Yesterday I walked to the post office for the first time in months, enjoying mild weather (39 degrees), a benevolent sun and just enough breeze to get my attention. The roads and sidewalks have been so icy that I’ve mostly been too timid to go outdoors.
For months I’ve been exercising by walking around and around in the house, which is kind of silly. But at least I’m moving – and thinking.
A writer I once knew told me she thinks “in walk tempo.” When she got writer’s block or needed new ideas, she knew better than to sit at a desk. Instead, she prowled the leafy suburban streets to jump-start her brain.
Apparently I think in walk tempo, too. When I hit dead ends or simply can’t stare at the screen another minute, I get up and get moving.
Indoors or out, walking rewires my head. Specifically, it refocuses my thoughts. Instead of thinking work-work-work, my thoughts go in all sorts of directions and roughly in this order:
- Nothing at all for a few minutes (white noise for the brain)
- What I’ll be having for dinner
- When I can expect my partner to be home from work
- What he might be fixing us for dinner
- The project I’m working on at that moment
- Ways to improve the project I’m working on at that moment
- Ideas for upcoming projects
I walk as briskly as I can, although that can be difficult during an Anchorage winter: Even when the streets and sidewalks are snowy rather than icy, and even though I wear YakTrax, I can’t always move as fast as I’d like.
Blowing out the cobwebs
Walking outdoors also means I can’t focus entirely on upcoming projects (or on dinner). In the house I can let my thoughts wander freely. Outside, there’s dicey footing, the need to stop at traffic lights and the possibility that a moose will wander into my path.
That sounds funny, but it isn’t. During one summertime walk I was thinking too much about the inside of my own head and not enough about my surroundings. When a moose moseyed out of the woods and crossed the street in front of me, I simply didn’t see it. Came within probably 10 feet of the damn thing – which is far too close – before my eyes registered that a 700-pound ungulate was in the vicinity.
These days I pay more attention. After all, that moose could just as easily have been a car whose driver didn’t see me.
Walking is vital to my work as a writer. When I’m outdoors, the fresh air and sun revitalize me. The breeze blows the cobwebs out of my skull. After sitting at a desk for hours it’s good to feel my circulation rev up and my leg muscles lengthen.
Best of all, getting away from a project for a while means I can return with fresh eyes. That is, if a moose doesn’t get me on the way home.
Readers: Do you think in walk tempo? Or rowing machine tempo, spin-class tempo or run-with-the-dog tempo?