Friday, April 26, 2013

W Is For...Walking

Friedrich Nietzsche and I disagree on a lot of issues. However, as my friend Susan (not the Proser) says, that doesn't mean he was a complete waste of space. And he may have been a trifle hyperbolic, but I still agree with him when he said:
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
When I was in high school, walking is what my friend Kara and I did. We wandered through the neighborhoods, at a not particularly fast pace, chatting with people, and stopping wherever the action was, but still managing to log miles and miles most days.  

I walked quite a bit in college too. Who doesn't?

But it wasn't until I lived on a lonely rural road that I discovered the joy of solitary walking. I will go so far as to say that if I hadn't started walking by myself, I would never have become a writer.  I wandered up and down the corridors of my mind as my feet wandered up and down roads and deserted tracks. I discovered patterns, interesting twists and out of the box answers to problems in real life and in my novel. I talked to God, and felt him answer.

But somewhere along the line, something happened. My kids started growing up and getting busier. I started blogging. My desire to publish a book became more demanding. I started teaching preschool. We got Netflix Instant. I needed to lose weight, so I gave up walking in favor of more intense, less contemplative exercise (and, in an interesting twist, didn't lose any weight.)  We moved to a suburb. For a myriad of reasons, I stopped walking.

Getting back into it has been so hard. Not the actual walking. That's as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, but settling into that meditative state is hard. I find myself timing my walks, thinking about what else I could be doing. What happened to the woman who drove 3 hours to walk by herself on a gorgeous trail for 9 miles? That day, I was so deep in thoughts of a new novel that I couldn't believe it when I got to the trail's end. Only when I thought about it did I realize how jelly-like my legs were. 

Haruki Murakami said:
No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative...act.
I've been swimming twice a week all year long. Now that I can keep up the breaststroke for a long, long time, my mind is starting to roam as I swim. It's such a freeing feeling. (And suddenly, all my heroines can be found at their local pool.)  Doing something over and over and over again seems to be the key.

Other activities that have helped with my writing:
Washing dishes
Cross country skiing
Cutting vegetables (lots and lots of vegetables)

How about you? What actions do you do often enough (and mindlessly enough) that they have become contemplative?


  1. Agatha Christie said, "The best time for planning a book is when you're washing the dishes." :)

    I haven't been able to get the dishes to work for me. But I understand the meditative aspect--I love to think/plan my books right before I drift off to sleep. Of course, that's not always conducive to sleep as I have to get up and write something down so I don't forget it. :) Now I keep a pen, paper, and flashlight on my nightstand.

    1. I love that quote! And I agree that drifting off to sleep is a great time to get good ideas. However I'm not as prepared as you are, so I usually forget all my brilliance. I should remedy that.

  2. I'm hoping that with the nice weather, I'll get myself to walk more. Silly how hard it is just to go out that door - and I really enjoy walking too!

    Believe it or not, weed pulling always helps me.

    1. I thought of mentioning gardening, because it seems like it should be meditative, but I guess I don't do it often enough. My husband would probably love it if I did. :)

  3. I do my best plotting while running. Just getting my blood pumping helps me to think things through. But I can see that walking would be great for generating ideas because the slower pace would allow you to take in the world around you, and the world is a great place for inspiration. :)

    As far as exercise goes, I think you should do whatever activity you most enjoy. Because if you enjoy it, you'll do it.

    1. Running seems like it would be a great way to get into that state. But I've never been able to manage it. I always spend my entire running time thinking about how much longer I've got to run. Wait! I just remembered one Nanowrimo novel that I plotted while running. The girl had to run too. I wonder if all my exercises make it into my novels. I bet they do! I should do some research.

  4. I love walking. It's one of the best places for me to mull through conversations and plots. But, by the time I get home, a lot of that brilliance has overlapped itself and been forgotten. I've tried to come up with some way to remember - stop every few minutes to jot something down on pen and paper? use a recorder and talk into it (looking like a spy - or more likely an idiot)? How do you keep your thoughts together through a 3 hour drive and 9 mile hike?
    Excellent post!

    1. Cathy, who posted right below you, seems to have a great plan. I've tried making voice memos on my phone, but I sound ridiculous. I'm thinking this is something that takes practice. It might be worth it though. It's worth a try!

      Driving! I should add that to my list in the post. But my thoughts over long distances are usually grand, sweeping thoughts that could become whole novels. Or else I keep rethinking the same thing until I have it nearly memorized.

  5. Hi! Stopping by from the A-Z. I make myself walk (or jog) because it's pretty much all the exercise I get, and if I don't do it, my body will be sorry. (Or is already, as I could stand to shed some pounds.) Ideas do percolate as I walk, and so I carry a voice recorder so that I won't lose them. Then, after 10-60 voice recordings (whenever I get around to it), I transcribe them into a diary, so I know what's been on my mind, and what I've gotten accomplished. Been doing it now for three years. I swear by it.

    1. You probably won't come back and check this reply, but if you do...I'd love to know how you do it. The thing I mostly don't want to forget is the dialogue I come up with when I'm walking. I get home and something like this happens: "Oh that's not how he said it. Drat. I can't lead into that whole conversation if I can't remember how he said that one sentence. Arg!" But trying to record my conversations makes me giggle uncontrollably. I sound so insane.

  6. I used to drive around with a tape recorder. I was making an hour commute each way through areas that didn't get radio, so I'd talk my way through scenes and record whatever I thought I might forget later. I didn't feel quite as stupid since I was in my car, by myself, driving on back roads. I think it would be harder to do if I was out walking around, but with phones the way they are today, probably nobody would notice!


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