Take Your Writing Outdoors: 9 Tips for Successfully Working Outside

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Ah, the freelance life.

Half the appeal of location-independent work is you can work from anywhere and everywhere.

Since there are still a few weeks of summer left, many freelancers are longing to flock outdoors to meet their deadlines.

But working outside isn’t all fun and games. Instagrammers leave out the parts about the merciless biting horseflies, the noisy neighbor kids, and the never-ending screen glare. What’s a freelancer to do?

Follow these nine tips to maximize your outdoor experience and get some work done.

1. It’s all about the chair

As much as I adore my hammock, it’s not a place to get any work done. It’s hard to do much more than read a book or snooze while swinging back and forth in the breeze.

If you have work to get done, make sure you have a comfortable chair that will get you in a productive mood — and not tempt you to take a midday nap when you’re on deadline.

Some freelancers prefer working at an outdoor desk, small table, or even a lap desk. Experiment with a few options until you find a set-up that works for you.

2. Select your equipment with the outdoors in mind

From an unexpected sprinkler mishap to a gust of wind throwing leaves (or maybe even your coffee) all over your laptop, working outside is not the most hazard-free environment for electronics. For this reason, I don’t bring my regular work computer outside.

Instead, I have a small, inexpensive laptop that I use for travel and outdoor work. I got the machine for a steal, and I’d be pretty bummed if something happened to it — but not nearly as upset as if a cloudburst destroyed my main work machine.

In case you need another reminder: back up your work frequently.

3. Organize your workflow

While some may be able to work outside all day long, I’m not one of those people.

When I venture out for some fresh air and work time, I always bring specific projects with me. I organize my workflow so I can tackle one project at a time, typically for an hour or two, before going back inside to check in on email and regroup.

Everyone finds different ways to work, I prefer my outdoor time to be free of the distractions of email Having a travel laptop actually helps with this: the small screen isn’t great for toggling between open windows and other online tasks.

4. Fight the glare

Glare is the arch-nemesis of the outdoor-loving freelancer. As much as you want to work outside, sometimes it’s tough to see your computer screen.

One option is to face towards the sun and reduce glare on your screen. Another option is just moving to the shade, whether it’s under a tree or umbrella or even in the shade of a building.

Be sure to tinker with your screen settings and the brightness and contrast levels. Increasing these will likely make it easier to see the screen. Or consider buying a laptop hood or sunscreen — or make your own out of an Ikea storage box.

5. Go old-school

You don’t need to haul your laptop outside to get work done. Spending time outdoors can boost your creativity and inspiration, and that’s why it’s a great time for brainstorming, outlining, and other tasks that don’t require being glued to a monitor.

Grab your Moleskin and head outside to dive into your projects.

6. Skip the beach

Despite what location-independent Instagrammers will lead you to believe, the beach is not a great place to get work done.

Never mind the distractions of surf, sand, sun, and swimsuits. While those are a fun combination, they’re the enemy of your electronics. No matter how careful you are, it seems like sand and water have their way of getting everywhere.

And what happens when you’re getting too hot on the beach and want to jump in the water for a quick dip? Or if you need a bathroom break? Unless you have someone there with you to watch over your things, it’s a huge hassle to safeguard your business-essential valuables when you step away for a minute.

7. Pick a spot that’s not social

In some neighborhoods, if you plop yourself on your porch, people will soon come over to chat. While friendly neighborhoods are great for socializing, they’re not the best spots to get work done outside.

When you’re selecting your spot to work outdoors, be sure to keep the distraction factor in mind. If your sweet next door neighbor just can’t leave you alone (even after you kindly ask them to come back after working hours), consider bringing your outdoor office to a local park or other place where you can work uninterrupted.

8. Plan with connectivity in mind

Internet and electricity are two of the most important things to freelancers. Select your work spot with these needs in mind.

If you’re outside your own home, you may be able to have easy access to both by moving your router closer to where you’re working and running an extension cord. But if those aren’t options, consider turning your phone into a WiFi hotspot or bringing a spare battery for your laptop.

9. Don’t forget the sunscreen

Just because you’re outside working doesn’t mean you’re immune to the inconveniences of being outside. Be sure to slather on the sunscreen, don a hat, and grab the bug spray if the critters are biting. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, be sure to take breaks and follow other healthy freelancer habits.

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Kristen Pope is a Jackson Hole, Wyoming based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Discover, Backpacker, Western Confluence, International Journal of Wilderness, and Planning Magazine, and she is the managing editor of JHStyle Magazine.... .

