By Carol Anne Strange | Posted 4/27/10 | Updated 2/22/23
I do not class myself as a serious or even consistently regular walker but I do love to walk and, as a writer, I find that it is vital for my creativity. Once I am motivated and in my rhythm, a walk takes on a life of its own, opening up my imagination and providing me with an endless stream of ideas.
A good walk gives me space to reduce the mind-clutter so that there is room for creative reflection, curious thought or simply the pleasure of enjoying the moment. It also allows me to truly stretch my legs and enjoy the tonic of different scenery after lengthy stints in my writer's nest.
But there's more too. Walking is a chance to escape and explore a patch of this magically diverse landscape, and I am always excited by the prospect of discoveries with each footfall. Inspiring stuff for a curious mind!
I've done my share of bad weather walking over the years so perhaps you can forgive me for saying that, these days, I much prefer fair-weather walking. I have been lucky to cherry-pick such days. That said, there are pleasures and insights to be gained from being caught out in a rain shower or fighting my way against a fierce gale. All experience feeds the imagination and there's something about embracing the elements, which brings out the drama in one's creativity.
When I tackle a route, I usually cover anything from two to ten miles. That's no great distance. After all, in the days of poet Wordsworth, William and his sister Dorothy, along with their literary companions, often walked anything between 12 and 20 miles a day and on a regular basis.
It's no surprise that Wordsworth and the likes of ST Coleridge gained so much inspiration on their walks. Their poetry is full of nature's magic and musings experienced while out on foot. You don't have to walk such great distances to tune into your creativity. Even a short walk of a mile or two will prove beneficial. If I'm honest, I favour walks of just three to four miles and I like to vary my pace, and take time to stop, explore, reflect and devour the changing scenery.
I have spent hours on the circular Rydal path in the English Lake District between Grasmere and Rydal. It is a route savoured by many of our greatest artists and writers. How can one not stop by the lake just to admire the shifting light? The route is about five miles but there's so much to see and I like to stand still simply to just `be', and this is important for creative thinking.
Moments of stillness allow you to be fully aware and capture the present moment. Like a story, walking has a certain beginning, middle and end. The imagination shifts through the landscape during a walk, and those stopping points provide ideas, which can be committed to a notebook.
Walking a familiar route is a pleasure but it's often the unplanned walks and newly discovered paths the spontaneous `let's see where this path takes us' that excites the neurons and teases the imagination. These particular walks offer a playground for the senses. I have discovered magical woodland glades, rocky outcrops with endless views, secluded paths where only the sedating trill of wildlife fills the air, and timeless landscapes, which leave a permanent imprint on the memory, simply by taking another unplanned path. In some cases, I have only walked less than a mile or so to find these little treasures.
Sometimes, I sing when I walk (to myself of course) or recite poetry or, if I'm with willing companions, discuss the profundities of life, the universe and everything but it's the silent moments that are the most insightful. It's during these times that thought deepens or I sense life's natural rhythms flowing through me, and an idea for a story unfolds. The action of walking silently through the landscape brings clarity to the mind, and opens consciousness to a plethora of ideas and solutions. It truly is creativity in motion and I always return inspired and mind spilling over with inspiration.
Walking is, without doubt, great exercise and a celebrated pastime for many people but, for me, it is also a vehicle that takes me right to the heart of my imagination, allowing the creative playtime that I have always craved since childhood. Whether it's just being out in the fresh air or the action of moving through the landscape, thoughts are given the space needed to think creatively, and I can't think of anything else that is so effectively inspiring.
©2010 Carol Anne Strange. All rights reserved.
Carol Anne Strange is a prolific writer and creativity guide. She is author of the novel Light Weaver and has been published widely in a variety of formats. When she's not writing, she is usually creating with The Imaginists. Find out more at: CarolAnneStrange.com.