Equipment

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Producing writing for people on the street requires writing abilities and a small amount of confidence. Beyond those, minimal equipment is required.

Signs

To tell people what you’re about and what you’re doing, most street writers are flanked by some signage to explain their offerings.

Common signs include ‘Poetry while you wait’, ‘stories while you wait’, ‘poet for hire’.

Specify whether you work on a specific price per piece, a minimum donation, or donate what you want basis.

Subsections of signs can go into daily specialities at different price bands. For example:

  • children’s stories
  • suicide notes
  • smut

Chalkboards are easy for this. Other writers have laminated signs that they carry with their pack. Other writers sellotape an A4 paper to their desk with a badly scrawled sign and rely more on their voice to approach people passing and generate custom.

Street Writers set up in New Orleans. Shannon Monaghan pictured by Kaile Hanna @thespontaneousprosestore.

Writing Devices

You can write by hand using a pen, you can write on a phone and email pieces to people, you can write on a typewriter.

The majority of street writers use typewriters because they produce a physical object on the spot with a minimum of setup costs.

Typewriters were common household devices for a large part of the twentieth century and no longer fulfill many functions. Hence there are a more machines on the market than there is demand for them, and thus incredibly well engineered machines are for sale on second hand sites for very little money.

New ribbons for typewriters are readily available on ebay and other second hand sites. Factories are still making them. Ribbons are of fairly standard manufacture, even if the reels on each typewriter are not. Ribbons are easy to detach from the plastic spools they are purchased on, and transfer onto the spools that held the previous ribbon on your typewriter. Each ribbon can be used through multiple times.

Typewriters

for street writers who carry their writing gear around, the lighter their typewriter can be, the better, as long as the machine is still resilient. This is a table of light typewriters.

Manufacturer Model Weight w/Case Weight w/o Case Notes
Olivetti Lettera 22 5.06kg  ??? Solid manufacture, metal chassis. Great workhorse - LW
Silver Reed 180 4.35kg  ???
Olympia Splendid 4.75kg  ???
Silver Reed 280SE De Luxe 4.34kg  ???

Desk & Stool

Many street writers sit at desks with a stool, though some writers prefer to sit on the floor, or perch their writing machines on their laps on public benches or steps.

A desk and stool give you the ability to perch with visibility in a lot of enviroments and increase the number of places you can deploy your writing. A desk and stool are, however, harder to carry around with you if you’re travelling from town to town.

UK - the 'picnic table' from argos is a easily portable little table that's inexpensive.

Backpack / chair / sign set up by @poetrybusker.

Paper

If you’re typing on paper, quality paper can be worthwhile. It shows the customer that you take your art seriously and creating a well presented piece to give them increases the likelihood they will reply with a kind donation. Art supply shops can be costly, eBay can be good.

Many street writers type onto A5 (148mmx 210mm) paper. They find A5 offers enough space for the length of piece they want to write in the street setting.

Paper thickness is measured by grams per square metre (gsm). ‘Normal’ paper is around 80gsm, whilst 120gsm+ is ‘thick’.

Similarly, coloured envelopes can be purchased in bulk on eBay. Envelopes can be put through the typewriter and written onto.

Wrappers, leaflets and photographs can also be fed through the typewriter and written onto.

Making Copies of Your Work

Making photos of things that you write for people before you give them away can be done quickly and easily by taking a picture with a camera phone. Alternatively, be old school and use carbon-copy paper.

Use hashtag #streetwriters when posting content related to street writing.

Transportation

Dependant on method of living and size of your writing apparatus. Common transport includes strapping typewriter and table and chair to a bicycle rack or basket or trailer. Lighter models of typewriter can be carried in a pack. Backpacks with internal strapping can keep a typewriter tight to your back and comfortable to hike around towns with. The Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack is great for this functionality, though others are available. Folding grocery carts also work well.