Lately I’ve been working on a set of particularly tricky revisions, and I’ve found that after several hours at my computer, the urge to walk away — and keep on walking — is uncontrollable. Lucky for me I live in Texas, where we are compensated for our searing summers with mild, golden winters. Sixty-five and sunny, anyone?
You’d think that after walking over seven hundred kilometers this past summer, I would have declared a perambulative moratorium, but in fact the opposite is true. More than ever, I find walking essential to my creative process. In this address to students at Northeastern University, poet and nonfiction writer Kathleen Norris ponders the link between walking and writing. Norris suggests there’s a basic rhythm shared by language and the movements of a walking body — all in all, not a bad theory. For for me though it’s something else, or something additional.
As a writer, I spend an extraordinary amount of time in my own head, absorbed in a fictional reality, puzzling its various problems. Walking, for me, is a way to find my way home again, to the reality my body lives in — and the reality where everyone else lives, too. Out in the three-dimensional world, there are smells my imagination does not have to supply; the clarity and slant of late-afternoon sun are beyond description. Mixed in with the birds’ songs and traffic noises are occasional snatches of conversation of such plainspoken elegance they could be poetry. For me, it’s a relief to switch gears from the act of creation to one of apprehension.