I like to walk.
I walk every day, through choice as much as necessity (we are a one car family) and, unless it’s really raining, I enjoy the fresh air and exercise. The gorgeous girl and I walk to her school every day – we play word games and look at the world around us, watching snails sliding along brick walls, flowers blooming and changing, cats and dogs and birds and butterflies. It’s a lovely part of my day and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it. And on the way back, when I’m alone, I relish the opportunity to let my thoughts out to play. I’m exercising my body but also my mind – it’s amazing how many key plot twists or character conundrums I’ve been able to solve simply by walking along, not thinking necessarily hard about the idea, but just letting it flow with my steps. There is a type of meditative walking you can do, where you tie your breathing to the steps so that you are present in the moment – I haven’t tried it, mainly because I’m worried I’ll drift into the road or something, but I like to think that what I do sometimes is similar.
So as a writer, walking is very good for me. I recently wrote a short story inspired by an unusual porch light I noticed on one of my walks, and much of the woodland feel of my Ambeth Chronicles comes from walking through forested lanes as the seasons changed around me. It’s also good if you’re feeling a bit low. Sometimes I wonder why I’m writing, especially if a rejection comes through, but then I walk and remember that I write for the joy of writing itself, of telling these marvellous stories that keep appearing in my mind.
You could argue that working from home as I do gives me more opportunity to walk but it’s something I’ve always done. When I worked full time in an office I always incorporated a walk into my day, whether to or from work (when I could) or, if I was too far from home, using my lunch break to get out and explore the neighbourhood, taking my mind away from the computer screen for a little while.
And that’s another point. When I say walking, I don’t mean wandering along scrolling through Facebook or checking emails or satellite positions or whatever it is those people are doing (you know the people I mean). The ones who walk along holding their phone out in front of them as though it’s some sort of guidance system, leading them to where they need to go. Sure, sometimes I might stop and check for an email if I’m expecting something, but for the most part when I’m walking I’m more interested in what I can see around me, the people I’m with and the ideas in my head. I carry a notepad and pen to jot things down, and then I just let things happen.
So if you’re stuck in the plot, or just need to clear your headspace, go outside and walk it out.
This post, minus a few alterations, was originally published in July 2014, back in the dim dark days when no-one ever came to visit my blog. The sentiments still ring true, and so I thought I’d dig it out, give it a polish, and share with you again. 🙂
I laughed my head off when they came out with that “see-through” app, which basically lets your phone function as a lens that tells you what’s ahead of you, so you don’t even have to raise your head while your walk because the phone screen tells you there’s a lamp post in your path. Oy veh…
But yes, walks are great for daydreaming writing. As are, incidentally, longer drives over country roads. When I was still driving my kids to school (10km there and back – not walkable), a lot of stuff just sort of bubbled up in my head. I’m working on replacing that with a walk, but because I don’t *have* to walk, it’s harder to implement.
Oh, that’s too funny! I did see that somewhere (I can’t remember where), was thinking about installing traffic lights on the ground, so people don’t have to look up from their devices to manage anything insignificant like, you know, getting across the road safely. Madness!
And I do find it a little harder to walk without a destination – I do a lot of walking to get to places, and then the thinking is sort of a bonus. If I didn’t have to do so, I think it would be tougher to get going.
Yes, that’s one of the things I love about Europe – walking is built in. Not for “exercise”, but because you need to get groceries, or go to school, or get to an appointment… America is totally car-dependent. Has something to do with all the extra space over here.
Yes – parking here is hard to come by, and the spaces so much smaller than their North American counterparts. Plus, for the most part, the place is set up for walking, with lots of wooded shortcuts, pavements and pedestrian crossings making it very easy to get around. 🙂
When I lived in Vancouver I used to get the seabus across to the West End from Lonsdale Quay every day after work, then would walk from there to Stanley Park (I lived just nearby). I used to really enjoy that walk, especially with all the scenery and nice buildings.
Totally with you. I walk to resolve writing problems (and for pleasure!), and it always works.
It’s a great way to get everything moving, isn’t it? 🙂
This post inspired my morning. So glad you reposted. I risky would’ve been your friend in 2014 if i had a blog hahaha
Aw, thanks Kristin 🙂 That’s very sweet.
Whenever I have mental block, whether it is writing related or other problem related, I have to get up and move around. It is as if the change of scenery was all it took to think of the problem in a new way.
Yes, it’s amazing what a change of scenery and a bit of movement can do. I find if I sit in the same place too long, I get stiff – obviously I’m getting too old for this 😀
Funny enough, I saw an article just today about lighting up roadways to help those that walk with smartphones. I am not that coordinated to start with so wouldn’t dare.
Oh, that’s the place! I was commenting to Angeliak about it, how ridiculous an idea it was. Humans are the strangest beings, aren’t they? 😀
The saddest thing is it is probably a necessary update.
That is really sad…
I’m with you there! Solved so many plot issues by walking in the woods, by the lake, up a mountain. I just don’t get these people who rush by me on a mission to get to the end, firmly plugged into their I pods. They just don’t SEE any of it, never mind hear the beautiful birdsong or the wind in the trees. If I have my phone in my hand, it’s to take pictures of the beauty that’s all around me. I even have sound recordings on my phone of birds singing, and crows cawing! 😂
Yes, exactly – that’s the only time I get my phone out, unless I’m expecting a call! I love that you’ve recorded the birds, I might have to give that a try myself. Hope you’re having a nice weekend 🙂
You too! I played the recording to my garden birds and they responded… it was amazing! Try it! I also played them birdsong off YouTube. Ok. Maybe I got too much time on my hands when I should be writing! 😂😂😂
Well, I think stopping to listen to birdsong is all part of the creative process, isn’t it? I just took a wander in the woods with the lovely girl and we decided to record the birds as well, taking a leaf from your book. 🙂
Thank you 🙂
I love walking, especially through the woods. There is an arboretum at which I used to work that is close to where I live, and I like to go and hike the trails. I pretend to be phoneless when I go on these types of walks. I will also pretend not to have a phone when I walk through the city at times also. It’s just fun and helps you to notice what’s around you. Like you said, it’s the best way to get writing ideas.
It definitely is! Look up, instead of down – there are so many ideas out there 🙂
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