Any parent knows that on some days, modern parenting might go a lot easier if four wheels and safety harnesses were grafted onto our backs. Some days I swear my ass is literally starting to bond with the ol’ Grocery Getter I’m in the car so much. So today’s timesaver/timestealer is all about the different ways to keep your productivity up when you’re on the go. Since this is a long article, I’m doing it in two parts, so come back next Monday for Part 2.
First, I’m going to touch on some safety ideas that we should all keep in mind–you’re a lot less productive as a parent and as a writer if you’re dead or in a full body cast, mmkay. And as much as I love the working in motion inspired by my treadmill desk, a car dashboard workstation is more likely to end in traction rather than productivity. And in my vision of a post-apocalyptic future, Mad Max seems a lot less cooler when those souped-up hot rods come with computer desks.
So no reading and driving. No texting and driving (because your kids will tell on you–txting and driving warnings are now getting about as much airplay in schools as drinking and driving PSAs and you want to set a good example). And no editing and driving–your edits will come out nonsensical anyway.
A final caveat–which might not be a safety violation, but it is a parenting violation–do your work during practices, rehearsals, lessons and the like, but when it comes time for the big game, the big show, opening night, or the real performance, put the writing down and really be there for your family. The reading world isn’t going anywhere and you’d much rather remember the concert or the game than getting six pages of revisions.
Having said all that, just because you’re away from your (treadmill) desk, it doesn’t mean you can’t get some good work done. The key is to find mobile work habits that work for you. And having learned this from experience, I can tell you that the best or newest mobile productivity ideas aren’t necessarily going to be your bag. Don’t sweat it, you’ll live. Let go of the outcome, and you’ll not only save money on unnecessary purchases, but you’ll also be less susceptible to falling for the idea that individual humans can all fall into some “one size fits all” approach. Step one is to first find out what you need to work on when you’re mobile. This is true not only for writers, but any busy parent who’s got more work than time, or who feels like their time could be spent more productively.
Your Task List
All writers have an individual writing process that is unique to them, and potentially in constant evolution (if you haven’t yet figured out yours, don’t sweat it, just keep trying), but those endless and personal combinations are comprised of the same basic elements:
- Creating new material: Working on a new story, or creating new material for an existing story.
- Revising material: Revising a story using techniques to improve your story’s craft–plotting, pacing, characterization, etc.
- Polishing material: Editing a story for grammar, usage, spelling, word choice, etc.
- Non-manuscript writing: Composing query letters & synopses for traditional submissions, composing back cover or marketing copy, blogging, social media, or articles for newsletters, website content.
- Administrative tasks: This covers the widest range of writer’s tasks. Formatting a story for wherever you’re submitting it, tracking your submissions, mailing, filing, printing hard copies, or emailing electronic copies, assembling submission packets. Advertising-related activities like buying ads. Uploading and technical activities for self-publishing, tracking sales, reading, vetting, and signing rights contracts.
You Are Unique…Just Like Everybody Else. And Here’s Your Homework
The above tasks, for you, may not be broken down the same way–you might be a writer who revises as new material is being written. You might be a writer who works on more than one project. And the way you work on your phases of creation might vary. Some of these tasks aren’t going to be viable tasks to take with you, and that’s okay. So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out in your process, what tasks are the most likely candidates for mobile working. Rank them in order from most to least, because some tasks might come easier once you see next week’s post. Once we have the “what,” then we move on to the “how.”