I make a habit of walking every day. It’s good for my body, good for my brain and great for stretching my imagination. And you don’t have to take my word for it: a Stanford study released in 2014 found that walking can improve creativity. If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo it’s especially important to put time aside to clear your head. But walking should be an integral part of any writer’s practice, every month of the year. Here’s 5 more reasons why walking is great for writers and creatives.
Make new discoveries
I’m lucky to live close to a network of walking and bike paths. There are lots of opportunities to branch off and seek out new paths, trails and neighbourhoods, and when I explore it always pays off. On a recent walk I discovered some whimsical art works attached to trees. They were simple pieces but the idea that art can be anywhere is a lovely one. It’s also a springboard for so many story ideas about the creators of the small artworks and how they came to be.
Find different perspectives
If your writing includes scenes set outdoors, walking can give you plenty of material. What does the traffic look like from the top of a bridge? How do shadows fall across a park at different times of the day? What’s growing on the riverbank? How does a tunnel affect the sound of footsteps? From watching birds squabble to following the natural patterns of falling leaves, whether in cities, suburbs, small towns or rural areas, there is plenty of inspiration in the world outside.
People watch (and listen)
I believe all writers should make a habit of people watching, and I’m always up for a bit of strategic eavesdropping, too. Watching people going about their everyday lives is, for me, almost as important as reading in the writer’s toolkit. How people of different shapes, sizes and ages walk, their gestures, the way they move their bodies through space: all these tiny details can add life to your characters. And if you’re not comfortable with listening into other people’s conversations focusing on the rhythms of speech is just as important to helping you shape your characters’ dialogue.
Get close to nature
Even if you’re living in an inner city there are, I hope, at least a few green spaces where you can be surrounded by nature. Being out in open spaces is calming, and is especially effective if you’re stuck in your writing. The act of moving your body and taking in the scenery around you helps your mind change gears. Ideas you didn’t know were percolating in the messy depths of your brain have a better chance of popping up if you take yourself outside and get active.
Thanks to the great cameras we now carry around in our phones going out for a walk is also an opportunity to capture anything interesting that catches your eye. It can be something simple and practical like a street sign that you might use as a place name in your story or a piece of graffiti that attracts your attention. They might be images you can use on your instagram account that show your fans and followers how you’re spending your day. You might capture something unexpected that prompts a new scene or character for your work-in-progress. It’s so easy and simple to create a visual diary as a source of inspiration just by getting out and walking each day.
There are so many benefits to making writing a regular part of your writing routine. Give it a go and find out for yourself.
Images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All images are from my personal collection.