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. 🙂