It’s well known that walking aids creativity. In fact, it’s become so entrenched that there’s now a backlash against such a notion.
And I can see that.
It’s not every time I walk that I stumble upon a new poem to write or find a solution to some writing issue I’ve been having. Sometimes, a walk is just a walk.
So, if you want to increase the chances of having a creative “Eureka!” as you amble, I have a few suggestions:
First, for some, having “no agenda,” is the ticket. Let me explain, because it sounds like I’m trying to have my walk and my cake at the same time. By no agenda I mean: have no idea where you are going or for how long. Simply walk. Of course, keep your bearings and note of the time; I would rather not be the cause of you becoming lost and never found again. Just, you know, be careful.
Another way to enliven your walking routine and possibly open new avenues, pardon the pun, to your creativity is to develop what I call “Wander” maps.
Here’s how it works:
- Take a piece of 8×11 paper and draw a map of your neighborhood as best you can with as much detail as you can.
- Now, take this map with you as you walk. Take along something to write with and a small notebook or notepad. Your smartphone note application would do the trick, too.
- Using the map as you walk your route. Note where and when the map you’ve drawn deviates.
- Note why it deviates.
- What makes a personal map of anywhere so different yet real at the same time is that the most well-known buildings, landmarks, and routes can be more or less mapped, and they will be overlapped with each other after you’ve made your hand-drawn map. The differences between them, however, are found in the less-frequently traveled routes. Of course, right? But ask yourself, why are they less traveled by? By anyone? By you?
- In what ways would you redraw the map of this area, and how significant is it?
This exercise might get you thinking about Robert Frost’s famous, often misunderstood, pronouncement, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
You see, maps are devious things. They can be played with and can bring about in you a new way of looking at familiar surroundings.
In Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” (1876) there’s mention of a “bellman’s map.”
The poem goes: “He had brought a large map representing the sea / Without the least vestige of land: / And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be / A map they all could understand.”
The map was blank!
Finally, I offer a technique which has a long history, in fact, but needs to be reintroduced from time to time, especially in this age of GPS. Satellite navigation makes it easy to find where you need to go but stymies any attempt to wander while not getting lost. This technique is called psychogeography.
In the early 2000s geocaching was all the rage and it took psychogeography as its methodology if you will. Psychogeography is walking by algorithm. This sounds more complicated than it is. I’ve practiced a version of psychogeography over the years with wonderful results.
Here’s how to do it. You go to somewhere that is largely unfamiliar to you but a place you feel safe wandering through on your own. Create an algorithm to indicate the directions you’ll take, like so:
- Walk ten minutes west from your car. Or, walk four blocks from your departure point.
- Turn left.
- Walk for another ten minutes; or walk three or four blocks (whatever).
- Stop, go right. Turn and what do you find?
The algorithm determines your steps. It forces you to go along a route that is determined, yes, but everything will appear fresh and new to your observation. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
The terminus is also a time to sit, if you’re able, to record what is there at the end of your equation—what has the universe conspired to send you?
A walk can simply be a walk, and the benefits are fairly well-known. But to supercharge your walk, try the wander, drawn maps, and equations to create new routes to your creativity.
See you out there!
Wm. Anthony Connolly is a poet, novelist and podcaster based in Delaware. His poetry collection Psalms & Stones was published this summer by Spartan Press. You can find him at Anthonyconnolly.net and https://www.facebook.com/connollyw.