Walking to Write

6MelselfportraitCan an hour walking within the writing day, as part of my writing practice, help me work with greater celerity? This article in the New Yorker says yes: Why Walking Helps Us Think.

I decide to give it 100 days, 6-7 days a week. To note my experience, and the Writers’ Rewards.

My conclusions are at the bottom of the list of days.

Day 100 3 hours round Glasgow. Rewards: 1. Time with my niece before she flies home. 2. Gorgeous terra cotta fountain to honour Queen Victoria. 3. Great train trip arriving 2 hours earlier than expected (caught an earlier train). 4. I’m excited about my new paperback cover, although it’s going to be a business to paint.

And that’s my hundred days.

Day 99  1 hour round Glasgow. Rewards: 1. We meet up with my niece who is dancing in the Irish Dancing Worlds. 2. I remember that practically everything was invented by Scots and decide my husband must have Scottish blood, as he would have been a great engineer and is good at everything.

Day 98 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1. My hip flexor is much improved. 2. I am still adjusting collar and hair as per Korean care for appearance. 3. I adjust my speaking wardrobe for the new season. 4. I begin looking through and notating submissions with a smile on my face. Good stories.

Day 97 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1. Smiling as I walk. 2. I enjoy creating the cover for The Seven Swans 3. Portrait coming along. 4. Feeling relaxed, looking forward to Glasgow in three days.

Day 96 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1. Spring blossoms 2. 2 blogs published 3. Formatting smooth on paperback 4. Free croissants at the corner store due to excellent timing

Day 95 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1. Spring air. 2. Paperback creation advancing nicely. 3. I type with a smile on my face.

Day 94 1 hour round town after 2 days of travel, jetlag, and minor walking. Rewards: 1. Not much jetlag 2. Caught up on magazine tasks 3. I decide that the way to choose what my main work for the day is, is to think what will be important to me in 30 years. 4. And, integrity–doing what I said I’d do. 5. And a little gift to help my future self with upcoming projects. Like finding a file for the next paperback, that sort of thing.

Day 93 Last day in Busan, 3 hours around the park. Rewards: 1.sketch of tiny island with huge smokestack 2.Street food 3. Dak galbi with cheese, which sounds Klingon, but far tastier 4. Ice cream 5. The man who said “it’s wise to walk and think”.

Day 92 2 hours round Busan enjoying sights and purchasing keepsakes to impact life in the UK Rewards: 1. Rice dishes 2. Korean cutlery 3. Many face masks, avocado, cucumber and one labelled “snail” which I bought to be adventurous. 4. I have had Kimchee (any kind of pickled veg) every day and I feel really good. Got to stick with this

Day 91 1 hour round Jeju beach Rewards: 1. ice snow dessert 2. new hotel room with jaccuzi bath 3. Moroccan feast in Uzbekistan area of Busan 4. Glad I brought my warm coat

Day 90 3 hours through caves and Jeju city Rewards: 1.Bimbambop 2. Korean barbeque 3. Reading the alphabet much better. 4.Almost get the indoor and outdoor bath shoes straight. 5. There’s a full length mirror outside the hostel. I begin checking collar and bag straps, hair, and so on in the Korean manner before going anywhere. Note: I would like to keep this habit.

Day 89 2 hours round traditional village. Rewards: 1.Cuttlefish pancake 2. Motor scooter ride round Udo Island 3. Seafood hot pot with giant snails 4. I win at Monopoly  for first time in my life, may be a kind act by my son 5. I write a new business plan. Note, when I don’t think about work at all, the big picture seems to paddle right up to me and offer its wares.

Day 88 2 hours in Jeju Rewards: 1. calm waterfall 2.Amazing Korean barbecue 3. The next morning I do two hours of outlining future projects over coffee.

Day 87 2 hours round Haeuendae Beach. Rewards: 1.smokehouse brunch 2. Chicken and beer 3. Not that it’s all about the food or anything.

