Biophilia: does nature boost writers’ productivity?

Does spending time in contact with nature boost your productivity? I’ve found it can have the opposite effect!

The biophilia hypothesis says that contact with nature makes us feel good. Productivity experts say that feeling good makes us more productive. Thus, contact with nature will make us more productive too. It’s all very logical. Serious people have even conducted experiments that seem to show better productivity and more creative thinking coming from people with plants in their offices.

That’s all well and good, but I feel it can be carried to extremes where contact with nature while you work is very counterproductive indeed!

Too much of a thing (not necessarily good)

Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a valid point here. Some people work in very unnatural spaces and would probably benefit from a plant or two or a view out the window. I once worked in a horrible little kiosk in the middle of town, and I hated it. I missed sunshine, plants and birds more than I ever thought I would.

Right now, though, I might just have too much of a good thing. And there are times when contact with nature isn’t all nice little birdies and pretty flowers. It can be downright hair-raising.

During the Southern summer, you’ll find me on the back veranda. It looks onto a dense forest of trees that’s a huge favorite with birds. And this is a RAMSAR site, so there’s always plenty to see.

Here’s where disruption comes into the picture. Sometimes, you can’t just keep working. You have to stop and look. Well, what would you do if you saw an eagle strolling around just a few paces from your desk?

Still, one could argue that even looking up from one’s work for a few minutes can boost productivity. It gives the brain a little break, and of course, eagles are nice things to see and might have a strong biophilic productivity boosting effect.

How about a 1.5m long SNAKE? Hmm?

Yes! I finally get to the point where I can share my experience of the darker side of nature. I was working away at a mag feature with the dogs lying lazily at my feet, when suddenly the little lapdog (aka the Snowbeast) leapt up and charged at something.

Before I could stop him, he began to attack an enormous snake. Thankfully, when I yelled at him, he backed off. I locked the dogs in the house and went back outside to investigate. The snake was clearly injured, thrashing and writhing about.

I didn’t like the look of it one bit, and indeed, it turned out to be a “boomslang” or tree snake, one of the deadliest venomous snakes in the world. What now? I decided to cover the snake with a large plastic cooler box and call for help.

I spent the next hour researching snake catchers and calling them, but none would come. I told them the poor snake was injured, but they didn’t seem to care much. One suggested that I just scoop him up into the box. Yeah, sure.

One magazine feature to miss deadline

Eventually, I gave up, called my partner to discuss the matter, and we agreed to try getting the snake into the box together when he got home. If it was still alive, we’d deliver it to the snake park.

I sat down again and tried to work, but every now and then the box would move about as the snake tried to escape.  A coil emerged from under the box. I sat tight. If it was going to get away, all the better! Still, just you try and write when there’s a gyrating boxful of snake just three paces from your desk.

Oh! And I Skyped my client. Don’t worry, my sense of duty is too strong to just deliver late. At first, he thought I was kidding. Then he decided it was funny. At the time, I didn’t agree at all.

When my partner arrived, I offered to help by videoing the process from a safe distance, but there wasn’t anything to film because the poor snake had died. I photographed it and sent the pic to a herpetologist for confirmation, and yes, it was a tree snake right enough.

Barely a week later, I was able to call the dogs off before they attacked an even larger snake that looked remarkably like a cobra. It slithered away quickly, and I hope it went a long, long way away!

The point is…

Nature is necessary and often nice, but it can be distracting and it doesn’t always make you feel good. In fact, it can make you feel downright queasy! But I still work on my veranda, I’m just less keen on doing it after dark because that’s when the adders come out. Shudder!


About andreadurrheim

I'm an ex-horticulturist turned horticultural journalist turned radio broadcaster and general freelance writer. I'm hoping to promote my work through my blog and find out more about other writers too!
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