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This week I figured I'd give you a little glimpse into my mobile office. I've written a blog post on where I write, which included my mobile office, but I wanted to go into some more detail on the subject today.
Spoiler alert: my mobile office is my car.
The Situation (not the guy from Jersey Shore)
Normally when I write, I will go wherever it's most quiet — with my wife, three kids, and two big dogs in the house, it tends to get loud at any given point during the day. To be fair, Mrs. Richardson is fairly quiet. That said, it's not easy to find the peace needed for me to, you know, create stuff. Usually, it's pretty easy for me just slip out of the house and disappear in my actual office for little while — which is in a separate outbuilding behind the house (might could do another post on that at some point as it appears to be a popular thing among us writers to showcase where we write). However Mrs. Richardson doesn't appreciate it if she's at home trying to do work as well and the three kids and the dogs are running around, because she doesn't have the luxury of escaping the house.
So I developed a plan where I would take my gear with me in the car while out and about, like dropping the kids off at school, or picking the kids up from basketball or softball practice, and go down to the local river find a nice parking spot. There I'll park with an inspiring view of the river. I find it so inspirational that the words just start flowing — especially in warmer months, when I can just lower the windows let the breeze in. I'll hear the redwing blackbirds in the cattails out there chirping along and I can watch the ducks and the Canadian geese and all the water foul. The really cool thing is, every now and then, I'll see one of the bald eagles that have made a nest near where I live, and it's just amazing watching those giant birds fly down the river looking for fish while I'm sitting there dictating.
Basically that the setup is pretty simple. I have my car, which is pretty soundproof — there's really no distractions from cars driving by or people on kayaks, canoes, or whatever making noise on the water — and even if there were, the recorder I use at the moment, a Sony ICD-UX570, has plenty of
noise dampening capabilities. Coupled with the little lapel mic I picked up off Amazon (which is no longer available, but here's one that's very similar that will set you back about $12), it's a formidable pocket-sized recording studio.
The recorder cost about $100 and has 4Gb of onboard flash memory, a little USB jack that can pop out (and hide when not in use), and has an onboard battery so I have to worry about changing batteries. I think it has plenty of of memory already built into it for me. When dictating, I don't really use up a lot of space...I mean the MP3 file can sometimes get to be 20-30 Mb I guess, if I'm recording a snippet or blog post. When I'm actually writing a book I tend to keep myself limited to eight minute sprints, and usually in about eight minutes I only take up about 12 to 20 Mb of space on the little built-in flash drive on this thing...so I've never even come close to doing more than maybe 1% of its on-board storage, even when I'm writing a bigger book and haven't uploaded the files recently. Besides, you can get a little micoSD card and expand the storage exponentially if you need to.
Anyway, I've got my digital recorder — and as just to make it more authentic, I'm recording this right now sitting on the little island out here in the middle of the river, in my car, watching the water roll by. There's a a mallard that looks like, well there's a pair of mallards — a male and female — just on the edge of what I can see through the bushes, sitting on a log in the water. It's crazy peaceful.
But what else do I have with me? I always have my phone on me, like everyone else, and I use Obsidian to keep track of ideas that I have for Saturday Snippets or for blog posts, or anything that seems to pop up. I put all these into notes in Obsidian, so I can have my second brain with me all the time and pull up whatever thought or idea I had, wherever I am. I'll have to a do a post about Obsidian, it's probably the biggest game changer I've come across in my writing career since I learned to dictate. I've been using it a little over a year now and I don't know how I survived without my second brain in the past.
Besides having notes in Obsidian, I always, ALWAYS carry a small Field Notes notebook in my back pocket and a collapsible Zebra pen (which I found recently actually). This pen is just fantastic — it's it opens up into a full-size pen, but it's basically in two parts that nest inside each other to store in your pocket...about the size of a golf pencil. But when extended, it's a full size pen. Genius.
Today I also happen to have with me one of my favorite authors. I have Isaac Asimov's A Choice of Catastrophes, which I'm reading enthusiastically and taking notes (in Obsidian!). I posted a picture the other day on Facebook. Every now and then I like to read with the Good Doctor. He just has a way with words and I can't help but be inspired to write, every time I pick up one of his books, no matter what the subject (and he's written about pretty much everything).
What else? Sometimes when I'm going to be writing, say one of my novels, I'll bring my iPad or my laptop where the actual book notes and files and everything are stored. I'm trying to get away from that, though. I'm working on my story bibles (see the post about story bibles) and so I have a printed version I'll bring so that I can have notes to flip through. I find it a lot easier to have a notebook than computer if you gotta open up apps and make sure you've got a connection to the Internet and...things. There's a lot of friction points. It's much, MUCH easier just to pull out my notebook and flip to what I want to talk about and just get going.
My mobile office is a fairly simple affair and that's how I dictate on the go, every now and then. Do I always dictate? Nah. I love my M1 MacBook Air so much that I just can't help typing on it from time to time, but it's so much more easier — not to mention faster — to sit and talk. And besides, when I'm typing, I'm looking at the screen. When I'm dictating, I'm watching the ducks and the river and the clouds...and every now and then, a bald eagle!
My recommendation is for any creative writer (or non-fiction writer...that would actually be way easier) to learn dictation and get outside. Don't be chained to the desk and the microphone over your head, watching the computer type your words. Get out in nature and start talking! I love the rain, so there's nothing better for me than sitting in my car in the rain — as long as it's not so loud that it messes up the recording — watching the raging river. It's inspiration at its finest.
Anyways, recommend you try it sometime! But in the meantime, as always, we live in interesting times my friends. Keep your head down and your powder dry till next time.