Time for a walk. Here in Montana the snow is patches except on the mountains and the rivers are rising melt water. Spring whispers and the long-range forecast is calling for more mild weather. Yes! Temperatures well above freezing, but still cool. Great walking weather.
I’ve talked about walking before, but this seems a good time to address it, not just for everyone, but as both a tool for writing and aid to writer health. So, here are the reasons why walking is a key to my health and writing.
A healthy writer is a productive writer and there are ample medical sites on the internet that can describe in varying degrees of detail the health benefits exercise provides. In my case, finding a way to gain aerobic exercise is more difficult because I suffer from a couple of lung issues that limit my choices (Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Pan-lobular Emphysema). Walking allows me to start slow until my lungs are able to expand more fully while also raising my heart rate. It’s a balancing act, but worth the effort.
Though there’s no equal to meditation, walking is an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness. Whether I’m walking off anger, stress, or simply clearing away thoughts, walking is a great way to empty my mind except for those required to place one foot in front of the other, which becomes as automatic as breathing (still, please take care when crossing streets, even in crosswalks…there are crazy drivers out there). For the writer this also means clearing away the distractions that steal our creativity.
Given that walking is a great way to shove aside the world’s excesses it should come as little surprise that doing so opens the door to ideas. That bucking stallion in your head is now ready to run like Secretariat. At the same time, walking also represents a built-in distraction if we choose to employ it. Many writers report they’re minds are freed to make creative leaps while performing routine, mundane tasks. Common examples are driving, washing dishes, vacuuming, or showering. Walking works that way, but also has the health benefits.
Walking is an excellent opportunity to observe the world around us and generate ideas. Here in Missoula the walking paths pass through a variety of environments and provide a multitude of superb views. There are homes, businesses, parks, the downtown, river, mountains, people, and wildlife. There’s also ample access to easy trails in forested areas. The slow pace makes it easier to spot what we might otherwise miss were we engaged in a more strenuous activity like running or biking. Personally, the slower pace also allows me to take pictures. I enjoy amateur photography and it in turn helps generate ideas. Many of them end up in this blog.
Well now, this is what it’s really all about. There aren’t many activities that afford the opportunity to write while you walk, but walking is one of them. Locally, there are benches on the walking path, but I can also record notes if I slow my pace, which no one would describe as fast. I can’t count how many poems I’ve composed. More important are all the impasses I’ve overcome in stories. One foot in front of another while thinking, What about this? What about that? What if I tried this? What are the implications if I did it this way? The number of breakthroughs I’ve had on the path are innumerable.
I’m fortunate that in Missoula these benefits are recognized and appreciated by so many (it’s one of the reasons I moved here). The walking opportunities abound. In fact, were I so inclined, I could walk from one hundred feet behind my home to the town of Hamilton over forty miles to the south without leaving a walking path except to cross streets. The last segment was completed late last year. For now I’ll leave that to those far younger and healthier than me while I fuel my writing walking around town.