So, rather than spend this week’s post providing step-by-step tips, I thought I’d use it to illustrate the result of trying to live a paperless lifestyle as a freelance science fiction writer and blogger. I think when people see “writer” the natural inclination is to associate it with paper–be it in the form of bestselling books, or crumbled sheets of pain and misery in the waste bin. So here is what this paperless writer’s mobile office looks like:
Starting in the center, and then working our way around clockwise (numbers below are keyed to the numbers in the picture):
1. iPad 2
I put this item in the middle and made it the first item in my list because it forms the center of my mobile paperless office. Of course, I make heavy use of the Evernote app for iOS. The notebooks I work with most frequently are setup to be offline notebooks so that I can work with the notes even if I don’t have a network connection.
I also read nearly everything on my iPad. Books and a lot of magazines get read on the Kindle App. Other magazines get read using the Zinio App. When I proofread one of my own stories or I’m reading a story for comment for a writer friend, those get sent to the Kindle App, instead of being printed out.
I take notes for meeting and research using Evernote, but when I write fiction or nonfiction in my iPad, I use iaWriter.
I know a lot of people, especially writers, who have one of the various sizes of Moleskine notebooks, which are handy for scribbling down ideas, sketches, and other items. Well, I think the Moleskine notebooks are pretty cool, but not cool enough to overcome my paperless tendencies. To simulate my paperless version of Moleskine notebook, I use Penultimate–primarily because it works well and integrates seamlessly with Evernote. I keep different virtual notebooks for different things, but one of my notebooks I call my “Commonplace Book1” is what I tend to use the way I think most of my writer friends use theirs. It is a hodge-podge of all kinds of stuff. For instance, the other day I was considering updating my business cards2. I have one scanned in and so I copied it to a new page in my Commonplace Book and then made some notes:
Bottom line: my iPad is the central hub of my paperless office and you can see pretty clearly why I listed it first and included in the center in the picture.
I keep a few small adapters in my mobile paperless office. The one I used most frequently (pictured) is the SD-card adapter for the iPad, which I use to pull in photos from digital cameras, as well as scans from my Doxie One scanner.
3. Spare batteries
I always keep 5 spare batteries in my mobile office. 3 AA batteries are spares for the batteries that power my Bluetooth keyboard. When I have to replace the batteries in the keyboard, I refill the backups as soon as I can. The 2 AAA batteries are spares for my noise-cancelling headset.
4. Business cards
This is the only paper that I still carry around. I realize that there are all kinds of electronic substitutes for these, but I’ve learned two things: (a) just because I’m making use of those technologies doesn’t mean the people with whom I work are using them; and (b) there are some pretty old-fashioned editors, agents and publishers out there, and I’m doing myself a disservice by not being able to hand them a business card.
5. Microfiber cloth
Anyone who uses an iPad or an iPhone understand the value of these clothes. It’s convenient to have one sitting around. Sometimes, I feel compelled to clean my iPad screen before actually sitting down and writing something–say, a new Going Paperless post.
6. Bamboo stylus
As I mentioned, there are times when I use my iPad like a sketchbook or a “commonplace book” and for this, having the Bamboo stylus proves invaluable. It give you the feeling of writing, with the comfort of knowing that what I write will get stored in Evernote–and will be searchable. As I said, I generally use Penultimate, but if I’m feeling artistic, I might switch to Paper. My little boy is going through his dinosaur phase, and I drew this for him in Paper using my Bamboo stylus:
7. A generic pen
Because you never know when you are going to need to sign something–like an autograph. Or, more likely, a restaurant bill.
8. Ear buds
Mostly for when I am on the phone, but I will also use these ear buds when listening to music if the kids are around. In other words, when I need to be able to hear what is going on in the background.
9. Reading glasses
I’ve had perfect vision for most of my life, but it’s finally caught up with me and now I wear a fairly weak (so my wife tells me) prescription when I read or write.
10. Bluetooth keyboard
This is the keyboard I used with my old Macbook. When I got my new iMac, it came with its own Bluetooth keyboard, so the old one goes with my mobile office. I use it when I am writing on the iPad.
11. Kitchen timer
Yes, a kitchen timer. When I am pressed for deadlines and need to focus, I make use of the Pomodoro method and that requires a kitchen timer. The truth is, there are plenty of apps that help you implement the Pomodoro method, but none of them, in my experience are as good, or easy to use as a good old-fashioned kitchen timer.
12. Noise-cancelling headset
I keep my Bose QuietComfort 15 headset with my mobile office. I find them invaluable for tuning out the world around me. Which is why I can’t use them when the kids are around. They are also great for working on airplanes.
I generally keep a snack in my mobile office. You never know when you are going to get unexpectedly hungry and sometimes, it breaks my flow to have to stop and find something to eat. In these instances, having something readily available is a godsend.
14. Energy drink
There are those rare occasions when I can barely keep my eyes open, even though I’m pushing a deadline. So I’ve learned to keep a spare energy drink in my mobile office for just such emergencies, but I try not to abuse it too often.
When you work a full job, come home and spend the evening with kids who are bundles of energy, and then finally get them to bed and have to shift gears for writing and blogging, an occasional headache is an occupational hazard.
16. Various cords
I keep the bare minimum. Enough to charge my iPad and iPhone, and the necessary cables for my mobile scanner.
17. Doxie One scanner
The Doxie One scanner is the latest edition to my mobile paperless office and I’m giving it a trial run while I am on vacation later this month. Now, wherever I am, I can scan in documents to Evernote. I don’t have to wait until I’m back in my home office. This items really completes my mobile office.
One item not show in the picture is my iPhone (mainly because I was taking the picture with said phone). But of course this is a vital part of the communication framework for my mobile office. Also, I’m considering replacing that generic pen with the Livescribe wifi smart pen, which the folks at Evernote were kind enough to give me.
This is a mobile office and as I said at the start, because I’ve gone paperless, I’ve been able to do away with the large backpack and switch to an ordinary-sized messenger bag. The bag might be ordinary-sized but the messenger bag is anything but ordinary. I use ThinkGeek’s Bag of Holding and it really does almost seem bigger on the inside than the outside. Everything in the picture above fits neatly in my bag with tons of room to spare.
I posted about this bag recently and you can check out that post for more images on how all of this stuff fits. Still, with all of this stuff fitting neatly in one bag, and with the bag still much lighter than my backpack, I can do just about all of my freelance writing and blogging work–the craftwork and the business end of things–pretty much anywhere I go.