Day 86 2 hours round Busan. Rewards: 1. Cultural centre, beautiful dance and music. 2. Best pizza (thin crust, mozzarella, feta, salami, pesto with lemon squeezed over it) 3. very hurty plastic bath sandals that address pressure points on soles of feet 4. I am keeping up my burpees 5. Heated floors everywhere

Day 85 1 hour walk through the pouring rain on the beach. Rewards: 1. I learn more of the alphabet. 2. The spa, $15 an amazing deal. It’s the big Korean thing. I also get aloe and cucumber face masks.

Day 84 3 hours up the hill above Busan. Rewards:  1.iced fermented but non-alcoholic rubarb drink. 2. a beginning to learning the Korean alphabet 3. Nap for jet lag. All through this trip to South Korea, the greatest reward is spending time with my son and his wonderful girlfriend, and greatest wish is that my other son could be here too.

Day 83 1 hour + round town by the river. Rewards: 1.Another walk with Mark and a new pathway that takes us by the river, the ruin and the allotments. 2. People are keeping chickens there. 3. And ducks. 4. Sent in my novella for copy editing. 5. Also the illustrations. 6.And my bag is packed to visit my younger son. 7. And my phone is set up to send birthday wishes to my older son. 8. Although I missed the Oscars again, at least I get to see pictures.

Day 82 1 hour round town. Rewards: Time with my very nice husband, who read my revised novella before I sent it to the copy editors. Also chocolate for my son’s truly lovely girlfriend. I can’t wait to see him, and meet her, maybe later this week.

Day 81 1 hour + round town & the park. Rewards: 1. I have noticed that the last couple of days, 80-81 I wake up looking forward to the walk. I always seem to enjoy the walk, and I’m happy to do it (“The wise man does nothing reluctantly”) but looking forward to it upon opening my eyes is new. 2. Revisions going well. 3. 2 amazing soup bowls by Joyye.

Day 80 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1 More progress on the ghost book and the novella. 2. The magnolias are blossoming out. 3. Mapped out a couple of talks I want to give, one on Time Management for Writers and one on Playing to Strengths in a Writing Career.

 Day 79  1 hour about town. Rewards: 1. three more chapters edited on the ghost book 2. Starting point was the cinema and The Big Short is my favourite movie this year.

Day 78 1 hour + 1/2 hour up past the park and down the lane. Rewards: 1. Finished another 2 chapters of revisions 2. Did several illustrations for Issue 11. 3. Had hot meal waiting for train-challenged husband 4. Daffodils are finally out. And a squirrel who was too cute to draw.

Day 77 1 hour + 1/2 hour down past the allotments and over the railway line. Reward: 1.Lovely pub lunch 2. I began revisions to paranormal novella despite lovely pub lunch.

Day 76 1 hour up the old railway line and through town. Rewards: 1.I finished my 2nd round of novella revisions for Issue 11 and 2, made good progress with the raft of illustrations for this issue. 3. Steak frites – say no more.

Day 75 1 hour round the Cathedral and through town. Rewards: I’m 3/4 through the 100 days, and will have no desire to stop walking. The whole point is to see whether it robs me of writing time or adds to my progress. Today, I’m almost through my novella revisions, and I’m happy with them. The structure was sound to start with, thank my lucky stars, and more than that, thanks to Blake Snyder, Christopher Vogler, and Karen Weisner. A pleasure and a privilege, doing revisions with the tops in narrative structure.

Day 74 1 hour, in bits, round London. Rewards: 1. Delacroix exhibition, courtesy of a good friend, lots of food for thought and turquoise and red. 2. Did no writing at all (although I did talk publishing with my friend and I think that was probably a good idea for once. 3.  Leisurely train ride home. 4. Posted new blog smoothly.

Day 73 1 hour round the park and through town. Rewards: All the spring flowers are out at once – cherry blossoms, snow drops, bluebells. Amazing. I walked in boots rather than running shoes to give my hip flexor a bit more of a slow workout. The weather is heavenly, blossoms and red brick against the blue skies.

Day 72 1 hour + 20 min round town. Rewards: 1. The realization that stacks of books in my writing office are a distraction, so I removed a lot of them to the bookshelf on the stairs. 2. Enjoyed looking at the ivy tree, thinking of Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree, and wishing to read it again soon.

