Backyard: Blogging (a How-to Guide)

In recognition of yet-another-local-lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, I'm doing a week of feature blog posts about living in the backyard. From May 10th through 16th, my posts will be themed around life outdoors but as close to home as possible, a few steps out the back door.

As spring approaches, and the snow melts into a nurturing moisture that slowly starts to restore the greens to the grass and the leaves to the trees in my little suburban backyard, I find myself looking for excuses to sit in the weak spring sunshine and do those activities I would have just weeks before found a quiet corner of the house to get done.

Daily blogging is not incompatible with an outdoor lifestyle, but it does take some special preparation to help ensure its success.

I don’t know about you, but I write best when I’m comfortable. A cushioned seat or a soft-bottomed chair of some kind. A flat level surface with enough space for my tools (see the first item) and a cup of coffee. It’s got to be out of the wind and sun, and the last thing I want is to have bugs swarming around my head or an angry wasp buzzing at my screen. I like a view of the yard, particularly when the birds are swooping in and out of the feeders I have set up. And so long as she behaves herself, the dog is happiest when she can sniff around or find a place nearby to curl up and enjoy the tippity-tap of the keyboard.

Some tips to successfully blogging outdoors:

Setting the Tools

Writing is a personal act and one that often involves a favourite keyboard, a certain pen & paper combination, or just the right screen font. I myself am fussy about how I write. I admittedly spend too much money on certain styles of keyboards that feel just the right way under my fingers. When I’m in the flow of writing, the last thing I want is to be distracted by an unfamiliar tool. Personally, I’ve taken particular care to set up my writing tools around these comforts and have multiple sets: one that is portable as well as a set that is more grounded at my desk. I have the same chiclet-style keyboard in the wired (desktop) and wireless (tablet) model for the precise reason that I sometimes like to write outdoors (or in the olden, pre-pandemic days, at a caf√© in …gasp …public.) In short, backyard blogging starts with some investment in having a device or method that is capable of not just working, but working for you, in said backyard.

Connecting Disconnected

And now that you have a computer, tablet, or some other writing device set up in a comfortable position outside, you probably need to link it up to the internet. Of course there is always the option of writing your post offline in a text editor and uploading later when you are back in the house or can push it to your blog platform in one effort. A good wireless internet setup that reaches out into a moderate sized backyard in not an expensive investment these days. Nor is tethering your device to a wifi hotspot supplied by your phone a thing that is going to drain most moderately-sized cell phone data packages. Provided you’re not uploading dozens of photos or expecting to share a full video, bringing the internet to your backyard should be a practical and straightforward way to extend your writing space into your green space.

Undistracting

Wind. Bugs. Varying sunlight. The birds fluttering to and fro. The honks of a car horn on the street. A siren passing by on the main road a few blocks away. A neighbour calling his dog. I sit in virtual silence, or listening to music, when I work inside. In my suburban backyard, as much as I revel in the life of the neighbourhood, distraction becomes a real thing when I’m trying to put my fingers onto that keyboard and focus on the words. On sunny mornings the sun comes up past the neighbours house in just the right way that a glare blots out any hope of visibility on my tablet screen. If I sit my chair in just the right angle it blocks most of that light, but it is distracting nonetheless. A pair of headphones and some music is a way to block it out if I need to, but mostly blogging outside means tweaking the way you work to work well with the distractions in the outside space, air, noise, and life.

Feeding the Inspiration

Finally, when the space is just right, the tools are working great, the bugs are shooed away, and the glare of the sun is not obscuring the screen, I find it never feels quite right to sit outside in the yard without a beverage and maybe a snack of some kind. In the mornings I write with a hot cup of coffee and a bit of sourdough toast. In the evenings, after a day of work fuels my after-hours wordiness, a cold beer or a finger of whiskey can often pry loose that tangled inspiration. Maybe you like a glass of wine or a glass of icy cold soda. Maybe you nibble at a snack of some kind, pop yourself some popcorn or crinkle open a bag of potato chips. Backyard blogging, if nothing else, feels like permission to enjoy the act a little more, and to feed your inspiration with the space, the fresh air, and something more literal to sip on. Or maybe it’s just me.