Road Writing 101 🚗

How innovation has made the process of writing in a moving vehicle a lot less painful than it was just a few years ago (he writes as he’s in a moving vehicle).

(Andras Vas/Unsplash)

Hey all. I’m returning home from a long weekend in which I got to stay with family in an Airbnb, thanks to the fact that we have a decent circle of people who got vaccinated.

It was nice. I stayed in a room that had old radio magazines on the wall, which is just the kind of thing I love. My view for writing was actually pretty good. I got into a Twitter spat with a Newsmax reporter on Friday night, which was fun and unexpected. And I got to see a sunrise on top of a mountain before actually making the trip back.

Now, here I am, trying to think with an open highway in front of me. Over the years, I’ve found myself in the position I’m in now many times, where I found myself writing on a computer while in a passenger seat on a long journey.

2021 05 09 12 08 31

The Tedium mobile workstation. (Yes, that is a wood case.)

And honestly, the situation has gotten better in the past year than it’s been in the decade-plus prior. There are a few reasons for this:

Improved battery life. We finally have laptops that have enough juice that they can be used for hours on end without any concern about them going dead during a four-hour journey. The M1 MacBook Air is a freaking beast, and while I’ve tried this with setups in the past as diverse as an iPad Mini and a Pinebook Pro, the Air hits the perfect balance between battery life, energy consumption, form factor, and sheer power to make this process doable.

The invention of USB-C. Back in the day, it was not possible to plug in a laptop without spending lots of money on a non-standard connector. Now, it’s possible to plug in most smaller laptops with a USB-C connector alone, so you can actually plug in without losing juice in many cases.

The magic of tethering. When I first started road-writing back in the early 2010s, the available options for actually sharing my laptop’s connection with a smartphone basically involved jailbreaking. At first, this practice went unsanctioned by phone makers and mobile providers alike, but eventually they gave in. I also tried other setups in the past, like a MiFi device, but I’m just glad the phone-makers gave in. And while you will naturally run into the issue of networks going in and out as you flitter between towns, it’s nonetheless a way better experience than it used to be. (One thought: Write in an editor that is not tethered to an internet connection. Write outside the CMS—that’s a lesson I learned in my ShortFormBlog days.)

The addition of a padded laptop stand. The most useful piece of cheaply made Amazon junk I own, by a wide margin, is the padded laptop stand I use, which lifts the laptop to a viewable height. A little padding goes a long way, and being able to angle the laptop helps to minimize neck pain. I’ve typed on other surfaces in the past—most infamously, the top of a Chrome Industries bag. The only thing that would make it better, honestly, is if I could fold the stand down to a reasonable size when not in use.

Now, to be clear, writing in a moving vehicle as a passenger isn’t always the most convenient thing in the world. For one thing, if you end up off the beaten path, the laptop becomes a liability. And you need to make sure your wrists maintain a constant grip on the laptop as you’re typing, so it doesn’t move. And the wrong background noise—like a podcast, for example—can cause your train of thought to lead to disaster.

Plus, you need to be realistic—you can’t just type in a laptop for four hours and ignore the other people in your vehicle. Close the laptop sometimes and engage in a conversation sometimes!

But the truth of the matter is, I felt more comfortable writing this than I have writing stuff in a vehicular setting at any time in the past. Nice work, innovation.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 4 minutes, 26 seconds

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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