Day 71 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1. Finished my first round of revisions of a novella for issue 11. It went smoothly, and I’m looking forward to the second pass at it. 2. Found all the elements for my illustrations. 3. It was a lovely Valentine’s Day walk with Mark. 4. I have a good appetite for Valentines lamb shoulder dinner. Not that I needed to walk to get that.

Day 69-70 1 hour each day around town. Reward: A feeling of calm as I approach my list of tasks. It’s a weird few days of fixing this, revising that, outlining something else, but I do seem to be very calm about approaching the list. I’m excited about the larger projects coming up too.

Day 68 1 slow-paced hour around town. Reward: My hip flexor and my husband’s cold were much less invasive. Lots of flowers out, from snowdrops to the little grass daisies that appear in spring. Bit of a cold snap to surprise them. Writing goals: I mastered haunted page numbers in book design. Today, that is. Tomorrow the info will all be gone again and I’ll be glad of my notes.

Day 67 50 minutes round town. Reward: my hip flexor is much better. Finished formatting another paperback. That’s two in a week. Granted, all the copy editing and covers were done already. My Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries  series will be up to 6 by late February. Then on to my trilogy of ghost books.

Day 66 1 hour plus 1/2 hour later on, round the town. Reward: I realize I can publish my latest paperback this week.

Day 65 1 hour round Islington. Rewards: 1.A thousand terracotta chimneypots against a cerulean sky. 2. An afternoon in the excellent company of our friends, which is a treasure without price for a writer.

Day 64 1 hour round the park. Rewards: 1. All the military fitness people were laughing and puffing, and I was happy for them but not tempted. 2. The rain held off until I was back. 3. Connected with a human being at the supermarket. 4. Finished and submitted the design for my Stella Novella, Stella Ryman and the Thief Named Edge, which I published as an ebook last year, before I learned how to design paperbacks. 5. Ticked off every small task on my list. Almost.

Day 63 1 hour round London. Rewards: 1. A great talk at the British Museum on artist Francis Towne. 2. The rain held off for my walk. 3. I thought I would be too tired but after supper I wrote a satisfying chapter on my novella series The Seven Swans.

Day 62 1 hour to the post office sorting building and back. Reward: 1. A John Grisham I haven’t read, one too thick to fit through the mail slot — perfect! 2. We missed the rain. Just. 3. Decided to see a movie the same day we bought our tickets. That has never happened for me in the UK before, although in Vancouver I went twice a week off the cuff in my movie-going prime. Today we saw Brooklyn, not much of a story really, although I admire the way Nick Hornby managed to write a whole movie where everybody except one character is quite a lovely person. But what a beautiful film–all those 50s aquas, teals, cherry reds, butter yellows.

Day 61 1 hour round town. Rewards: 1. I realized that I have to publish my amateur sleuth in a care-home Stella Novella #6 this month in paperback/ebook to beat the 3-month publishing deadline. Whew. 2. Cherry trees are out. 3. Posture work is progressing as, walking slowly, I am able to pull myself straighter by leading with my core. Seems to make everything straight and easy.

Day 60 An hour plus round the park. Rewards: 1. Snowdrops 2. Warm wind raises spirits 3. I am very glad that I am walking and not doing the military fitness training that was buzzing in the park. 4. Big relaxed smile.

Day 59 A leisurely half hour up to the shops. Rewards:1. Cabbage. 2. Two blog posts today. 3. Candlelit supper. 4. I can’t get over how sweetly my book cover came together yesterday. It’s still rough, but it does what I was hoping it would do, and today’s reward 5. is that I’m looking forward to doing my revisions for Pretty Lies: A Ghost Story.

small pretty lies cover

Day 58 1 slow hour round town. Rewards: 1. I missed the rain 2.I figured out how to organize part 1 of the book on time management and outlined that 3. I did all my readings and comments for the latest slushpile 4. Designed a book cover I’ve been imagining for some time 5. Released a book, Dragon Rock, through Amazon 6. Feeling quite relaxed about the day’s work and excited about tomorrow’s work. Here’s what’s weird: I feel like I hardly worked today, it was celerity all the way.

