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Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Creativity & Productivity, Writing | 25 comments

5 Tips For Creating A Mobile Writing Space

5 Tips For Creating A Mobile Writing Space

You’ve heard it before: If you want to be a writer, treat your writing like a regular job. This means that you show up at your desk at nine o’clock every morning, stay there until your time is up, and complain about it as often as you can to anyone who will listen.

Okay, so perhaps not that last one. But the idea makes a lot of sense. If you’re really serious about doing this writing thing, act serious. Have a designated desk or writing space where you work. Write in the same slot of time every day.

The problem with that mentality is that for some of us, it can be very hard to do that. Our schedules might be too wacky and erratic to allow us to have the same writing slot every day. And while I think that having a regular writing workplace and schedule is a good discipline, I also think it can morph into somewhat of a crutch, like that special vintage Beanie Baby that has to be propped up next to the writer’s laptop before she can even think about writing. (When Rover runs off with Mr. Huggy and buries him in the lawn, what then?)

A regular, fixed writing space is important, but so is a mobile writing space—a portable “office” that allows the guerrilla writer to work from anywhere. Here are a few ideas to help you create your own mobile writing space, streamlined for productivity and focus.


#1: Bring Your Own Sounds

Many of us creative right-brainers are incredibly sensitive to sounds or any kind of auditory stimulation. And when you’re on the go, trying to grab a few minutes of writing in a restaurant or in a parking lot, the natural sounds of the area you’re in are seldom advantageous to the kind of deep concentration that writing requires.

First step? Invest in a high-quality pair of noise-canceling earbuds or headphones. They’ll be worth every bit of the money you shell out for them.

Some writers enjoy writing to movie soundtracks. I like writing to ambient music or mellow post-rock—Stars Of The Lid, Explosions In The Sky, and Caspian are my favorites. is also a great resource—the folks there put a lot of thought and science into selecting instrumental tracks that stimulate creativity and help you focus.

Crafting your own auditory environment will go a long way toward helping you being able to write anytime, anywhere.


#2: Follow A Routine

When your writing location constantly varies, it’s a good idea to follow a routine that grounds you into a sense of normality, no matter where you are. Here’s my current writing routine:

  • Open my laptop lid
  • Plug in headphones
  • Turn off internet
  • Turn on ambient writing music and set timer for 60 minutes
  • Open Scrivener and pull up separate windows with my outlining notes and character sketches
  • Glance over my writing from the previous day to ground myself in my story world
  • Start writing.

I try to follow this routine every time I start a new writing session, keeping the same order and without adding new steps unless I absolutely have to. This way, I feel right at home when I start writing, whether I’m in somebody’s guest bedroom or the passenger seat of a car.


3: Find a good portable lap desk

If you’re among the 99% of writers who carry laptops, you probably have found that the easiest place to use them is on top of your lap. (The name is sort of a hint.) However, this is bad for your wrists, bad for your neck, and it puts the computer in just the right position to blast important parts of your anatomy with a constant stream of nasty radiation. Ow.

Thus, the lap desk. You can find all kinds of them online, designed to get your computer off your lap and give you a more ergonomic typing experience. Plus they keeps the laptop from overheating. A couch pillow will work in a pinch.

Obviously for those of us who prefer to write longhand (you have my undying respect) this doesn’t necessarily apply. Still, it’s a good idea to invest in some kind of a lap desk to elevate your wrist and get you in a mindset of This-is-my-workplace-and-I’m-working-now.


4: Find a distraction-free word processor

I love clicking buttons, sliding sliders, and poking around in the “Preferences” menu when I’m supposed to be writing. Oh look, I just figured out a handy macro that will type all my chapter headings automatically. And here’s a plugin that will make my cursor not blink. I wonder if there’s one that will let me have the paper clip guy from those ancient versions of Microsoft Office…

If your brain works at all like mine, the less visual distractions you have when writing, the better. Back when I used Windows, I loved my copy of OmmWriter Dana II. But when I made the switch to Linux Fedora, I had to settle for using Scrivener’s distraction-free writing mode, which is still pretty good. The writing area pops out at you, the screen around it fades to black, and it’s just you, the page, and the text.

If you’re writing in an area with a lot of external visual distractions (people, cars, invading extraterrestrials, etc.), having a cleaner writing environment on your computer screen can really help you zone all that other stuff out and chug away at your word count.


5: Be professional

When you’re able to lock yourself in a special room with an Intruders Will Be Thoroughly Cursed In Orcish sign on the door, and sit behind a desk with a shnazzy swivel chair, it’s a lot easier to get the point across that you are, in fact, working. When you’re sitting in a recliner in the living room, the people around you are not going to take the initiative to give you space. You don’t look like you’re doing anything important, so they assume that they can talk to you about food or shoot you with Nerf darts or sit on the arm of your chair and read over your shoulder.

But writing is work, no matter where you do it. You’re doing something that requires intense focus and total immersion, and it’s hard. Your family, friends, and pets need to fully understand this, and you need to understand it too. Kindly explain this to them. You may have to do it more than once. But the sooner you are semi-understood by the non-writing people in your life, the pleasanter your life will be.


Are you a “Guerrilla Writer”? What techniques do you use to stay focused when you can’t write in your normal workplace?



  1. This is very helpful! Thanks for the post.

    • I’m glad! You’re very welcome.

  2. My regular writing time is anytime I don’t have school or somewhere to be and my show is not on. Its a wonder I get anything done.

