May 22, 2011

MOBILE OFFICE: Writer on the run

'Mobile Writing' - the words strike fear into the heart of many writers. Is it possible to have a Mobile Office? Can you really write and produce with out a well set up office space at home? Recently we lost our year long fight with the banks and were forced to adapt to a streamlined version of our lives, an alternate universe so to speak. I have learned to have a 'mobile office' a portable version of my writing area at home. Writing on the run, takes a little more planning than writing from home. Just give me the logo "Have laptop - will travel" and I will be happy. 

Downsizing has it advantages. Change forces one to look at alternative options. For instance, at home I had a horrible internet connection most of the time.  In the course of one year, I lost out on many opportunites because of dysfunctional computers, and sporadic "high speed" internet. The frustration and tension of whether I could finish an article was intense. Setting up a Mobile Office would have been a great choice then  if I had explored it with a more open mind. 

gumby family public domain
Moving to our small trailer,  I no longer have the room for my dying  desk computer. My family provided me with an inexpensive laptop and wireless mouse so that I could continue writing.  New laptops come with automatic WIFI capabalities making internet connection a breeze. In our new remote, location, internet is worse than ever, so this WIFI networking alternative is crucial to my success.  Being able to utilize a Mobile Office is crucial for earning a few extra dollars each month. At times I feel like the 'Gumby' man from another lifetime eons ago.   

Now I can just pack up the laptop and run to either McDonald's or other Internet WiFI hotspots.   I have found a comfortable routine that makes McD's my choice to be office away from home.  Sure I might need to buy a yogurt parfait and an endless small soda, but that is a small price to pay for the ability to make more money with faster writing, without interruptions. 

Equipment:  Laptop, Ipad, Iphone.  You can choose what you like, my equipment of choice is the laptop, even though I fell in love with a friends Ipad. Some writing websites such as Examiner have remote publishing  so that an Iphone or simliar is very useful to mobile writers. If you do not have this equipment, you can use library computers.  Sign up for a library card, and learn about their public computer use. Make sure to carry a small notepad of passwords and urls to the sites you use regularly. 

WIFI Locations:  McDonald's, Starbucks, Borders and Books,  Hotel / Motel lobbies and Truck Stops.   AT some places you will pay but several places are free.   The costs for one day of internet is usually reasonable and well worth the cost.  

Seating:  Although you can access most internet WIFI hotspots from your car, it is not practical unless you have a van with plenty of room and  have moderate weather.   I  have found it best to go inside and to situate myself with back to wall in a corner, finding a place where I can view the television for news.  After a few visits you will find your perfect 'mobile office' spot to set up your computer or netbook. The kid's playroom, if empty, can be ideal. 

Sound: Headphones can be used but I prefer to try to be far enough away that I don't need to use them.   I order something simple as soon as I arrive,  so that I do not have to be separated from the laptop. With plug in's inside it is a breeze to save on battery.  

Amenities: AT the truck stop it is simliar, although less spacious and a litte busier.  The advantage is that I could throw in a load of laundry at the little truck stop laundry mat or sit on padded seats in the cafe'.  The cafe booth's provide more privacy but the cost is higher to order food or drink. The waitresses are great, dessert is a treat and tips keep the economy rolling.    Most truck stops charge a fee for use of the WIFI. Ask the  rates for daily and monthly use. 

Security: When using WIFI hotspots, taking care to safeguard information is important. I never access banking information, and  use  safeguards to protect passwords and such.  Besides hackers  I worry about prying eyes, which is why I try to keep my back to the wall, with no one peering over my shoulder. 

Protecting laptop from theft is a concern and I have found that using just a laptop sleeve styled bag with handle works best for me. The bulk of a larger laptop bag is vexing at best.    I  try to pack light by placing a debit card and a few dollars in my jeans pocket, eliminating the purse. I Pack my laptop, cord and mouse into the case and viola' instant office. Since my laptop is newer I place in a pillowcase to keep it from being scratched by the accessories.  The cell phone shoull be in a belt clip holder.  

Having this simple setup makes it easy to unplug and run to the bathroom.  Here is where in our city McD's is superior.   Their rest rooms are roomy and usually clean!  I choose the stall with the diaper changing table, as it the largest stall.  I can place the laptop on the clean changing table or hang it from a knob. The laptop case can be wiped down with baby wipes when you return to the car. 

 For those needing a pen and paper, use a thin yellow pad and pack a pen into the bottom of the case.  One other thing I like to pack is a small white washcloth.  It can come in handy.  In the car I try to keep one change of clothes, and a few products that can give me a brush up. Hairbrush, hair ties, toothbrush, Listerine and baby wipes. Just a small kit to take care of any necessities of life. Of course if you live 5 minutes from your WIFI spot you won't need an "emergency kit", lucky you. 

One other thing, if you have a writing partner that lives in your city, it is a great opportunity to meet and share notes and write at the same time.  

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