An article by Ferris Jabr posted in The New Yorker this week made a connection between writing, thinking, and walking.
"Perhaps the most profound relationship between walking, thinking, and writing reveals itself at the end of a stroll, back at the desk. There, it becomes apparent that writing and walking are extremely similar feats, equal parts physical and mental. When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts." —Ferris Jabr
Such simple wisdom, yet it hardly needs science or research to back it up. I think most of us understand this intuitively.
Reading the article made me think back to a time I often call the happiest year of my life, Alaska sometime around '95. I had nothing.
(This is modified from a forums post I made earlier today.)
It was something of an experiment. I got rid of everything in my life. I lived in a trailer that I borrowed from a friend and parked it in the back lot of my father's steel yard, in the corner. We ran an extension cord out to it for power, but I had to go into his office for running water.
I had no bills, no insurance, and no car. I walked everywhere. I could live for months on $50 from odd jobs, buying a big bag of rice and some spices or condiments in bulk. Finding a quarter and walking down to the arcade for a game was a thrill. I spent a few dollars a week on showers, but the bulk of my time was walking somewhere: library, friends' houses, local shops, just walking out on the Homer Spit to watch bald eagles and white-capped waves.
Since then, I've been around the world and worked all kinds of jobs, from diesel mechanic to truck driver to missionary to (current) software engineer. I'm married and settled down with plenty of money and no debt and nice cars and such—but the happiest time of my life remains that year of walking and thinking. Having so little, even on purpose, meant that little things, like a game at the arcade, or buying a Big Mac when they were on sale for a dollar, meant so much more. Not only was there the time to think and enjoy, but the rarity of what is otherwise common and everyday became extraordinary and thrilling.
(I'll note that this experience is much different from those who have needs and not enough to provide for them. While I had nothing, I also needed nothing. I was young, healthy, and single. Lacking money when money is needed is an active stressor and takes a terrible toll on body and mind.)
I'm going for a walk today. That walk will end at my desk and my Work in Progress.
Who's with me?
Writer of speculative fiction. Current work in progress is an untitled dark fantasy novella.