Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

Tips for the travelling writer

As regular readers know, I travel considerably. A combination of business trips, convention trips and personal travel has me away from home 80 to 100 days a year, at least as my life is currently configured. A friend who is moving to a high-travel job recently emailed me to ask for my comments on being a travelling writer. With her permission, I'm reposting my remarks to her here.

Note that for some of this to make sense, you have to be able to write pretty much anywhere. This is certainly true of me. I don't need a special space, and I don't have much in the way of ritual. Many people do need one or both of those things, and so, as always, your mileage will vary.

I don't have a heck of a lot to say about your Vaio, since I travel with an iBook myself, except, the smaller the better. Also, back up every time you leave the house overnight. I use a cluster of desktop drives. Some people use thumb drives. I also burn CDs and lettermail them to my aunt in Colorado. (My entire lifetime writing output still fits easily on a CD.) Perhaps carry that thumb drive as well -- when you've done a bunch of drafting on an airplane or in a hotel room, it's nice to have a backup that isn't on the same hard drive as the original.

Also, if you don't have one, get a gmail account. Then, gmail every copy of every draft to yourself at your gmail address. You have an instant, searchable online archive in case your laptop blows up. That's obviously a layer behind in-flight backup to thumb drive, for example. Also, their terms of service do not attempt to capture your message copyrights, which some email providers do.

Make sure the Vaio is as light and small a machine as you can stand or afford. I use the 12" iBook, which weighs about 4.5 pounds.

Fly the same airline all the time if your travel policy allows. That way you can build points on their frequent flyer program, and snag exit row seating and first class upgrades. Trust me, exit or first makes a huge difference if you're slinging a laptop around.

I take a lot of 4-hour flight segments, to get to the Midwest from Oregon, so I fly American -- almost all their planes have 12VDC power in the seats. That's automobile cigarette lighter style outlets. You can buy an inverter at Radio Shack or Compu USA or Circuit City or wherever, and run your laptop off the power supply rather than the battery. This is important because finding an outlet at most major airports is a fool's errand. For me, I can be 7-10 hours airport door to airport door, which would overrun even a second battery capacity. If you're mostly flying short haul (United Shuttle, frex) this doesn't matter so much.

Also WRT to airlines, if you can settle on an airline and stay settled, get their in-house credit card. All the majors have one. It will accelerate your frequent flyer points. (I have the Citibank AAdvantage card.)

Finally, always bring a book. :D

Hope that helps. Feel free to share your tips and thoughts in comments here, or ask me more questions.
Tags: process, travel, writing
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