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Digital Nomad: Fiction Writer Edition

Ditital Nomad Fiction Writer

I’m not the biggest fan of the term digital nomad, but I’ve used it before and it does apply to me most of the time, so I’m kind of stuck with it. It actually fits most writers—we can write from wherever as long as we’ve got a laptop and the occasional Internet connection to send our files along to beta readers and agents and editors.

But so few fiction writers are into this digital nomad subculture. Bopping around cafes and coworking spaces in Asia, I rarely run into anyone involved in fiction. There are always a few characters who want to write a book, but few are actually making a living writing—most do marketing, social media, tech, design, or other businessy things I can’t explain in less than a paragraph. The writers are almost always bloggers, freelance editors, or travel writers who are into more of the non-fiction side of life. Which isn’t to say that fiction nomads don’t exist…they just don’t necessarily use the same labels or advertise themselves as such.

This puzzles me, but I somewhat understand. Writing fiction isn’t as reliable as say a freelance graphic design business or as official sounding as a tech startup, and advances and royalties are low, especially when you’re just starting out. It would be a terrible idea to fly to Chiang Mai or Ubud or Medellin or wherever the kids are going these days with a book idea and plans to start writing and making a living. You’d run out of money before you left the airport. But established writers?

This is the life, man. Even for a writer firmly at mid-list, what you earn can go so much farther in Asia or South America. My Thai apartment with cleaning service costs less than $300 a month. It’s not glamorous by any means, but it’s clean and located in cafe central, so it checks all my boxes.


Living the dream



Most fiction writers just aren’t plugged into the idea of going mobile. It’s fine for me to galavant around—I’m single and my parents let me crash with them when I’m stateside as long as I keep them swimming in homemade pasta and quiche. I know a lot of other writers, and few of them are in my demographic. Most have kids and/or spouses, house payments, and are otherwise locked into wherever they are. Or they think they are. I think more could make the switch to this kind of lifestyle, but haven’t considered it, or just aren’t interested.

I wish more fiction writers would branch out and hit the road, partially for selfish reasons. I’d love to have a buddy or two to write around with and join in my cafe-hopping habit.

Given, being away from home isn’t the greatest. I can’t contact my family that often and I’m perpetually out of the loop with what my friends and relatives are up to in their lives. Even so, I think giving that up (at least temporarily) is a fair trade for what you can get out of the nomad lifestyle. I’m so much more creative when I’m on the road, and experiencing other cultures always gives me new insights into what I’m putting on the page. And for a foodie like me, this is heaven. Yeah, I can get Thai food at home, but little roadside buffets that sell MSG-coated Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese/Thai fusion food can’t hold a candle to the real thing. I’m getting so spoiled by curries cooked to order and perfectly mixed Thai teas.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone and it’s not forever, but I’m digging it in the short term. If you’re out there wondering how to make it work, drop me a message. I’m all for getting more you genre fiction peeps out into the world, and I’m happy to co-sign the decision to leave the country if you’re having doubts.

One Month in Bali and my 3k/day Challenge

I’m writing this from my coworking space—Hubud, in the center of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Wild, huh?

The Hubud Sign, Bali Indonesia |

Ever since I became a writer, I’ve never focused only on my writing. I always had part-time jobs and day jobs taking my attention. Even when I was between gigs, I was focusing on the next thing…and a distracted Lola does not prioritize getting her daily words written.

Now I’m taking a month away from everything—I’m not working and not looking for work, and I don’t even have a TV in the villa I’m renting. After a year of strenuous, full-time editing, this is my reward to myself: unadulterated writing time.

My writing space in Bali |

Writing on my terrace–I could get used to this!

I’ve wasted months with worrying and have barely written a word, so this month, I’m setting concrete goals to make sure I get the most of this precious time.

I’m targeting 3,000 words a day.

Given that I have 24 hours of no scheduling, it should be easy. Even though it’s a steeper hurdle than NaNo pace, I have all the time in the world…piece of cake, right?

Not exactly. I still struggle when I’m not sure where the scene is going, or what themes I want to get across. I might do 500 words in half an hour, or four hours, depending on the state of my focus.

So far, I’m eking it out. If I keep up the pace, I’ll knock off my current novella, and be well on the way to finishing the novel I’ve been toying with for ages. That’s right where I want to be.

I’m hoping that as time goes on and I get used to the rhythm here, my productivity will spike. Can I do 4k a day? 5k? I’ll post about coworking later, but I’m finding the environment super stimulating—the people, workspace, and Bali itself.

Giving myself time to write feels both rewarding and validating. I think we often call ourselves writers, but don’t take it seriously, or are too afraid to take it to a full-time level. I still have doubts, but I’m enjoying my test run,and hitting my word goals is reassuring. I really could crank out the books like a pro, if only I gave myself a chance.

To my writer friends out there, I’m guessing you can do it too.

Have faith, and don’t be afraid to take your goals seriously.