Day 57 Again, an hour + around town. I’m trying to move slowly so as to concentrate on my posture: relaxed and straight. Rewards: 1. Hip flexor a little better every day. This is an old creaky hurt that I’m hoping to get rid of. 2. Outlined a complete series of chapters and workbook pages for my Time Management for Writers book. 3. An early blossoming tree by the graveyard. February is nearly here. Most encouraging.

Day 56 A slow-stepping hour round the town. Most relaxing. Reward: I’m learning about marketing my books online. This idea used to scare the heck out of me, as my earliest picture of me as a writer was at my desk with publishers calling me to say “Write harder! Everybody awaits your new book with money and critical kudos!” Now I’m just glad to know it can be done and I can do it. (Day 55, unwell).

Day 54 an hour round town at a slow pace. Reward: 1. This is the second day that I’ve walked quite slowly, in order not to strain my hip flexor. Today was far better than yesterday, just a few twinges. Not whining, I swear. 2. Getting those pillars done, with only a few tasks yet this evening.

Day 53 an hour round the park, hand in hand. Reward: A very pleasant stroll…at dusk, so I’d already done the large part of today’s writing work (publishing work to be honest). So far I like doing the social media, marketing research, and day planning at night. That gives me emails, finances, apprenticeship, and walking in the morning. So far this time management arrangement is enjoyable.

Day 52 a full hour around town. About time, too. I’m working on my posture for walking, trying to pull right up through my spine, and pushing in the nape of my neck yoga-style. Rewards for writing: I’ve done all but one of my tasks, and I have rethought my schedule, so that I’m doing my social media pillars in the afternoon. I have long felt that my day plan needs work. My morning starts off strongly, and the deep work period in the afternoon is a real pleasure. But the day tends to trail off rather than ending in a satisfactory manner. The trick may be to do the day’s end jobs – media, marketing, day planning for me – a good hour before the actual end of the day, rather than at the end of the tasks I’ve set myself.

Day 51 Still jetlagged, but walked 40 minutes around town. Broken 40 minutes, though. I have much better results for writing when I do a solid hour. My rewards today were nothing to recall. Still, I love walking on the High Street.

Day 50 1 hour round town. Reward: restocked fridge, napped, unpacked, cooked, organized my office for writing life’s return tomorrow. Pillar practices! Can’t wait. And a drafting session with my writing circle in the evening. Quite excited to get back to solid practice after a month attempting to get work done while having an awful lot of fun.

Day 49 Easily an hour through airports, bus stations, and streets trundling luggage. Reward: Slept from 4 pm to 8:30 am. Lovely.

Day 48 an hour through the woods before packing to return to the UK. Reward: Glad to stretch our legs the day before a long flight. Looking forward to getting some proper work done on my novel, but so happy to spend time with family and friends this past month.

Day 47 half hour through the woods to the big tree, a 1000 year old Douglas fir. Rewards: time with my husband, and although it’s January it felt like March. Bright young greens everywhere.

Day 46 half hour round the bluffs on my sister’s property. Reward: Lovely time in gorgeous scenery with my sister.

Day 42-45 resting hip flexor.

Day 41 1.5 hours round the lake. Reward: I walked with excellent writers and may have soaked up some of their wisdom. Also, beautiful weather and happy head.

Day 40 Nothing to post about.

Day 39 40 minutes with pup to pub round the beach: Reward: the best Brussels sprouts with bacon in memory. Not very writerly except for jotting down the recipe (sprouts flash fried in chopped garlic, parmesan, bacon, lemon juice).

Day 38 1 hour round the lake. Reward: a feeling of physical freedom and mental clarity. Like a good wine, always welcome. Except, even more welcome at breakfast time than a good wine.

Day 37 0 to speak of.

Day 36 1 hour + round the shops. Writer’s reward: professional trousers, a real plus for a person who often works in fleece ski liners. 

Day 33-35 1 hour through the woods twice. Looking forward to getting back to work properly, still on holidays though. New Years comes and and goes without resolutions. I’m determined to set pillar practices instead. Like walking, eating properly, getting enough sleep, watching bank accounts, interacting with other human beings…All this will improve my writer’s brain.

