Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Take a Hike! A brisk walk is a writer's best friend

As writers we're often told that the key to writing success is to apply the seat of our pants to the seat of our chair, and to stay there until we've finished whatever sentence, paragraph, chapter, or daily word count adds up to "success" for that day.

But when you get stuck, sometimes the best thing you can do is to get up from that chair and go take a hike. Writers from time immemorial have relied on brisk walks to clear their heads and get their writing back on track.

Ed Hirsch, writing in the American Poetry Journal, says, "Poetry is a vocation. It is not a career but a vocation. I have associated that calling with my life's work, with walking. I love the leisurely pace amplitude, the spaciousness of taking a walk, of heading anywhere, somewhere on foot. You cross a threshold, and you're on your way. . . . Poetry is written from the body and mind, and the rhythm and the pace of a walk gets you going and grounded. . . . Daydreaming is one of the key sources of poetry--a poem often starts as a daydream that finds its way into language--and walking seems to bring a different sort of alertness, an associative kind of thinking, a drifting state of mind."

Julia Cameron, author of many books on creativity, is such a great advocate of walking to stir the creative process that she devoted an entire chapter to it in her book The Vein of Gold. "When we talk about inspiration we are talking about drawing breath," she writes. "Walking makes our breath rhythmic and repetitive. As our breath steadies and soars, so does our thought." She goes on to cite many examples of great walkers, such as the English poets.

It's summertime in North Idaho. Permission granted to get up from your desk and take a walk, to think, to dream, to get the blood flowing through your brain, to spark ideas and gain new perspectives. To breathe in . . . literally "in-spire." Just be sure to get back to the desk while those ideas are still fresh in your mind!

Have you found walking, or any other form of physical exercise, to be beneficial for your writing?


Jennifer Rova said...

Nicely stated way to get us to start pumping oxygen into our starved minds. I feel guilty writing if my house is messy therefore writing after 9:00pm works because I cannot clean then as the noise would disturb others. Cleaning the first of the day frees me physically and mentally to write. (Dr. Freud is shaking his head.)

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

I, too, concentrate better when my house is clean, or at least the area in my line of vision.

elizabethbrinton said...

A bike ride out to Higgins Point fires my jets. Ideas come to me on walks too. Perhaps the chart topper, is a long swim in lake Coeur d' Alene. I agree. When stuck, the best possible idea is to get moving.