Charles Dickens famously walked gobs of miles every single day: some sources claim as many as twenty a day, others a measly (?!) twelve--rain or shine. He claimed his daily walks were key to his ability to write the detailed sagas he's known for--though how he found the time and energy after logging twenty miles, I'd like to know.
Did he really do this? Every single day? I don't know, but there is genius to this, and if it worked for Dickens, one of the most prolific authors of his generation, I thought it might have a similar effect on me. Many years ago, I vowed to give it a try--the walking, not the total mileage.
All those years ago, I was an aspiring young writer, and as luck would have it, an aspiring young distance runner as well. Early morning, when the air was fresh and the traffic light, I tried to emulate Mr. Dickens. After the first mile, once my legs loosened and my breathing settled into a steady rhythm, my mind would float off into a waking dream, worries flitting through briefly as my feet pounded the pavement.
While my sneakers ate up the miles, the day's cares and life's anxieties would lessen and the big ideas would begin to break through, tiny crocuses poking through January snow. And as I neared the end of my run, gathering every remaining bit of strength into my rubbery thighs, I would sprint to my chosen finish line and the final idea, the strongest idea, would crush all the others beneath its strident blooms.
I'm not sure what was more addictive back then: the runner's high or the burst of creative energy.
At some point over the years the combined demand of home and work, family needs and job musts, took precedence. My runs stopped. Even if ideas bloomed, I had little time to water and tend them. I missed my early morning runs, my early morning ideas. I missed my creative high.
So. That had to change.
I'm no longer rising so early; marrying one night owl and parenting another will do that to a person. My knees no longer allow me to run on streets, but it turns out the soft trails of the forest by my house suit me far better. I've found that I don't need to run a sprint to rejuvenate my mind--a brisk walk will do, even later in the day.
I don't know if Mr. Dickens walked twenty miles every day or only twelve. I walk far fewer, but I walk. And I can tell you, he was on to something.
What ideas poke through your January mind? I'll see you on the trail.