Why Writers Walk

I work in an academic library at a private Christian university. Each week in the Library, sessions for faculty take place in our center for teaching and learning. Basically this means that faculty offer presentations to other faculty as a way to encourage professional development or personal growth – they are free, and usually a lunch is also provided. (Win-win!)

Not all of the sessions generally apply to me, as I am not traditional teaching faculty, (I am Library faculty), but I go to the ones that seem interesting or pertinent to my job. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a session on creative writing – specifically on how the act of walking positively impacts our writing.

One of our Lang/Lit professors led the session, and she did an amazing job. By the end of it, I was convinced (or maybe reconvinced) that I needed to start walking daily to benefit my writing.

The connection between walking and writing is nothing new – many renowned authors were walkers. In the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, there is a whole chapter discussing the reasons why many creative and successful people (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ludwig van Beethoven, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Dickens to name a few) incorporated long walks into their routines.

I strongly believe in the connection between walking and creativity – my issue is more just a matter of prioritizing it and doing it.

The day the session was scheduled, it was pouring rain outside, and Abilene also was under a tornado watch. (We don’t typically get tornados, so I didn’t worry too much.) I figured the “Walk and Write” session scheduled for 11:30 would be cancelled. But the rain had stopped by then, and it left everything fresh and clean – really just perfect for walking.

One of the walking/writing exercises I did was called a “photo walk.” During a 10-minute walk, you take a picture of something that strikes your fancy, and then later you write a descriptive paragraph about the photo. You can be as imaginative as you want in describing the picture. If any emotions were stirred within you, you can lean into those while you write. The idea is just to get you inspired.

As I walked around our college campus, I came across a pattern in the brick walkway – circles of brick getting smaller and smaller, and ending with one small circle in the middle. I didn’t notice this pattern anywhere else in the path, and since it caught my attention, I decided it would be my picture. (See the image at the top). I also decided to include my feet in the picture off to the side a bit.

When I got back to write, here’s what came out:


I recognize this is not the best writing there is, but it was neat how it got me to ponder about things I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. My writing started out pretty basic and literal – “I’m standing on the edge of a circle.” But then other themes started coming out, like the idea of not being in the middle, or not being included or important. The question, “am I the center of anyone’s universe?” emerged, and then I instantly thought of my 4-year-old-son and how he adores me. Which then led me to bring a spiritual focus into it, and think about how God loves me more than any other person can. In a way, I am the center of His universe (I know that God loves everyone and so by that logic, everyone is the center of His universe…)

I didn’t have a specific goal when I started writing about my photo, I just let the thoughts flow out. I am always amazed at what ends up down on the page after I write. So many times it’s nothing I would have expected or predicted. It’s like magic, really.

If you’ve never tried walking to boost your creativity, give it a try a few times this week and see what happens! I recommend not listening to music or taking a friend – just let your mind wander (while you simultaneously wander) and see where your thoughts go. If you like, you can focus on a word or theme, similar to meditation exercises. Personally, I’ve enjoyed just going out with no specific focus to just see where my mind wants to take me.

Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Why Writers Walk

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