Like many writers, I find walking conducive to the creative state of mind. So I enjoyed the thoughtful blog series put together by Kate Evans for Mslexia last year. The theme cropped up again recently on Caroline Lodge’s Bookword blog, with a link to research on the positive impact of walking on creativity. Of course, I always knew it “worked”, but gratifying to see my intuition backed up by experimental psychology.
But, unless I’m on Ranger duty, when part of my responsibility is engaging with the public, my sociability doesn’t extend to stopping for a chat. I might have acquired the basics of social skills, and even go so far as to enjoy a party, as long as it’s my own launch party, or that of someone whose work I deeply admire, but I’m still an introvert at heart. A period of time, alone with my thoughts, is essential for my well-being. Out in the wilds – or what passes for such in England – most people seemed to get that. They’re probably introverts too.
For want of time, and sometimes energy, some of my walking has to be done in a more urban environment nearer home. It’s countrified as towns go: I cross the road, squeeze through a gap between a padlocked gate and a hedge and, if the nettles aren’t too high in the summer and the snow too deep in the winter, I cross four fields to another road and, beyond, the tarred path around the reservoir. At under an hour, it slips easily into a writing day while still being long enough to induce that state of reverie in which ideas can take shape.
I’m less patient with the strangers who see a woman walking – even a woman walking at my fast pace – as an opportunity to offload whatever’s in their head. Those dammed extroverts, who can’t tell or don’t care that, while I might look as if I’m out for a stroll, I’m actually working. I’m willing to laugh at their jokes, whether or not I understand them, as we move in opposite directions, but I’m less happy when I find I’ve been sucked into a conversation. How’s that going to help my WIP?
Charli Mills is much more generous with her attention. She’ll even listen to those who, following Trump, think they can drive out the goats. It’s understandable that, being homeless, she’s looking for community, while I’m erecting fences around the sanctuary of my mind. Perhaps if I were better able to hold onto a mind of my own, I wouldn’t find the interruptions so intrusive. But the tranquillity I feel is fragile, transient, which is exactly the topic of this week’s prompt.
One distracted moment
He heard himself singing without realising, cheeks cracking into a smile. Those old songs transported him to childhood, secure in his mother’s arms. The singer crooned his marriage might be over, but he could start again with someone new.
It jarred when the song segued into an advert. Luke reached across to turn the volume down. His gaze left the road for seconds; the consequences stayed his whole life. Two dead, one crippled, the papers said Luke walked free. But he’d never be free from his conscience, coupled to that one distracted moment until the grave.
On the subject of music, mood and memory, check out my undercover soundtrack for Sugar and Snails. On the subject of literary walking, I’ll be leading a guided walk again in the footsteps of Jane Eyre in Derbyshire next month. If you’re interested in joining me let me reassure you that, not only will I be reading extracts from the novel along the way, I’ll be happy to chat with you as we walk along.