Walking and writing

I’ve heard authors say that when they’ve hit a sticky patch in their work-in-progress, a good long walk enables them to find a solution. The awkward scene, the optimal sequencing of events, the need for a character to behave in a way that seems out of character – these and other literary situations create problems for all of us. Go for a walk with such a problem in mind,say the aforementioned advisers, and it will sort itself out, so when you return home you can go straight to your computer and write the passage that was thwarting you.

It doesn’t quite work for me. I need to fit several short scenes in a suitable sequence into the part of the novel I’m writing, but juggling with the options hasn’t given me a solution. So this morning I set off with the neighbour’s fat dog (now becoming less fat because of all the walking) and did several miles along a particularly delightful part of the Peak District, Miller’s Dale. I took note of the flowers (common spotted orchids, valerian, red campion, bloody cranesbills) and birds (chiffchaffs, blackcaps, redstarts, and the more common species) and the huge mature trees, and watched the fish gliding through the River Wye. It was a delight, despite the rain, and the dog enjoyed it too. But did it resolve my sequencing problem? No, it didn’t.

Nevertheless I returned it better spirits and wrote a different section of the book, successfully. So although on today’s evidence and indeed the evidence of other days I can’t agree with the assertion that walking enables you to resolve immediate problems, it provides both pleasure and inspiration – and a new surge of creative energy.

My reasons might not be the same as other authors’, but I strongly recommend walking for writers!

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