Every day I walk—it’s become something I have to do. It keeps me sane, as well as fit. The dog enjoys it, too.
I need to exercise outdoors—I’ve never been a fan of gyms. One year, I bought a gym membership for $440 and used it eight times. At only $55 per visit, that was value for money—not.
My best writing ideas seem to come as I’m drifting off to sleep and when I’m walking. I get ideas at the computer, sitting and typing until I hit something, but that can be hard work, and often what comes up is superficial, clichéd and predictable.
Once my legs are moving, however, fresh and original ideas flood my mind. I have no idea where they come from—a subconscious part of my brain that only activates with leg movement—but they’re often a surprise and not at all where I thought the story was headed. More often than not, they fit perfectly and turn out to be where the story needed to go. Then I wonder why I didn’t see it earlier …
My mind drifts as I walk and the thoughts come, undirected, unrestricted. I need that space. My characters fill my head and it’s fun—I feel like a child again, day-dreaming and letting my imagination go, as my legs move me along. I imagine the characters doing what they do—swimming in the river, walking around the shops, conversing with each other. Sometimes, I find I’m talking to myself and pulling faces as I walk. (Please, if you see me doing this, tap me on the shoulder and remind me that I’m in public.)
I don’t always walk to think. Sometimes I listen to podcasts. I like recordings of books and arts shows on Radio National, and Margaret Throsby’s interviews on Classic FM. Margaret not only talks with people in the classical music world, but also with artists, doctors, professors, lawyers, scientists, even ex-Prime Ministers. I’ve learned about termites, the pollution of our oceans, piano playing in the Romantic period, the assassination of JFK, and a host of other topics I might not have otherwise believed interesting.
Listening to these interviews is often inspiring—like attending a mini-Writers’ Festival. They fill me with ideas and tips, or even just a beautiful phrase, like this one from Margaret’s recent interview with Martin Amis. It’s from Auden’s poem ‘The More Loving One’:
‘If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.’
It was enough to remind me of the beauty of a few words, and of a truth.
I need my daily walks, not only mentally and physically, but also to write.
How about you? Do you find walking an idea-generating activity? When do you get your best ideas?