Working on an episode of FREAKANGELS and a WIRED UK column about human spaceflight that will probably get a bit shouty, this evening. Around midnight I’m going to switch to something else. I have a shitload of travel coming up, and for a chunk of a month the only writing I’m going to be doing is on a netbook on planes, on a netbook in hotel rooms if I’m lucky (and not asleep), and, if I’m very very lucky, in paper notebooks in dive bars.
(Because, you know what, Steve? iPads look very pretty in that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION way you and your people have, and I’m sure they’ll be a marvellous coffee-table machine, but they’re the wrong form factor for serious writing. Netbooks do that better. As a dedicated writing/internet machine, my Eee 901 running OpenOffice and Chrome wins.)
My business runs on four things, really. A netbook, a smartphone, a handheld email device and notebooks. Currently, that’s the 901, the iPhone 3GS, a Blackberry Curve and a pile of Moleskines and Field Notes. The phone and the email device have to be two different devices, because having to answer the phone when you’re in the middle of typing an email or note is, frankly, fucking annoying. (I used to work on an all-in-one handheld, a Visor or a Treo with a foldaway keyboard that I could write on as well as do email and take calls. That got annoying. Convergence is a nice idea, but not for me.
(I’d add in a fifth, an mp3 player. I thought a moment ago that was non-essential business kit, and then I tried imagining travelling without one.)
Obviously they all serve different purposes, but they are all in fact bent to the same purpose, the essential purpose of writing: getting the idea down before you forget it. Doesn’t matter if the idea’s crap. Doesn’t matter if it’s not immediately useful. Doesn’t matter if it’s half-formed. Get it down. Jot it in a text file on your computer and toss it in a folder called Loose Ideas. Thumb it out into a note file on your phone. Scribble it into a notebook (in block caps so you can read it later, if you’re me). Record it as a voice memo (I’m working with someone right now who sets his phone to voice-recording in the car and spitballs ideas into it as he drives, hits send to email it out to me when he parks, just so he doesn’t lose the ideas).
If you don’t have some kind of kit for capturing ideas, even if it’s a 50p reporter’s notebook and a pencil from the local shop for local people, you’re doing it wrong.
(I used to burn through those fuckers. I’d sit in the local burger bar because it didn’t close until 3am, writing episodes of LAZARUS CHURCHYARD in longhand and sketching out the panels and pages because I was terrified of asking Matt Brooker to draw something that was impossible. This is a paranoia I’ve had since David Lloyd told me at a convention that Alan Moore had written him a panel where a character was to stand with his back to the reader, smiling. Think about that for a second. Yeah. Matt was a greatly more experienced comics artist than I was a comics writer, and I really didn’t want to embarrass myself.)
(Point of story being: don’t be afraid of being lo-tek. Worked for me, in those dark pre-internet days when the most advanced electronic device I owned was a small portable b/w television that only worked if you punched it every ten minutes.)