Want to be inspired? Take a walk.
In one of my earlier posts I wrote about how walking is not only a boon for your creativity, but also beneficial for your stamina, mood and health, especially when your occupation requires a lot of desk work. The science fiction writer Orson Scott Card therefore considers walking an essential part of his process:
“Take care of your body. Writing is a sedentary business; it’s easy for many of us to get fat and sluggish. Your brain is attached to the rest of your body. You can’t do your best work when you’re weak or in ill health…It’s worth the time to take an hour’s walk before writing. You may write a bit less for the time spent, but you may find that you write better.” ~ Orson Scott Card
I wrote about how I like to go for long walks to get the creative juices flowing. But I realised that I’ve written at length about the why, but not about the how.
And therefor, without further ado, here is how to go for an inspiration boosting walk:
What do you need?
Good shoes, a notebook and a pen.
Maybe an umbrella or a raincoat depending on the weather and a bottle of water.
How long should you walk?
30 minutes to an hour is enough to clear the mind and get the creative juices flowing. But some creatives like to spend more time on their feet. Charles Darwin kept on walking until the problem was solved and Charles Dickens used to walk for more than 40 kilometers a day. I usually walk anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hours if I want to find inspiration.
Where to walk?
In general it is recommended to avoid busy inner city areas and go for a walk in less hectic environments like a park, forest, nature reserve or a beach. In a natural environment there is less stuff screaming for your attention, which helps to give your thoughts the space it needs. Plus you can walk without paying too much attention to your environment because you don’t have to dodge cars, bicycles and other pedestrians.
I think that you should walk in an environment that inspires you. I like forests because of the muted sounds and the smells, but that is my personal preference. But if you find inspiration in the urban jungle then by all means, go for a walk in the city. In truth it doesn’t really matter where you walk. You can step outside your house or build a racetrack in your garden to walk laps, just like Charles Darwin did. And recent research showed that you can even find inspiration and increase your problem solving skills by walking on a treadmill.
When to walk?
When you should walk depends on your personal preferences. If you are a morning person, you might want to go for it first thing in the morning. I like to go for a walk late in the afternoon at the end of the working day to give my thoughts the chance to settle down and form new ideas. Or you might want to take a walk with a specific light, like during the golden hour at sunrise and sunset, which is the prime moment to take photographs. Try different moments during the day to find your preferred time to walk.
How to walk?
Just go for a leisurely stroll. Don’t run, you’re not power walking so speed isn’t important. Pick a pace you can maintain without too much thought or effort and let your feet guide you.
Should you walk alone?
Unlike the popular song it is quite acceptable to walk alone if you are in search of inspiration. Most people prefer that, but it is not strictly necessary as long as your companion doesn’t bombard you with endless chatter and questions. And if you are working on a project with someone else it might even be a good idea to take a walk together.
When is it time to start walking?
Because you don’t need to plan ahead or use special equipment, you can start walking anytime.
If you want to get the most out of your walk, use the manual below.
Manual for an inspiration boosting walk
- Block 30 minutes to an hour in your calendar for a walk, preferably every day.
- Put on a pair of shoes which are suitable for walking.
- Put a small notebook and pen or pencil in your pocket.
- Set out for a walk at a moderate pace that comes naturally to you.
- Try to clear your mind during the walk and try not to interpret, judge or analyse any thoughts that might surface while walking.
- Instead, focus on what your senses tell you. See the little details like raindrops on leaves and cracks in the pavement. Smell the flowers, listen to the sound of rustling leaves and feel the crunch of the gravel underneath your feet.
- Sit down if you are compelled to do so.
- Once you’re sitting down, get out your notebook and pen and write down anything that comes to mind. Don’t think about what you are writing and don’t start to edit what you have written. You can sort out your writings when you get home.
And just go for an inspirational walk whenever you feel like it. Since according to Friedrich Nietzsche “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” you might never know when you find a truly great idea.