Live Writing: Make Your Words Come to Life

Curious readers have asked me about my writing process. In my nature writing, I often do what I call live writing. It causes readers to feel as if they are with me in the woods, on a lake, or in a field.

A weekly nature column I wrote for over five years had many examples of this process. It’s something I started doing in the field at some point and continued with because it was so effective.

Live writing captures an experience with words in real time. Let me explain the process. I’ll use an example of observing mushrooms in the woods.


  • One: go into the woods
  • Two: find an object to observe (mushrooms)
  • Three: dictate/describe what I see into my phone notes
  • Four: email the notes to myself and transfer them to a Word document
  • Five: edit
  • Six: publish

Hey, presto! Nature writing made easy!

Following is a dictation example of writing about woodland mushrooms. (Keep in mind typos and auto correct are part of dictation and are corrected during the editing step.)

I walked along a path that meandered through the woods. Norway pines, Paper birch, oaks. The air was warm, damp. It wrapped around me like a towel. It had rained in the night and morning dew was still on the ferns. Sunlight steams in through the trees. It was going to be a warm day and I was glad I had gotten out early before too much heat and the bugs. Not far into the woods I noticed the mushrooms. They were everywhere. A damp summer had provided them with conditions they love. 

(Darla do a little research here on best conditions for mushrooms in the woods.)
I wondered what the difference was between mushrooms and fungus. Are all fungi mushrooms? Are all mushrooms fungi? Is fungi plural?

Purplish color, mossy green, pale yellow and cream.
Wavy and stacked seashells.
(Check into the type of mushrooms here. I think they are shelf mushrooms? Or bracket mushrooms? Those the same thing?)

On the stump of a tree. Other fallen trees around with various mushroom formations. Green leaves, grasses, damp ground. Overall a damp place in the woods.

I looked at them for a long time, those seashells in the woods. Where there was no sea. It’s funny how nature has such similarities and such vast differences. I don’t think mushrooms are anything like seashells except in some cases appearance. Have you ever seen a mushroom in the woods that looks like a seashell? I’ve seen some that look a little bit like oysters. Just as I write this I think well, of course there are oyster mushrooms. Sheesh!

After I take my nature notes via dictation, and finish my walk, I transfer what I said to a word document and formulate a column, an article, or whatever written document I’m putting together. I won’t bore you with the finished product because a lot of it would be redundant as I stick pretty closely to my nature notes. If you check out some of the pieces written on this website about various nature adventures you will see the result of outdoor exploration, dictated nature notes, research, and editing. Hike to Devil’s Backbone is a good example.

Live writing is real-time, in-the-moment (audible) note-taking that produces realistic prose. I love it and use the method frequently with nature pieces. It works well with anything descriptive, though. Just one trick of the trade I like to share. If you write, give it a try.

Your writing will come to life!