“I’m changing,” I realized the other day as I was working on blog posts. I finally understood that the quality of my posts increased proportionally to how close to the outside world I was. I used to write all of my posts cooped up in my room, the only hint of natural light being the sunbeams that filtered through the two windows near my desk. But soon after, I realized I was losing a bit of inspiration; the words were flowing less like a river and more like molasses. I decided a change of venue was in order, so I moved to one of the top floors of my university’s library. There, a large window allowed me to see the entire campus with an eagle eye, and I felt like I was so close to the outside word that I could touch it. I was content there, but then I finished the program. Where would I write now, now that the library is 50 miles away and no longer a viable option?
Realization then struck while I was out running some trails. If I was so close to nature I could touch it… why not actually touch it? I found another thing happening to me, this time much more subtle. I’m far more interested in pen-to-paper contact than ever before. I found myself writing my outlines in a long-abandoned journal before transcribing them into WordPress posts, including for this very blog post you’re reading now. Perhaps I’m becoming old-fashion, and that’s always a possibility. I’ve long since been tired of people proving themselves right by spouting “Google it!” Or perhaps I’m actually, for the first time ever, really writing. Regardless, here are five reasons you need to be writing outside.
1. You’re in a less sterile environment.
Now, normally sterilization is a good thing. It keeps the germs away and keeps people safe, if not a little bored. But it’s hard to go crazy surrounded by four walls, and when it comes to writing, a little craziness doesn’t hurt. Most of your inspiration when you’re outside comes from your eyes. A trail leading to the unknown on your left brings three-dimensional thinking due to the endless creative possibilities. The bird landing in the tree to your right inspires an important plot element in the short story you’re crafting. You see, when you introduce chaos into the mix, you go from being in a controlled laboratory setting to being in real life itself. Realism in writing is more than a simulation. It’s experience, which can only come from putting yourself out there.
2. You’re fortunate that it’s easier now than ever before.
What I mean by “easier” is that you have numerous options. Whether or not that translates to superior work is up for debate. In the old days, before my generation became the first to really be able to take advantage of ideal mobile computing, the only option people had was to go outside with a notebook or journal and write down everything they thought of. But now, walk around any college campus and you’ll find more Apples than an orchard. And the one I use to type my blogs, a 13-inch MacBook Air, has a battery life of around ten hours. Combine that with the overwhelming presence of wi-fi and, oh gosh, smartphones, and you’re carrying around on your hike more technology than the entirety of Johnson Space Center when they launched the Apollo missions.
Basically, that counts for a lot, as you can easily do all of your writing, editing, and publishing (with a few tweets mixed in for good measure) without ever setting foot inside a building.
3. You’ll find the outdoor air is stimulating and good for your health.
I don’t have any qualms with indoor activities. You’ll never see me spouting doomsday prophecies about video games and texting being the detriment of society. In fact, I argue that society is more educated today than ever before. Besides, I could not live without my daily video game fix. But I still go outside (sometimes to play video games on a handheld, strangely). Consider this Harvard newsletter article, which coincidently also takes the form of a five-point list. It lists the numerous advantages of spending time outdoors, including faster healing and less environmental depression.
“But it’s hot,” you say. Perhaps, but I suggest wearing bright colored clothing, finding a shady tree, and bringing the biggest refillable bottle of water you can find. Oh, and bring sunscreen if you scald like I do. Alternately, do your writing during my favorite time of the day, early evening. The temperature drops and you can write the stories of your life to some wicked sunsets.
4. You’re one step closer to new experiences.
Sometimes when you write outside, you’ll find yourself wanting to put your computer away and just live. This world we’ve been given, despite it seeming so small sometimes when we’re in our little boxes, is filled with wonder. Suddenly it seems conceivable to hike, swim, or even just lay in the grass and look at clouds. You write about it later, but at the moment it’s important to just live. The mini-vacation you get from simply letting life take hold will make your blog post, article, essay, journal entry, or whatever you’re writing ten times better.
5. You no longer need background music.
I have chronic tinnitus. If you don’t know, that means I have a constant ringing in my ears. I honestly haven’t experienced complete silence in probably a decade. For me, the only way to fight it is to always be listening to something else, be it music or ocean sounds or white noise. I used to think that was a curse, but now I’m not so sure. When I’m inside working with a computer, I’ll always have headphones on listing to my ambient or chill music. I find, though, that when I’m outside, writing a story or running the trails, that I no longer need the familiar hug of my headphones to my ears. The sounds of the birds chirping or the frogs croaking or the cicadas, um, making whatever sound cicadas make are my life’s soundtrack. It’s one long organic song, never to be duplicated in a thousand years.