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.

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Connecting My Spirituality and Creativity

The past two days I have set my alarm for 5:30am (though to be honest I snoozed ’till 6) and got up to write for 20 minutes. It’s still dark outside, and no one else in the house is awake. I take our laptop to our office and plug in the charger, as our computer’s battery hardly holds a charge anymore. I open a blank Google doc and begin to write. I’m not writing about anything specific – just writing to write. Writing to learn. Writing to listen.

This early morning practice of writing each day is a recommendation by Janice Elsheimer in her book, The Creative Call. She calls it having an “artist’s daybook.” The term “artist” does not have to imply art in the traditional sense of painting or sculpting – creating in any avenue allows us to call ourselves artists. Here’s why Elsheimer says we should journal in our daybook every morning:

  • To force yourself to have quiet time to hear what God has to say to you
  • To be receptive to God’s guidance in nurturing the artist within us
  • To tap into our unconscious source of creativity
  • To track our growth as an artist, to note what works or doesn’t work

There is a lot of creativity in me that has been sitting dormant for a while. Having a baby, working full-time and going back to graduate school have pressed me for time. (At least, that’s my excuse.) When I’m not having my time taken up by those things, it’s usually a game of catching up on things like laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and all the other day-to-day kinds of things. I had convinced myself that creative tasks like writing, reading for fun, crocheting, painting, or playing music were activities that I could reward myself with once all the urgent tasks had been completed. The thing is, those “urgent” tasks just never all get done. There always seems to be at least one more dish I could clean, one more room I could vacuum, or one more load of laundry I could do.

Since starting The Creative Call, I have had a shift in my mindset. Elsheimer makes the claim that God created all of us with skills and talents to be creative, and we can use these skills and talents for the work of God. The parts of me that want to be creative and desire to write, read, and paint are God-given.

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