The Wonders of Walking

Much has been said about the benefits of walking. There can be no doubt it is good for both physical and mental health but for a writer those are additional benefits. For walking does so much more. It stimulates and inspires the brain. Not only is the brain being fed by fresh oxygen, it is also being stimulated by your senses. For a start, there’s the mass of information your eyes are gathering as you look at the world around you. And from that information comes inspiration. You see the shimmering reflections of sunlight on water, catch the gentle dancing of leaves or a fleeting glance of fleeing wildlife. All of these things are being processed and stored in your memory banks, whether or not you are aware of it, and somewhere along the line your brain will make use of the images when you are writing. The other senses are also simultaneously recording information such as the sounds of birdsong or a distant lawnmower, the scent of lilacs caught on the wind of a whiff of wild garlic from the woods, the warm sun on your face, tickled by a gentle breeze. It is almost sensory overload, but fear not—your brain can cope with it all. They say ‘use it or lose it’ and it is so true. Your brain needs this kind of workout with neurons firing all over the place, connections being made, remade and strengthened. The one thing your brain is not is a computer—it is far more advanced than any machine man has ever made. You must have heard the idea that we only use about 10% of our brain’s capacity. Just think about that for a moment. Think of all the amazing things your brain does every single second of your life, all the information it has gathered, everything you have learned, the constant monitoring of your environment to keep you safe from the hazards around you, talking, listening, thinking, creating, controlling the muscles in your body as you move—all of that within 10% of its capacity. Imagine what we could be capable of if we used 90% of its capacity. Who knows how humans will evolve. It would be nice to think we may one day begin to use so much more of the capability of our brains but it could also be the case that future generations may have smaller brains to avoid the redundant capacity, though I find that unlikely due to the way in which evolution works.

Back in the here and now, the one thing we need to be doing is keeping our brains busy as much as we can. This will help to fight against awful conditions such as dementia. I have found that there is no better way of feeding the brain than going for a good long walk. It is also one of the best cures for writers block. A walk can recharge your brain just like recharging a battery and you may find when you get back you suddenly start having ideas again. There are no guarantees, this is not an exact science and the mysteries of the brain remain unknown, but there is nothing to lose and many times you will find a walk helps you to solve problems.

Perhaps you are wondering where are the best places to walk. The thing is, it doesn’t really matter. Whether you are alone deep in a silent forest or negotiating the crowds in a busy city centre, your brain will be taking it all in and generally having a great time. That said, if you are stuck at a particular point in your writing it may help to walk in a location similar to the one in your scene. You may notice things that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise and it might just shift the blockage. This is often a good tip anyway because you may have written something that seemed wonderful at the time but if you went to ‘act it out’ you might discover a fundamental flaw that you’d overlooked, and better that you find it before publication than getting letters from readers pointing it out to you for ever more.

Of course, I may be preaching to the converted here, and if so I apologise, but if you are yet to discover the joys and benefits of walking I urge you to invest in a decent pair of hiking boots (you’ll thank me in the long run, sorry, walk) and get out there. Unleash your mind on the great outdoors!