Day 32 1 hour through the woods. Reward: 1. Saw the 900 year old tree and felt like a slim young thing. 2.Listed big writing goals. I try to do that once a month at least. Aiming for once a day.

Day 31   0 minutes to speak of. Still spaghetti from feeling rotten. Noticing that three days without walking go in a flash, and that feeling rotten doesn’t last very long either.

Day 30 Darn! Unwell.

Day 29 1 hour round the lake on Christmas day with dear family. Rewards: entirely familial. My brother and his lovely wife walk at least an hour a day, and have done for years. They look lean and beautiful, and she can wear H&M dresses. Say no more.

Day 28 50 minutes round stores and neighbourhoods doing holiday errands. Rewards 1. Knowing that when the 25th is past more walking will ensue, and glad that I didn’t wait until afterwards to begin. Not smug, just feeling I’m correct in thinking that if I’m going to start something, to start it right away and build to a perfect time rather than waiting for a perfect time to begin building. 2. A carload of brussells sprouts.

Day 27 40 minutes broken but in ski boots round the slopes and car park. Rewards 1. Happy to ski with family. 2. Happy to ski.

Day 25-26 1 hour along the country lanes. Rewards 1. Happier joints 2. Clear vision of latest book design

Day 24 1 hour plus through the woods. Rewards 1. Excellent company 2. Coffee with cream 3. Other people’s interests, especially slime moulds and how our colour receptors work. My nephew is very smart, plus I may use that information in an ms sometime.

Day 23 0 dedicated minutes, more and more driving. Reward: only the determination to get walking again.

Day 22 0 dedicated minutes, lots of driving. Reward: feeling empathy for everybody who, despite the health and more benefits, says they can’t find an hour today to walk.

Day 21 1 hour around the lake. Reward 1. Less aches and pains 2. Clear head 3. Good visit with sister and husband. Still not getting any writing done, not walking’s fault though, more family holiday visit stuff. I am amazed at how quickly 21 days mount up.

Day 20 40 minutes. Wow holidays are tough scheduling days. But how lovely to be with family and friends, and fun to walk with a dear friend and puppy again, tossing the ball and enjoying the damp BC air. No writing happening. Never mind. I have total faith in the New Yorker and in my love of the work.

Day 19 Managed to fit a half hour in, no writing to speak of, but I was rewarded – 1. Friends and I plugged in our amps and played seasonal songs for many children 2. Walked with a good friend and her puppy round childhood haunts.

Day 18 After yesterday’s no-walk debacle, I had a lovely walk in the woods. Walked a 15 minute Labyrinth. Reward: 1. a feeling that I can accomplish anything 2. Mist in my face for an hour, felt spa-licious.

Day 17 Insignificant time afoot. I’m rethinking my raingear situation in the temperate rainforest.

Day 16 Arrived. 35 min round town. Reward reunion with dear friend and feeling of both security and adventure in gelling publishing plans.

Note on Day 15  Travelling. Probably walked 35 minutes, with luggage, reward arrival at destination and welcome by family.

Day 14 1 hour round town. Rewards – 1. I saw a rainbow and missed the rain. 2. A children’s choir sang heavenly tunes as I walked through the Cathedral.

Day 13 1 hour round town. Reward – Planned an entire book design after not thinking at all about work yesterday. Mind you, I was on my own and full of strong coffee.

Day 12 1 hour around London, Rewards 1. Regent Street colour-projection steampunk decorations 2. Great Thai meal in Soho 3. Not a single thought about my writing, which I think is a good thing. Refreshing. Revved up for working tomorrow.

Day 11 1 hour, but it was broken into 2 30-minute sections, into town. No excuses, Mel. Ha. Reward was the sight of Christmas lights rocking in the wind.

Day 10 1 hour plus around London. Rewards: 1. Ham hock and split pea soup on the sunny steps of Trafalgar Square 2. Early Beatles playing behind me 3. Bagpiper to my left 4. Straight ahead past the huge Christmas tree Norway sends the UK to say thank you every year, Big Ben’s tower sparkles like this year’s Christmas Card. Observation if not descriptive skills may be improving.

