Laurie Buchanan is the author of the Sean McPherson novels, including the newly released Indelible. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.
I’m an outdoor gal—always have been, always will be. I’m also a writer, which requires sitting at a desk for a significant portion of each day. How do I reconcile the opposite ends of the spectrum and help them meet in the middle?
An early riser, I front load my day with a walk. It tends to prime the writing pump. Over the years, I’ve discovered the same thing that a STANFORD STUDY found—walking improves creativity.
“Stanford researchers found that walking boosts creative inspiration. They examined people’s creativity levels while they walked versus while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.”
Once I return from my first walk of the day, I park myself at my desk and write (and write, and write). About two hours into it, I take another walking break. I’ve learned that this habit puts me in good company.
Did you know that Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was known for his walking meetings? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has also been spotted holding meetings on foot.
I live a stone’s throw from the Boise River—my stomping ground. It’s here I step onto the Boise River Greenbelt and walk the pedestrians-only paved sidewalk. Twenty miles of breathtaking gorgeousness! That’s why it’s easy, rain or shine, to take three two-mile walks each day. The river beckons me, and I heed its call.
Then like a boomerang, I head back to my writing studio and continue working on my mystery/crime/thriller series. The first book in that series—Indelible: A Sean McPherson Novel, Book One—hit the shelves on April 6th.
After two more hours of writing, it’s time to walk again. Depending on the season, I might see kayakers, inner-tubers, and fly fishermen/women. In the summer, I see college students jumping from bridges into the river (it’s totally legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s wise) or plunging into the river from tire swings. Family picnics are a common sight along the riverbank as well.
When I look up (always look up, always take camera), there’s a fair to middling chance I’ll see a bald eagle—they hang out on the tippy tops of the trees that grow along the river.
I didn’t know—in fact, if I were a wagering woman, I would have LOST the bet—that it’s the act of walking itself, NOT the environment, that’s the main factor for increasing creativity. (I don’t care what Stanford researchers say, my money’s on the outdoor environment).
What is it that stirs your creative juices?
This Post Has 22 Comments
Same with me. Whenever I have a plot problem for my series, I ask a question and then I take a walk. Often, solutions come during the walk and sometimes they are unexpected ideas. The brain loves walking, and it’s also been proven that nature enhances creativity and thinking, too, so walking in nature is a “no-brainer” and “all brainy.”
Christine — Yaaaay for another walking cohort. Ya gotta love it!
Ideas comes to me in the shower.
Marilyn — That’s a great place!
Laurie, I love this post! Yes, walking is great. I also used love driving up into the mountains to hike, loving that view from the top of a peak, but I don’t do that anymore. I also like to go to bed with a story question in mind, and I often get answers during the night.
Margaret — I love the idea of going to bed with a story question in your mind. Great tip! Thank you.
You continue to inspire me, Laurie. Walking–and the environment–are so therapeutic. Thanks for the informativearticle and gorgeous photos.
Sherrill — Thank you for popping into my neck of the woods. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.
I’m also a “creativity walker.” During the height of the pandemic I started walking inside. I found that the same endorphins result, whether one is enjoying the scenery of nature or the interior decorating of one’s house!
Saralyn — “Creativity Walker.” So THAT’S what it’s called. Now I know. I love that during the pandemic your did your walks inside the house. Brava!
I’d love to get back to walking outside. Just waiting for the temperature to climb a bit here in Wisconsin so I don’t have to bundle up.
Maggie — It shouldn’t be too long now. Before you know it, you’ll be outside racking up the miles with outdoor walks.
I would have lost the bet too! I’m always drawn to natural scenery. It’s what motivates me to get out.
Yoga and movement also help clear my mind. As you know I tend to dive into dark places with writing. So I go outside to get away from work. Fresh air always generates new ideas.
Tracey — I’m so glad that you mentioned YOGA in addition to walking. It’s how I start my body at the onset of day.
Me, too. When I have a particularly knotty plot point that needs to be worked out, I take a walk. The trouble is, I often think about walking when I should be doing it. And since I live about seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, I don’t have much excuse. In fact, I think I’ll head out now…
Sheila — I love the ocean! It’s a good thing I don’t live as close to it as you do, or I’d probably never go back inside. Pre-pandemic, I spent two months each year (one month at a time, six months apart) in Cardiff by the Sea as a guest in my sister’s home. The little Cardiff library is oh-so-conducive to writing.
I love walking. It always jump starts my creativity and shifts it into high gear. Although, I do tend to be an urban hiker and if I’m doing an extended walk, I usually want to be getting somewhere, like the grocery store or the post office.
Anne — An urban hike with a destination in mind is straight-up motivation. Get from point A to point B and make great time while doing it. Here’s to hiking regardless of geographic location!
Walking is my favorite activity, too! And I agree that the environment makes a difference. When I’m by the ocean I am far more inspired and creative. I love the pictures you post on Instagram of your walks.
Sharon — I wonder if you played ocean sounds when you’re not at the beach if it would help boost creativity? If you try it, let me know. Thank you for letting me know you enjoy my WALKING MY MUSE photos on Instagram. It’s my favorite social media platform.
Thanks for your post, walking warrior! The Stanford study doesn’t surprise me a bit. I sort out many plot ideas and rehearse character conversations in my head on my daily walks. One down side for me is that I started brining my phone along, so I can text myself when I come up with an idea or section of dialogue. Ah technology. I love nature, too. I grew up on the Fox River right below my backyard, where I learned about the natural world.
Joy Ann — The Fox River was practically (not quite) in our back yard when we lived in Crystal Lake, IL for 23 years. Such a lovely part of the country to walk!
Like you, I take my phone along on my walks. It’s great to have in the event of an emergency. I listen to audiobooks on it during my daily walk. And I use the camera feature to take photos for my daily post—Walking my Muse.