by Francine Puckly
Many of us are blessed with dedicated writing and creating spaces. The rest of us are not. Or maybe we are required to work in a difference place for a brief period of time or perhaps we’ve decided to go on a writer’s retreat. Regardless of the reason, it pays to have our projects organized for portability, whether we’re traveling to the living room, the library, or another state.
While I have a dedicated writing space (my bedroom), I often squeeze my writing in and around the rest of my family’s schedule. That could be at a baseball field, the dance school parking lot or the dentist’s office. I also love to sprawl out at parks or outdoor cafes on mild days, hunker down at the local library on rainy days, or get into a groove at the local bookstore while I tackle plot or character development issues.
Prior to this summer, I probably had an 80% success rate of packing the correct work material when I worked away from home. Sometimes I caught the oversights while still in the garage. But other times I would be settled at a library table when I discovered missing pieces. I knew this summer had to be different. I had to have a 100% success rate.
After an extensive knee reconstruction, my college-aged, working-in-Boston, can’t-drive-for-seven-weeks daughter would need me to taxi her—and wait for hours at a time—on a daily basis. It was unacceptable for me to be stranded somewhere waiting for her without the proper writing materials. But I also didn’t want to waste time packing, unpacking, and repacking my files—and worrying that I was forgetting something. There was way too much room for error with that system.
Order, complete order, was needed. I spent the better part of May organizing my electronic files and then turned my attention to my paper files. Every last piece of paper was filed. And my paper files mirrored my electronic files, so that items could be located quickly.
But to be truly portable, my paper files required the right equipment. After consulting internet resources and a few organizing books, I decided the tools required to make this happen were extra-capacity, reinforced hanging folders, manila (or decorative!) files, and a portable hanging file tote.
I created an extra-capacity hanging file for each of my projects--all of them, including those picture book manuscripts covered in cobwebs, abandoned novels or portions of novels, and current novels in various stages of drafting and revision. Each project had its own hanging file, and those hanging files contained manila folders labeled:
Switching between projects became a snap. All of my hanging files were organized the same way, and I could pop a file in or out of the tote.
The last step to peace of mind was establishing a list of all the little items that had to come along with me each day in a separate messenger bag. I “laminated” this list using packaging tape. Your list might look different than mine, but these were my essentials:
While this level of detail might seem like overkill, I only had to create the list once. Each morning I scanned my bag and checked off the list. I took the thinking out of packing and poured that energy into my manuscripts instead.
So if you’re taking your writing on the road, I hope these suggestions will help make your portable life stress-free! And happy writing…wherever the day may take you.
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