Kristen Pope | @Kristen_E_Pope

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Comments

  1. Some great ideas for writing outdoors. I think I may try that— perhaps do a week where I go out to do a little writing each day. I’m pretty much chained to my desk when it comes to writing.

    I don’t have two functional computers, but I wouldn’t want to take a laptop outdoors anyway. I’d rather write in a notebook and transcribe. I would probably have to copy my character-lists into the notebook because I often forget names of secondary characters.

    Your post has some very excellent advice on the practical side of outdoor writing. Thanks.

    • Kristen Pope says:

      Nissa, Glad you enjoyed the tips! Writing in a notebook is a great way to spark creativity and take a break from the screen. Enjoy!

  2. Christina E says:

    Meh. If I’m headin’ outdoors, it’s to get AWAY from work! Way to waste sunshine if you’ve got your head stuck in a phone or laptop!

  3. Cool idea! Especially # 2. You can pick up a good, cheap laptop, and then use Google Drive (or something similar) to store your document so you can access it from any device you choose.

  4. Hello Kristen,

    This is really a very reasonable advice for freelancers planning to work outdoor,
    Being freelancer and bloggers is really fun especially for that fact that you have full control of where you want to work and when you want to work.

    But if you really want to work outdoor then, you need to consider all the suggestions on this post especially the issue of going to work on the beach. Not only will you be distracted but, you also stand a chance of getting your computer spoil or even loosen it.

    I also agree with the point that you should mind where you want to seat so as to not doze off while working.

    Pretty good advice mate, thanks for sharing.

  5. Kristen, you’ve done a great job reviewing the pros of working outdoors as well as the cons to consider. I have found as both a writer, and especially when I’m editing of ghostwriting for my clients, that an atmospheric change of pace is essential. Whether I am at a coffee shop with the right blend of jazz music and soft lighting or outdoors at a park or courtyard, the added sounds and smells stimulate my creativity and soothe my mind. It’s not that my at-home set up is a problem; I have a cool office. But an outdoor break is just as vital as recess was for us as schoolchildren, except that we keep working instead of hitting the swing set. I encourage my writer clients and colleagues to get outdoors with their projects as a great way to boost their energy and their creative output. Thank you for your insights!

    • Kristen Pope says:

      Thanks for sharing, Adam! I agree that it’s so important to take those outdoor breaks to recharge and get that creative boost.

  6. Hello Kristen

    Thanks for the great review. I am happiest working outside as well. During the day I either brainstorm on paper, edit on paper, or free write with a word processor to avoid distraction. Mine shows four lines at a time.
    If it is very shady or dark I will bring out a laptop. One note.. Do not leave electronics outdoors even to use the restroom. I have lost equipment and work that way due to sudden rain! Thanks again!

  7. Oh, and for privacy I use a notoriously large set of headphones to avoid destructions and interruptions. It helps with family too!

  8. Awesome advice! I think I’ll listen your words of wisdom today and head out shortly!

    Thanks! Have a kickass day!

  9. Sophie Kisker says:

    Re: glare. When I look at my computer screen I realize what is being reflected back at me is my own image many times. If I wear a black t-shirt it helps dramatically. What is even better is to position an umbrella (the large kind) at your back so that the surface above and behind you is a solid dark one, not a bright blue sky.

    Thanks for the tips!

  10. Great article, Kristen. Like you, I was using a “2nd” laptop, but I’ve recently switched to taking a Samsung Galaxy 10.5 inch tablet instead. It’s lighter, has a great screen, and the battery lasts for ages compared to my laptop. Plus, if I’m near a flat surface such as a picnic table, I use a small, protable, bluetooth keyboard which makes typing even easier.

  11. I agree together with your thoughts here and I genuinely adore your weblog!

  12. Hey, Kristen!
    Loved your article, your tips are written well straight to the point. Outdoor writing really is not an easy task to do, so we always need to be prepared. We hate deadlines, but not as much as we hate the heat, the sun glare, and not to mention those irritating flies. Outdoors can seem so hard to deal with, but with focus and preparation nothing can stop us from creating a good piece.

  13. Thanks Kristen. I started to work with my phone, a regular 3 year old Sony, equipped with the last Google Keyboard, a Dropbox account and WPS Office, and found it quite successful. I’m fact I’m writing now this way and enjoying our autumn leaves and birds songs here in Argentina!
    God bless

    Mario

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