Walk Like a Writer

ARGH!! I’M STUCK! I’ve written myself into a corner and can’t find my way out. While I stare at the screen, hoping the right words will magically appear, I feel an inner nudge. It’s my smarter self trying to get my attention. She’s thinks I should power down my computer, put on my sneakers, and take a walk. And she’s right. Whenever I’ve taken a writing issue out for a thirty-minute hike around my neighborhood, that issue has magically been resolved. Every time.

And it’s not just me. In Brenda Ueland‘s classic book, IF YOU WANT TO WRITE, she says, I will tell you what I have learned myself. For me, a long five- or six-mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day. I have done this for many years. It is at these times I seem to get re-charged.

A few years ago, THE NEW YORKER published an article called “Why Walking Helps Us Think. In it, writer Ferris Jabr asks, What is it about walking, in particular, that makes it so amenable to thinking and writing? The answer he discovered has to do with how walking affects our bodies—including our brains, which balance atop the narrow column of our necks and benefit from the increase in oxygen a good walk delivers.

So, yes, like all exercise, walking gets our energy moving. But different than a yoga class or gym visit, a good walk also provides a stream of images to fill our creative well. When we walk, we see things: people, trees, big yellow steam shovels shifting mounds of earth. All these visual elements “fill the well,” providing us with increased creative fuel, which is why Julia Cameron recommends a weekly walk in her Artist’s Way books.

Walking and writing are both independent acts. Both are self-fueled. They stroll happily hand in hand. Today, walk like a writer. Head out onto the nearest path with a literary dilemma in mind. Walk until it’s resolved—then marvel at the elegant solution you and your feet have found.

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The illustration for this post, “Walk,” is by chilangoco, and is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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