I like to say “I’m a writer by trade,” but I rarely feel like a writer. I feel like a social media manager, a researcher, a content creator, or a brand marketer. I feel as far removed from writing as one can be while still putting words to paper. After all, a “writer” is someone who sips coffee and churns out books and articles and thoughtful observations from the shore of some charmingly remote pond, right?
Not quite. All of those jobs (and many more) require writing, sometimes hours of it. And while we may not see ourselves as writers, we use the tools of the writing trade every day to do the jobs we do. Meanwhile, many of us are also on the go: traveling to meetings, visiting offsites, working from home or from public spaces, and writing at every turn. For my fellow writers—and my fellow “people who write for work”—here are four must-have items to help you write from anywhere.
A Reliable (and Large) Portable Power Bank to Avert Disaster
Every writer’s worst nightmare is your device powering down when you’re in the middle of tapping away on the keyboard. Did it save? Is your work lost? Most airports, hotels, and other public spots have charging ports available, but these sources are often scarce, crowded, or difficult to get to (who hasn’t sat on a dirty airport floor just to access a plug socket?).
It’s best to plan for the worst by keeping a charged power bank on you at all times. The one I travel with is a hefty red brick with two USB ports that takes hours to charge up completely, so I make sure to fill it days before a trip. I’m willing to endure the weight and bulk of the battery in exchange for the power to completely charge my devices multiple times. The best power bank for you will vary depending on your needs, but we have a list of options here to help you choose.
A USB Hub With Several Ports to Divide and Conquer
I have yet to meet a laptop that had enough USB ports built in. Until someone engineers that unicorn into existence, take a hub with you to ensure you can plug in everything you need no matter where you are. USB hubs are generally small and portable, so you can comfortably carry one with the rest of your peripherals.
I prefer a hub with 4 extra ports to accommodate my backup drive, microphone, headphone charger and other necessities, but you can find hubs that have more or less ports, SD card readers, and even headphone jacks. When you’re counting how many ports you’ll need, add one or two to the total in case a port goes bad later; it’s better to be overprepared than to be lacking in USB ports at a critical moment. Check out some USB hubs and docks here if you aren’t sure what’s best for you.
Noise-Canceling Headphones to Make the World Go Away
When writing on the road, silence is at a premium. Some people can put poetry together even with a screaming toddler 3 feet away from them, but I am not one of those people. Having noise-canceling headphones has meant the difference between being able to focus on the writing at hand and being stuck listening to everything but my own thoughts. When I’m on a deadline and need quiet, I lean into noise-canceling technology. Sometimes, I turn my headphones on and just listen to the silence, no music or podcast required. I prefer the over-ear type of headphones since they thoroughly encase my ears in blissful peace (and I’m not a fan of things being inside my ears), but if you’re not sure what type of noise-canceling technology is right for you, check out our list of options here.
A Way to Record Thoughts on the Move
The best ideas rarely strike when you’re sitting comfortably at your laptop, hands on the keyboard. They usually strike when you’re racing through a train station or waiting in line for a bagel. You can tell yourself “don’t forget this,” but chances are good that the idea will slip from your mind before you have a chance to write it down. To prevent this tragedy, arm yourself with a way to record your thoughts on the fly.
I use a speech-to-text app on my smartphone, which is always within reach. In seconds, I can be the person at the coffee shop mumbling “bluebottle jellyfish, medicinal uses” urgently into her hand, and then the idea is safely preserved in text form on my phone and backed up to the cloud. If you don’t feel comfortable voicing your ideas in public, a notes app or even a pocket notebook can work, but hands-free is often the more flexible choice when you’re out and about.
If you have to write anything for your job, you’re a writer. If you’re a writer, you write, no matter where you are. Be sure you’re prepared for every train station, grocery store, and long-haul flight with the tools that will help you assemble words into successful messages.
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