    • Haha, I can relate! 😉

  3. I can write just about anywhere except in front of the tv when a show or movie I even like a little is on. My problem mostly lies in keeping off of Pinterest, Twitter, etc.

    • Yeah, that’s when a program like Freedom or SelfRestraint comes in handy. Freedom is my favorite, but unfortunately I haven’t found a good Linux alternative yet.
      Or I suppose we could all just be all self-controlled and stuff. XD

      • *looks up “SelfRestraint.” Oh… my… I need this desperately…

      • *raises eyebrow* What is this “self-control* you speak of? xD

  4. That’s the second time I’ve heard Scrivener mentioned. I’ll have to check it out.
    Thanks for the post, Braden!

    • Scrivener is brilliant! Before I discovered it I used Ywriter, which is a really good free alternative.
      But… yeah. I love Scrivener. 🙂

  5. I write my rough drafts in longhand, sitting on my bed. There aren’t many distractions there, but when it comes to transcribing it all to the computer, there are emails and the OYAN Forum.

    I am definitely going to buy a pair of noise-canceling earbuds! As I write this, my sisters are watching a movie and I should be writing, but I can’t focus. 😛

    Thanks for the post! It was very helpful. 🙂

    • I did it that way for my first novel. My favorite thing about longhand writing is that transcribing it into the computer gives you a really good revision opportunity that doesn’t “feel” like revision. Main reasons I don’t write longhand now are A) I don’t have the patience. ;p and B) I have a repetitive stress injury in my wrist that makes writing with a pen really painful.
      You’re welcome! Glad to hear it. 🙂

      • Yes! I love that about it too. I tell people that my rough drafts are not as rough as they /could/ be since I write longhand. 🙂
        Aww. I am sorry to hear that. 🙁

        God bless!

    • YES, longhand with a pen and cheap spiral bound notepad. Scratch it out, rip it out, write in the margins. It’s a fact you write differently longhand vs typing. And it looks SO different when you keyboard it in! As for silence, I can’t stand not being aware of my environment, BUT I don’t want any distractions! So I need to just live alone. The animals are more muses than distractions. Ahhhh, silence.

  6. Oh my. That paperclip man. I’d forgotten about him. XD On a more serious note though, I’ve been listening to Audiomachine’s Tree of Life album recently. It’s has definitely inspired a lot of pages of my WIP. I’ve heard of Explosions in the Sky before. I’ll have to look into them more.

    • The paperclip man! Hours of good clean procrastination. Right-click, Animate. Watch him do that funky thing with his eyeballs. Classic.
      I listened to that during my morning writing session, and have to say I like it a lot. Never heard of that production company before–kinda like TSFH, but a whole lot better and less dark.

  7. I used to have a very specific place to write–back when I wrote on a desktop, and it was kind of hidden away in a corner of the house (to avoid the dreaded “someone is coming up behind me THEY MIGHT READ THIS DRIVEL”). The switch to writing on a laptop has been bad for me in that respect, I think. I’m going to try to pick a place and start a routine for writing–those both sound super helpful to me.

    I guess it’s a good thing that I’m not terribly distracted by Microsoft Word.

    I’ve also never been much of a music-while-writing person…soundtracks usually distract me (because they’re connected in my mind to the movies they come from) and the songs that inspire some creativity almost always have lyrics, and I can’t write with lyrics going on either. Sometimes last year I used as a way to cancel out noises during writing and schoolwork. Overall I prefer the dead silence of early morning or late night. But I’ll look at some of the sources you suggested to see if I can expand times I feel comfortable writing.

    Really overall I need to fight to get my morning back.

    But great post! I’m going to try some of this stuff. 🙂

    • I’m with you, in the whole working-in-silence department! Maybe that’s why I’m a night owl!

    • I’ve used Rainymood some, and like it. You really just can’t beat rain noise. Only problem is it makes me want to take a nap.
      And yes, fight! They’re worth it. 😉

  8. So you know I’m not a writer, but this blog is very entertaining! (If I WAS a writer, I believe I would find the information very beneficial and applicable to my writing techniques). 😀

    • Well, that’s what I’m aiming for! 😉 And I’m glad it’s entertaining even to non-writers–a lot of the stuff writers deal with is applicable to everyone, really.

  9. Very good! Much like. I too remember paperclip man 🙂

  10. this was really helpful! I actually do have a desk and swivel chair in my room. I’ll look into that sign. And I’ve often wondered if my little sister, who I share a room with, is and invading extraterrestrial (I actually spelled that right the first time!)

  11. This is great! I usually use this nifty clipboard my sister gave me that can open up and hold paper and pencils.

    Most of my techniques involve trying to hide from my family while writing. The problem is that everyone thinks I’m being lazy, and basically nowhere in my house is private.

    I do, however, like to plug in my headphones to my MP3, because then if someone’s talking, I can’t hear them. Ha ha ha.

    I do write longhand with a pen; transferring it to the computer gives me a great chance to edit the things I choke on over on paper. 😉 A lot of times, since I have all my documents on my flash drive, when my mom takes us to the library for a long time, I go to the free computers that have zero Internet access. It’s a great way to write, since the library is quiet and nobody bothers you.

    • Headphones are God’s gift to writers! Libraries are fantastic to write in. So nice and quiet. I’ve actually begun writing in my local coffee shop–for some reason the ambient noise there is an aid, rather than a distraction.

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