I have three ways to decompress: photography, writing, and walking. Happily, all three tend to coincide quite nicely.
I know that sounds oxymoronic, but it’s true. When I go out on my daily walk, I take my cell phone with me (my beloved Blackberry Bold). The camera on it isn’t half bad — in fact, I had a photo show at a local coffee house in January, exhibiting only photos taken with my Blackberry! But more importantly, it has an app. Voice Notes Recorder. That is my life saver. Because when I walk, I get ideas.
Stephen King talks about this phenomenon in his book On Writing, the fact that sometimes when you get stuck, you can go for a walk to work things out. The physical exercise, combined with the freedom and stimulation of a new location, often work wonders.
It’s always been that way for me. I expect that when I go for a walk, I will spend several minutes on my voice recorder, “jotting down” things I need to look at on a manuscript, new scenes I want to/need to write, changes I want to implement, character motivations, etc. Several times, I’ve been able to get down the bones of a scene, even down to lines of dialogue and emotions and exact descriptions.
One memorable summer morning, I didn’t take my phone. I was dealing with some irascible students and wanted an hour away from the idiocy, just for myself. For the past month, I had been wrestling with the overall plot structure for my urban fantasy series, trying to reconcile the different books I had outlined and the thing that connected all of them. I knew there was a connection: the question was, what the bleep was it? But I wasn’t think about that when I laced up my sneakers and headed out. Those students were uppermost in my mind.
A mile from home, it all clicked. Exactly like the moment a safecracker hears the tumblers fall into place. The connections, the threads that united all of my books. Plain as day. How could I not have seen it before?
AND I HAD NO WAY TO RECORD IT!
I ran. A mile. Home. I still have the five scribbled pages of notes in a journal. They are the basis of everything. I couldn’t wait for the laptop to warm. Had to get it all out before I forgot it!
And yes, when I re-read On Writing, I discovered that Stephen King had done exactly the same thing with The Stand. He’d been struggling with the plotline for quite some time, stuck in the middle, no way out, unwilling to abandon thousands upon thousands of words he’d already written.
Most smart phones either have a similar app already loaded, or you should be able to download one for free or not very much. When you’re in the car, on the subway or train, standing in line at the grocery store — yes, I’ve done it, although you get weird looks, but what’s more important, your book or what a lot of strangers think about you? — walking the dog . . . have your cell phone with you. But I work best when I’m walking. There’s something about the quietness of it all. Of course, I live in the country on a mostly deserted road. I imagine for those of you living in towns or neighborhoods, it might be a bit different. But again, what’s more important . . . 🙂 All I can say is, give it a try. Have you been stuck on something? Try walking. It may not work right away. But I believe that if you make it part of your schedule, it will start to work.
Some authors say that they have a set schedule for writing, and they know that when they sit down at their computer the words will be there waiting for them. Their subconscious has been working on it all day, and the moment they start to type, the words begin to flow. I’m beginning to find that my walks are much the same way. I’m never surprised when a scene pops into my head that I didn’t even know I needed. Even characters come to me on my walks — that’s how I met my little rumrunner Nicky, and Shannon, the antagonist for my urban fantasy series.
Then, I come back and I write.
And sometimes, I download my photos, too. 🙂