario comes to pass, and none of the data is recoverable, I’ll lose only about a thousand words. I’m sad about that, because they’re a thousand really good words, but in the grand scheme of things, they only represent about two hours of work.

If I hadn’t been backing up my work, I’d have lost about 65k words – i.e. a couple of months of work – and I can’t imagine what would be more demoralizing than that.

Back up your work, and do it regularly. Yes, it’s annoying. The consequences are worse. You can back up through e-mail, you can save things to a USB key, whatever. The more places you store regularly updated copies of your works-in-progress, the more insulated you are to failure.

3. Get ye a gym membership.

So you’ve left the commuter’s world behind. No longer must you drive on out to the office, day in and day out. You just roll out of bed, put some coffee on, and live the dream.

Congratulations. You’re now getting about as much exercise as a coma patient.

Even people who do work out regularly may be thrown off by the shift to home-based work. More opportunities for snacking, for one thing. For another, all those little things you never thought of as exercise – walking up a few flights of stairs to get to your floor, or to visit Tina in accounting – add up.

You don’t need a gym membership. If money is tight, you can go for a run, and if you live in Canada like I do, there’s always bear-wrestling and avalanche-surfing. But gym memberships are nice for another reason:

4. Get ye some buddies.

Working from home isolates you from humanity. You’re all by your lonesome from day to day, and you don’t always have an outlet to meet new people, which can exacerbate the problem. The internet’s great and all, and Twitter and Your Favourite Forum can help you feel connected in a pinch, but – and I say this in full knowledge that it’s probably old-man cane-shaking – online socializing isn’t real socializing. There’s something to be said for seeing actual people.

So, consider joining some social groups. If you live in or near a major urban area, chances are you have your pick of numerous meet-up groups, adult education courses, Starbuckses (and baristas are paid to like you!), and so forth. Take advantage, or you’ll end up underneath some cathedral, railing and weeping through a white half-mask. Y’know, like me.

5. Do what thou wilt.

In the midst of all this adapting to your new existence as a penniless crank, don’t forget to … y’know, enjoy it. Take advantage. Your schedule is your own. Take vacation days when you’d like to. Spend the day in a park. Go visit a friend who works evenings. You aren’t tied to the standard commercial rhythms. You don’t need to sit by the phone during business hours. Beautiful day outside? Go enjoy it. Winter’s avalanche bears will be upon us soon enough, and anyway, you can hit your word count in the evening.

Now, that’s not to say that you should get used to shirking. Unless you have infinite monkey typewriters, words won’t write themselves, and discipline is crucial if you want to be gainfully self-employed in any field. But there’s a line between discipline and masochism that you don’t need to cross. You’re taking a risk, so enjoy some of the reward.


  4 Responses to “How to write… anything! Five tips for the writing life.”

  1. So true! I have a Netbook, and it’s just about my favorite thing. Even if it can’t play WoW. Especially because it can’t play WoW.

    Also, what does one use to avalanche surf? I wouldn’t think a standard board would suffice.

    • Traditionally, a toboggan. The real pros ski with a beaver strapped to either foot, but that’s well beyond my meagre capabilities.

  2. Simple but interesting blog post I must say. I’ve just added your RSS to my google reader! =)

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