A long walk. There’s nothing like it on a summery day, with the barest of breezes. Along the beach, and around the breath-taking scenery of the Great Orme, a limestone headland jutting off Llandudno into the Irish Sea. The gulls riding on thermals. Strange insects scurrying over stone, sand-spiders hurrying over undulating dunes. Sitting on grass, looking out over Anglesey and Puffin Island, watching kayakers in the sparkling water below, but otherwise alone. Bliss.
A walk to a writer is about more than just getting exercise (though that is a key factor, as we do spend too many hours sitting at desks, tapping words into computers or running pens over paper that any excuse to get up and move around is welcome, even if it is just dancing along to a Scissor Sisters song and hoping nobody catches you!). A walk to a writer is about allowing the creative juices to flow. There is something strangely conducive and seductive about putting one foot in front of another for miles on end, and the way it seems to unlock inner potential.
I find, as I knock back the miles, that I begin to craft sentences, and redraft them, find the rhythm in them. My footfalls become a metronome to which to time the music of my words. I find solutions to problems that have been bugging me, sometimes for weeks. If I’m struggling how to get Character A to Point B in the best way possible, I go for a walk. As is often the case, I’m working on multiple projects at once, and getting a little stuck – todays walk was to try and find the solution to one problem – I solved it, but not until mile 14 of a 16 mile stroll… but I solved it, and that’s what mattered. And that solution made the walk I’d just undertaken all the more sweeter.
Taking such long walks might not be conducive in the same manner for all writers but I know it works for me. It worked for Charles Dickens too, so at least I’m in august company. And I’m getting exercise, both mental and physical contemporaneously. As Dickens once said, “The sum of the whole is this: Walk and be happy, walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”
So next time you’re stuck in your writing, and it’s a not bad day outside, maybe go walk for a few miles. You might just find the solution to your problem and length your life in the process. See you out there.