Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The ADD Writer Part Three

Previously I discussed how writers can use different techniques to limit their chair-time. This can be accomplished by taking notes, outlining the story before writing, and by taking some time between revisions so that flaws will be more apparent (thereby reducing the number of revisions necessary). All of these techniques have various pros and cons, but today I want to talk about something a little different. Instead of limiting chair-time, today I want to get rid of the chair. 

The notebook technique is a good start for this, but I have a few more ideas.  The first is obvious: get a laptop. There was a time when the price of notebook computers were cost prohibitive, but not anymore. In fact, you can get a used laptop with minimal processing power for less than $50 online. Ebay and are both great places to find closeout and refurb items that work just fine (always look for a warranty when buying used, regardless of the quality of retailer!). The prices are great. The computers may be outdated, but we don't need much beyond the ability to run a word processor. Wifi is a plus, and so is battery life. Some companies out there now offer batteries that will get you 4-5 hours of writing time. Bring along an extra battery and you're probably good for a weekend.Obviously, there's no better way to get out of the chair for your writing than to do it by the lake, the beach, on top of a mountain or even deep in the redwoods (one of my personal favorites).

Another type of laptop that's growing in popularity is the netbook. If you don't know the difference, I'll try to keep it simple. Netbooks are like laptops with less. They don't require a hard drive, which is a complicated and expensive part of the machine. Instead they use solid state memory. In many cases they use less processing power so the batteries are supposed to run longer. I haven't actually used one of these but I've heard great things about them, and they can be had on sale for less than $200 new. That's pretty impressive. And most average users wouldn't know the difference between a laptop and a netbook. They're that similar.

The last piece of equipment I want to suggest is a standing desk. I know, it sounds a little strange at first, but it's actually quite good for you. Even if you don't have concentration problems, spending some time standing at a desk is clearly better for you than sitting at one. Over the course of a year, you might even shed a few pounds just by using one of these for an hour or two each day. Plus, you'll be in great company. According to this article, a number of famous authors wrote while standing, including Ben Franklin. Nobody's cooler than Ben, right? Supposedly Hemingway wrote in this fashion as well, though this particular article doesn't mention him.

I've linked to some commercial variations here, but this is something you can do yourself for next to nothing. It can be as simple as box or stand that you set on a table or on top of a desk, and place your laptop on top. It could be a custom shelf attached to a wall, or it could be something you actually build out of scrap lumber if you're handy with that sort of thing. Keep ergonomics in mind while you're shopping or building. After all you don't want to do something healthy and end up with carpal tunnel. For some more ideas, check out these images on google.


  1. There's something to be said for escaping the chair. A lot of writers have rituals and need their own particular desk and area in order to get creative. Sometimes I think it would be nice to lock myself away in a study, but as my study is filled with junk and I am running round after 2 kids all day, it's not really an option.

    I've got a netbook and I found it extremely liberating to have the 'desk' wherever you need it. For a while I kept it on the kitchen worktop - made sense, as it was where I spent all my time and it kept it out of the reach of toddlers - but one day I was an hour early to meet my Mum for lunch, the kids fell asleep in the back of the car and I thought 'I have an entire HOUR to write!' so I pulled into a petrol station, asked for some scrap paper and (oh joy) found a pen in the door pocket of my car. It revolutionised my writing and now I do everything long hand, even if I have the netbook with me. Pen and paper don't need booting up, it's instant, I love them very much. I nearly cried one time when I was out in a park with the baby asleep and my pen dried up. Now I always carry 2 pens. What's also useful is that doing it this way you edit as you type it up. Time is maximised in a strange way.

    So yes, try getting away from desks, from chairs, from computers even, anything to get the creativity going.

  2. Thanks for your comment Dungeonmum. I couldn't agree with you more on the pen/paper solution. I went into detail in a previous post about how I always take a notebook with me. Perhaps I should've mentioned the usefulness of a good backpack or messenger bag as well. I have a messenger bag that I like to use because I can fit a few notebooks and even a laptop if I choose. It also has handy pockets for pens, a cellphone, etc. I just make a habit of throwing it in the car whenever I leave the house. Quite often I find myself literally pulling off the road to jot down a few notes.

  3. Precisely - impromptu writing is what I am about, guerilla writing even. A lot of writing advice says to get up early as that is when you are at your best, or burn the midnight oil as your near-dreaming mind is more creative - but who has the luxury (other than full time writers) to choose when and where? Best to be prepared for when the opportunity arises.