Nature Writing 101

Guest Post by Janelle Franz blogging at Invent Your Story.

I’m not a professor. Before you hit X, you need to know I did take a nature writing class in college. So, I am professionally taught. Right now, my butt is on a rock and an oak root is buddying up to my coffee mug. It doesn’t get more natural than that.

Welcome to nature writing.

My first assignment to you will be the same challenge I took from my professor in college:

  1.       Get up a half-hour earlier than you normally do.
  2.       Make coffee. It must be coffee.
  3.       Grab a notebook, pen, and coffee – then go outside.

We had to go to the same spot every day and write – so we were advised to pick our spot carefully. I climbed a tree by a pond back then. I’m feeling kind of lame on this rock now, but that’s okay. I’ll climb a tree tomorrow.

Anyway, once you’re in your “spot” – and if you live in the north during the school season, you’re probably getting cold fast – here’s what you do:

  1.       Write what you hear, taste, smell, touch, and see.
  2.       Write what you’re thinking about.
  3.       Write how you feel.
  4.       Drink your coffee.

The coffee part was the killer for me because I was not a coffee drinker – so I thought I’d be super-smart and buy the cheapest stuff I could find.


But it became an odd companion to me. And I visited that tree long after the class was over. You know, it’s funny because it sounds like a complete waste of time. And there are people who will always think something like nature writing is a complete waste of time no matter what you say.

I was going to try and describe all the things I hear, and feel, and imagine right now, but my professor nailed it:

You’ve just got to experience it for yourself.

So, we studied a bunch of books, wrote reports, and all that jazz. For today, I’m going to cut out early and find a tree. As for you, you have your assignment.

Class dismissed.

3 thoughts on “Nature Writing 101”

  1. Now this is one assignment I’m not going to complain about! I’ve found that when I write about my “adventures,” it’s not the intellectual or plot-based content that readers usually respond to. Rather, it’s the descriptions of my sensory experiences. So I can definitely see the value in recording what one tastes, sees, smells, etc.

    Lastly, I hope your coffee-related skills have improved since your nature writing course. Bad coffee is the scourge of humanity.


  2. I couldn’t agree more! Best wishes to you on your writing quest, and thanks for commenting. I have (thank God) wised-up since my early coffee days. House roast mixed with hazelnut is a staple in my kitchen. Cheers!


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