Writing Outside

I like getting fresh air. I usually spend the time walking around nd reading. But sometimes I’d like to catch up on writing. And… I’m not sure how.

Pencil and paper work, sure, but the paper accumulates and I have to take just as long typing everything all over again.

I have brought my laptop out, but the screen is a mirror even in the shade. I use minimum brightness. I can’t see higher-brightness screens, because blinding.

I don’t have the coordination for touch devices, or certain types of pencil grip, and I can’t see higher-brightness screens, so I haven’t been able to use tablets. In theory an e-ink laptop or hybrid might work…

Is there some trick I’m missing, either with my existing tools or an alternative?


Voice. Recording sound is a snap. Dictate your ideas, and neaten them up at your desk when you transcribe them.


I’m afraid Pat is right, you’re not going to do better than getting your own PA. The recording means you get to do the PA job yourself.

I should do this but I don’t like the idea of talking out loud to myself.


Voice to text has gotten much better, fwiw. I usually need to clean up the transcript, but that’s pretty easy, and I can get the bulk of the content input pretty fast.


Thank you, but no.

For one thing there’s way too much background noise, such as the helicopters yesterday, the fountain, the roar of the highways…

For another, if there’s a break in the background noise, I’d rather not add more noise.

For a third thing, when I had dictation software, Mac Dictation was unable to understand my accent. Dragon for Mac was expensive and was able to understand my accent, but would go haywire due to full text control.

For a fourth thing, I’m writing rules and historical notes and might move on to roleplaying adventures. I need to check sources. I need to jump back and forth between sections. I often need to add up the data. All this is one reason Dragon for Mac would go haywire… voice is much more linear than text.

P.S. I think this would work well without these particular issues, and with more linear writing styles.

But paper does work better than voice recording with my writing style. and circumstances. I haven’t tested ocr on my handwriting, but it’s a similar problem to speech-to-text on my voice.

P.P.S. And paper does work well for preliminary notes, or for reading sources and taking overall notes most of which won’t make it into the final project.


Yeah. You see, anything I do outside would produce at maximum voice notes, made not even with Dragon Dictate, but with Sound Recorder. I would use the resulting recordings to guide the production of a rough draft indoors. The sort of thing you’re describing would see me at the kitchen table with my laptop and a printer to print out the details I need to reference, with the resulting pages arranged on the table to allow easy cross-reference.

Most often, though, I don’t bring anything with me when I go out. Writing music has points of similarity to what you are describing. When I reach a point when I need to ponder things, I’ll head outside for a smoke (my bad habit, I’m afraid), and let ideas float to the front of my mind - the granularity of thought is very coarse, even a bit inchoate, but it frequently gives me something to refine when I head back to my desk.

It is an appropriate task for the environment, you see. An air ambulance going over (I don’t live that far from the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus) wouldn’t necessarily be a distraction; it might instead provoke thoughts on a useable sound texture. Even if it doesn’t, it’s very hard to derail thought processes working at a 100-mile overhead view of the problem.

Different strokes for different folks, of course, but you might want to think about the kinds of tasks that you can do outdoors with an absolute minimum of equipment, the sort on which it would be hard to derail your concentration. That is the appropriate task for the environment.


For me, writing/drawing outside is a chance to make myself get away from the computer, be creative, brainstorm, get back into the imagination mode that I had as a kid. I have a clipboard with a compartment big enough to hold a good amount of paper as well as pencils, pens, and other drawing tools. That doesn’t help if you need to research things online of course, but if you’re looking in printed rules sets, it could work.

I agree that computers outside don’t work for me. You can get matte/glare-reducing things to cover the screen but they just make it hard to see in a different way.


And I got cornered by a dog so there’s that…

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If I’m reading this correctly, the main problem is that the screen, when set to a comfortable setting, isn’t legible in daylight.

Is going out in the evening/nighttime an option?


Yes, I hadn’t been thinking of that. Thank you. Probably not as many dogs either.

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Glad I could help!

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Maybe something like this where you write on paper and it digitises your pen strokes.


Thank you. I think I already do that with paper + clipboard + scanner…? Unless there’s something I’ve missed.

I think my current options involve reading and note-taking during the bright daylight, and typing at my computer during the evening.


The only other thing I can think of would be to construct a box and use it like the shades they have on traffic lights, to block out the sunlight to the point where you can see the screen.

But that’d be bulky and awkward to carry.


Took too long updating. It’s completely dark except for bright lights, and trying to walk around means getting flashed by bright lights behind trees. Stabby pain and awful migraine. Maybe I can try earlier tomorrow…



It was easy enough to see outside this afternoon, but caught a whiff of cigarette smoke. Maybe my migraine is screwing with my sense of smell. Maybe not. My asthma has been acting up, and if it is real, it is enough to make things much worse.

If I’m going to have to relocate to avoid smoke, to get in from the rain, etc., one book or ebook reader isn’t a pain. But laptop, lap desk, mouse, reference books, etc. is.

Maybe I should just read and relax.


Google docs + headphone style microphone

Also Evernote has good speech to text and is free

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Thank you, but after last evening, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort of trying to set up my computer outside; I’m likely to have to pack up and go back inside due to cigarette smoke, or rain, or the like. Also, I often have to put on my ear protectors to deal with backup beaters, sirens, helicopters, etc. in the distance. I’m not sure that would work with a headset microphone.