Friday Fun — Writing Al Fresco

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: With the weather (finally!) warming up around this neck of the woods, the temptation to take our work outdoors is growing. Do you write “al fresco”? Why or why not? 

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: Oh, definitely, yes! In the mornings I sit out on my deck – love feeling the sun warm me up as it rises above the trees. In the afternoons, I enjoy sitting out at a table with a canopy, so I can partake of the fresh air and be shaded from the sun, while having an icy beverage. I love being able to write al fresco, especially with pen and paper!


Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I love to write outside. I especially love taking my journal to the beach and writing while listening to the crashing of the waves. One December I took a beach chair and a sleeping bag to the beach on a day when a storm was approaching, and I’ll never forget the way the waves pounded the beach and the wind whipped the spray toward me. Rather than making me feel small, I felt like I was a part of Mother Nature’s majesty that day, and many days since.

Sitting on my back deck writing on my laptop with my feet up is good, too!

SuddenlyJamie AvatarJamie Wallace: Though I love the idea of writing outdoors, I rarely take advantage of the opportunity. The truth is that while the concept is an alluring one, the practice usually leaves me stiff and sore. Those idyllic stock photos of writers pecking away at a laptop keyboard amidst a field of wildflowers, or scrawling who knows what wisdom in a Moleskine notebook while perched atop a trailside boulder do not, in my experience, reflect reality. When I try to channel my inner Thoreau, I usually wind up contorted over my notebook, scribbling in an almost illegible handwriting that makes me cringe with shame.

Happily, my living room (where I do most of my writing, either curled up on the couch with a notebook, or seated at my one-of-a-kind writing desk) almost feels like being outside. The whole front wall is glass – a big slider and four large picture windows. There’s a busy bird feeder on the deck directly in front of my desk, and the view beyond is of the sky and the river. Now that the weather has warmed up, I open up both door and windows and invite the outdoors in. It’s lovely, really.


wendy-shotWendy Thomas: Like Jamie, I love the idea of writing outside. However, because I do so much work on a computer, it’s a little difficult. The glare from the screen, the necessary power source, the bugs, the red correcting pen I left inside the house…

The idea is beautiful – communing with nature as you write. Who wouldn’t want that, right?

But the reality (for me anyway) is that I’d rather do my writing in the house near an open window and save my outdoor time for doing outdoor activities.

Deborah Lee Luskin writing studio

This photo was taken in the winter; the view’s now all green.

 Deborah Lee Luskin: My 8′ x 10′ studio has six windows, so it’s like writing outdoors – with all the conveniences of power, window screens and great views of woods and a meadow.

24 thoughts on “Friday Fun — Writing Al Fresco

  1. Your postings make me feel I want to dash out and seek any sun I can find to bask under. Alas, living in Britain it is often a rare sight! So when we are blessed with sun, all Brits make a beeline for the outdoors grabbing whatever they need to enjoy the sun; deck chairs, barbecues, laptops, sun tops, the list goes on. Jamie, your environment sounds idyllic. You have brought the outdoors in!

    • I’m sending wishes for a sunny afternoon your way, Angelique!
      (And, yes, I’m pretty spoiled with my writing spot. So are my cats, both of whom are curled in the sun beside me right now.)

    • Ugh. Mosquitoes. They are even worse when they get INside. At bedtime. In the bedroom. They are like tiny, whining demons, intent on driving you mad.

      Your avatar image makes me wonder if you write outdoors … nestled in some leafy bower perhaps?

  2. I love the thought of writing outdoors, but I’ve always been tied to a computer for writing (can’t hand write to save my life). Due to some repetitive stress issues, writing on a laptop isn’t something I can do for long periods, but if I could, I would. Still I might try some short sessions this summer and see how it goes.

    • My trick is to keep my expectations low. I might bring a notebook outside on the deck or to the beach, but I don’t assume I’ll actually get anything productive done. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply sit with the notebook resting on my lap, a few words or lines scrawled across the top of the page, the pen uncapped and at the ready, but idle. Yep. Sometimes, that’s enough.

  3. I so agree with those who like the concept of al fresco but have found the reality to be less inviting. I also use the laptop a lot so the glare, the power source are two major considerations. Actual writing in a notebook does prove to be uncomfortable at times and then there is the safety and security aspect in my country.
    That said it is truly inspirational to be outdoors though.

