Each day I try to take a walk, not a long one – maybe half an hour on a good day. I don't jog (the cardiologist told me it’s bad plan). ‘Everything you need you can get from walking,’ he said. He was right and not just from the health perspective. No one needs me to bleat on about the health benefits, they’re a given. The bonuses I get from walking are ideas that it generates. As I walk, I collect them like I'm on a massive treasure hunt. I often go out with a head full of trouble and return home with a head full of story.
I'm not sure of the science behind it but there is something about the rhythm of my stride and the fact that I am not distracted by all the ‘to do’ things that are in my face when I'm at home: the washing, general chores, stack of bills to be considered, needs of others – in another words a procrastination list that stops me from writing. Of course these things need to be taken care of at some point but not to the detriment of the thing that is most nourishing to me.
In ‘The Artist’s Way’, Julia Cameron suggests regular walking as part of artistic practice. I have found this to be true. When I get out into my walking world, I can let the must/should/ought thoughts rattling around in my head evaporate for the duration. I'm free to concentrate on what I see and hear. I can look at gardens and house designs and the strange objects that people place on their window sills for the world to see. Things like this make me ask, ‘What’s the story behind that?’ The possible answers are like seeds planted in my head, waiting for the trigger to germinate. They are my resources and my tools.
An added bonus I get from daily walks is the fun of people-watching; definitely a writer’s resource. My observation is that early morning walkers are greeters and late-in-the-day walkers are not; possibly they are grumpier and walking off a bad day. I say ‘Hi’ to everyone regardless of whether they return the greeting or not. I note how they interact with me, others and with their environment. It gives me ideas about character. Here’s an example: The other day, I passed a very trendy two-year-old out with his mum. Mum had made sure he had the fashion spot on and his hair gelled into the latest style. He was still being a kid, having a great time squatting to examine something on the path – an ant or piece of rubbish. Like me he was being inspired. As I passed, his mum decided it was time to move on. ‘Come on Arthur, let’s go!’ Arthur? On that, the kid and I exchanged looks.
I'm sure his said, ‘What’s the story behind that?’
Definitely fodder for a head full of story.