I try to walk every day. Outside. Without a phone in my hand or headphones plugged into my ears. Just me, and the path ahead.
Because I live in the Chicago area, this can get a little challenging in the winter, but I still try to get out and walk, sometimes stamping through the snow and braving the wind chill, maybe lasting only fifteen minutes.
I’m one of those writers who finds that time away from the keyboard is actually some of my best writing time. It’s then that the characters and plot and setting and dialogue that have been bouncing around in my head seem to straighten out and make some sense.
“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow,” wrote Henry Thoreau. Well-known walking writers include Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Joyce Carol Oates.
So what is it about getting outside and moving your feet that helps get those creative juices flowing?
Research is finding that walking allows the brain to work in a different way. Walking has been shown to improve the ability to shift between modes of thought, increase attention and memory, and allow us to recover from mental fatigue, all of which are important when creating. And walking has another benefit — it elevates our mood.
I’ve found this to be true, as well — when I get too busy doing, I don’t dedicate enough time to thinking.
I know that after sitting for hours at my desk, fingers curled around the keyboard, staring at the screen, I feel instantly better the moment I get outside. When I walk, my mind has time to meander. To roam and wander and stroll along, with nothing awaiting my attention. At least for the next hour or so.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you to close that document and open your front door right now, there’s another benefit to walking around your neighborhood. What you observe, feel, hear, and smell can find its way into your work in progress! I’ve had this happen a number of times.
Are you a walking writer? Have you found it helpful in your work? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. That is, when you get back inside.
Michele Weber Hurwitz, the author of Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House 2011) and a forthcoming middle grade novel in 2014, is on her way out for a walk. Visit her at www.micheleweberhurwitz.com.