    • The great outdoors is inspirational. Perhaps, like Wendy suggests, we’d be better off to leave the writing indoors and just enjoy being in the outdoors for what it is all on its own.

  4. I realised that combining outside and inside works for me so I write on my front porch or any place from where I can see the nature outside. Porch is the best way to go. You can absorb inspiration from the fresh air and still write on your laptop instead of notebook and you won’t have any trouble with the glare 🙂

  5. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference here. On Wednesday I blogged about a pregnant doe that had her nose against the window staring at me as I sat in my favorite writing chair. I have outdoor and indoor writing locations. Weather and insects play a role in my decision making. It is important that I have a comfortable chair so I have them located outdoors as well as indoors on our five acres. I have a laptop that it is used to being with me in all kinds of locations, except backpacking. –Curt

    • A doe with her nose pressed against the window? That sounds like a great opening to a story!

      Sounds like you’ve got all the bases covered. Nice!

  6. Here in the north west of Ireland the weather is not often kind enough to allow sitting outside without papers blowing everywhere. However, I do love to take a notebook when I’m occasionally in France. A pavement cafe, a glass of wine and a romp with my imagination – what could be better?

    • Ooh! (la la?) 😉
      Now, that sounds like a sophisticated way to write outdoors. I love it. We don’t have many sidewalk cafes here in my small town, but perhaps I should make a trip into Boston and seek out an appropriate spot on Newbury Street or somewhere in Cambridge. Just might have to do that.

      TKS for the inspiration!

  7. I love the idea of writing outside – but I would get too easily distracted by the beautiful birdsong all around me. We are also lucky enough to have a sea view as well – so I can imagine lifting my head at any and every opportunity to check out the bay.

  8. I would love to write outdoors more than I am able to at the moment. Unfortunately the weather is very rarely kind to us here in the UK so the opportunities to head outside with pen and paper are few and far between. However, the very first word of my forthcoming novel was written in the Peak District surrounded by snow. It was a moment I will never forget. Ten chapters later and I’m almost half way through. Thanks for the post! Take care. Mark

  9. I write al fresco all the time. I live on a boat, and I home school my kids, so I write whenever the opportunity arises. I never leave home without my notebook(s), and when my kids are playing on beaches or at playgrounds or (like this week) in the ruins of a castle in Portugal, I take out my notebook and write. I guess it’s no surprise then that much of my writing is inspired by nature…I can’t help it…it seeps in all the time. And because I live on a boat I rely on free Wifi at bars and cafes and libraries. I spend lots of time sitting under shady umbrellas, with a coffee or cold non-alcohol beer, transcribing from my notebooks, redrafting, and carrying out the online research to accompany my writing. I write on the deck of my boat, in the cockpit, and even when I’m inside, there’s usually a breeze blowing through from the open hatches and weather boards. I’m writing this outside a cafe beside the Rio Guadiana in southern Portugal.

  10. Dianne, your story about the approaching storm and the pounding waves made me wish I was there! I love storms.

    Writing en plein air is one of my favorite things. I find it so cheerful and invigorating, and the newness of the surroundings wakes up my brain cells. I like grassy parks especially, but even just going out on my balcony breaks up the monotony of writing in one room all day. It has its impracticalities (I’m a laptop writer) so I don’t do it every day, but it’s nice here and there.

  11. Lol Jamie – my thoughts exactly. It’s like doing yoga outside – the idea is nice, and occasionally it works, but mostly it’s ant bites on my ankles and grass stains on my knees 🙂

  12. One of my rituals once the weather gets nice is to pack up and head out to one of about five locations I’ve discovered to write outdoors. I chose these locations based on the following criteria:
    1. Far enough away that I can easily say no to any request for time from others. “Sorry, I’m out of town.” They need not know it only means I’m in a neighboring suburb or county.
    2. Far enough away that I don’t feel I will run into anyone I know. This means I can get into my strange writing clothing (floppy hat, tank tops I’d never wear in public so I can get in some vitamin D therapy, horribly ratty capris) and not even worry about doing my hair.
    3. A place with both sun and shade so I can switch it up as needed.
    4. Preferably an electric outlet nearby, but not required (about 3 of the 5 have them).
    I will drive up to an hour away for these wonderful spots I’ve discovered. My husband knows he will not see me until it gets dark on those days. I try to work them in at least once a week.

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