Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Walking and Writing Join Hands Down Inspiration Lane

“Shall we walk as we talk?” is an old stereotyped line from movies to give the actors some action during a dialog. In a similar fashion, but without such cinematic contrivance, you can actually write as you walk. At least in your head. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m a big proponent of taking walks or hikes in between writing sessions. I especially like to do so if away at a writing retreat, when large expanses of my time are indeed spent writing. To clear the head, to change course, to take a fresh perspective on the last few hours spent writing, nothing beats a no-cost walk down a long city street or a circuitous tree-lined path.

Of course, I’m far from the only writer who believes in a good outdoor walk to stir the imagination and calm the intensity of previous indoor concentration. In his book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work,” editor Mason Currey talks about some of the formulaic habits that writers, artists and composers – as well as philosophers and scientists -- have plied to aid and abet their creativity.

British novelist Charles Dickens, for one, wrote five hours daily from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in complete silence. Afterward, he’d take a three-hour walk, during which he’d take notes – filled with ideas for the next day’s writings. Danish philosopher and poet Kierkegaard garnered many of his notions during his daily walks. Sometimes when he’d return home, bursting with inspiration, he’d stand at his desk quickly jotting down his thoughts, still wearing his hat and gripping his walking stick.

While some authors, such as Gertrude Stein, wrote only for 30 minutes a day (and remember, she wrote very short pieces), most writers that Currey examined found that two to three hours of writing a day was about right. And as far as time of day, Sylvia Plath and Nicholas Baker were or are crack-of-dawn morning writers. George Sand, Marcel Proust and Franz Kafka, on the other hand, liked to work late at night, if not in the middle of the night.

Yet among all creatives, it seems that walking is the most common way to refresh the mind and offer an inspirational break.


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