Day 9 1 hour around town, Rewards: 1. Thoughts on the Pareto Principle, and its relationship to managing small sections of time in a writer’s life, for my Writing Time blog. 2 Passed through a stand of Christmas pines, heavenly 3. Connected with 2 lovely souls in conversation 4. House under construction playing Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” out the empty window frames, which was enough to make the walk worthwhile right there. 

Day 8 1 hour around town, reward a great conversation with Mark, sunshine and bright green park in December. I did most of my pillar practices for writing but very little work on revisions. See whether it picks up tomorrow.

Day 7 1 hour+ around town, and the greatest reward is a light step and a lighter heart. I have a general feeling that all is going well with the Work in Progress, the first of my three ghost novels. Revisions carrying on, and I decide to give my strongest attention to story structure changes following my character outlines, before I pursue sentence and paragraph structure changes.

Day 6 1 hour to get socks and back, so there was a few moments’ pause in there at the cash register but we now have 10 pairs of socks each, and mine are all the same black ones, because of time management for writers who have to match socks, yay. I must say how greatly I enjoyed yesterday’s revisions on my ghost story. Looking forward to more today.

Day 5, 1 hour round town. High winds, fab. Writer’s rewards: . 1.Hair blown to smithereens, and returning to a fire, wine, and revisions feels like heaven.1. Feel a strange new confidence re sentence structure

Day 4, 1 hour round town. Writer’s rewards: 1.Happiness at success at first revisions of my ghost novel last night. 2. Positive about further revisions today and writing a new blurb for Stella Novella 4. 3. Seeing pre-56 black Morris Minor 1000, parked so that I got a good look, with its superbly empowering Streamline Moderne hood ornament.

Day 3, 1 hour+ round town.Writer’s reward: Reading a plaque on the pub where the Zombies first met in 1961. The whole success due to brilliance thing is energizing as hell. Wish to be brilliant, like Zombies.

Day 2, I walk for an hour, down through the park. Writer’s rewards: Sunny skies and an idea for publishing my next Stella Novella in paperback. I plan to include with it the introductory short story Stella Ryman and the Case of the Third Option, rather than previous boring idea.

Day 1, I decide to walk for an hour 6-7 days a week as a part of my writing practice. Mark and I walk for an hour, as we do twice a week or so when he’s working from home. Writer’s Reward: we see a George V pillar box and have a fine appetite for lunch. Not really writing, but then again we use everything in the end, don’t we?

Day 0, I ponder the New Yorker article. I already walk about an hour a day, but in bits here and there, to shop on the high street and meet my husband off the train. This broken-up walking time gets me out of the house, and doesn’t use up too much working time.  But, what if I dedicate a full hour all at once? A better mind must create better books. I want that. I post the article on Twitter and make a banner. Just in case I go for it.

After Day 100. Before I began, I knew that I would have to get past the fact that I’ve never really enjoyed walking walking. I committed with the promise that I would find a way to love it. It wasn’t difficult. Everything’s attitude. And, now I know that I will

  • continue 1 hour minimum 6-7 days a week
  • continue to work on my posture, see Devon Boorman’s excellent article How I Fixed My Posture and How You Can Fix Yours.
  • walk for the present moment’s enjoyment, not for future benefits, although I’m impressed with what’s happened in 100 days
  • continue to be inspired by my brother and sister-in-law who walk every day, look fantastic, and are pumped with joie de vivre
  • treat my walking time as a privilege and a gift, not a duty
  • not think about work or worries (which are for me two different things) while I walk but stay as much as possible in the moment
  • remain aware that walking an hour a day has encouraged me to do other good things such as building a burpees routine and continuing to incorporate pickled cucumbers, beets, cabbage and so on into every meal as they do in Korea, and turning off computer screens by about 8:30 at night
  • use cues to walk, such as joining my husband as he walks to the station for work, whenever I can
  • appreciate that I have been more productive than ever this last hundred days, and furthermore I’m conscious of a clarity of purpose
  • continue to make sure that I smile while I work, a new skill I’m working on