Good to Walk ~ Brenda Ueland writes the finest book about writing. Its title is ‘If You Want To Write’. I make no apologies for the statement. Brenda’s book is superb: the end of the story. However, she would not like my introduction to this article.

Most ‘How to’ writing books follow Steven King’s advice. Have a set time for writing. Don’t worry about the first draft, edit after leaving the book in a draw for a few weeks. Get a good proofreader. Read for at least an hour every day. The main difference between the ‘teachers’ is some advocate note-taking, and others ( like King ) do not. So save yourself a fortune and buy a used copy of Brenda’s book. That’s if you feel like writing a book.

Let’s Consider Brenda:

She writes:” Everyone is talented, original, and has something important to say.” she suggests that writers should “Try to discover their true, honest, un-theoretical self.” The words go further than how to write a book. Brenda is guiding the student to acknowledge we all have something to say about life, and through our writing, we can discover who we are and how we tick. It seems to me, the more we write, the deeper we enter into the deep recesses of the inner-being. And this is the pleasure of tapping keys or scribbling in notebooks we investigate our mental capacity.

Brenda Was a Complex Woman:

By her own account, Brenda had many lovers, and she was married three times. In a biography, she intimates that she becomes bored with people quickly. Not because of their lacking in intelligence or love or ways of life. Brenda becomes bored because she is a creative artist, and she has a mental thirst for change and new methods and ideas. Her personal life is a reflection on her professional writing. 

And of course, she was a prolific writer and acknowledged worldwide for her clarity and style. Brenda was primarily a journalist working for every newspaper in the USA. She also wrote plays and radio shows: In 1946, while covering the treason trials of Vidkun Quisling, she was awarded the Knight of Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf by the Norwegian government. Few could question her style or writing ability.

Health and Fitness:

Brenda was active well into her old age. She regularly walked up to 9 miles a day and liked to spend time improving her handstands! She enjoyed swimming and set an international swimming record for people over 80 years old and died at the age of 93.

anonymous ethnic woman walking on pavement near old house

In her book ‘How to Write’ she suggests her daily walk of not less than two miles is an essential aspect of her creativity. Brenda talks of walking without thought or consideration of the projects being worked on at present. I feel she is suggesting walking without concern for the present day’s tasks, issues or problems is key to expansive and creative thinking.

Earlier in the year: I decided to walk a specific route of three miles every day. With stopping off to buy vegetables and browsing charity shops for books, the daily exercise takes ninety-minutes. I follow Brenda’s guidance and do not think about anything which influences my life. Instead, I look at people and places and even the changes in shop windows. It is surprising how one’s observation ability grows, and I think this is the lesson Brenda is giving: ‘By walking every day and allowing the mind to be free from concerns of reasoning during the walk: the way we perceive life changes.

Over the last few months, I’ve asked daily walkers what they think about while putting one foot in front of the next. The answer is surprising and consistent ‘I don’t know what I think about’ when pressed some comment ‘I look around to see the world, let my mind wander’.

Is it a coincidence Brenda’s daily walks are mentioned in her book about writing? One has to consider her book was first published in 1938, long before connections between exercise and creativity were realised. I do not think so: my feeling is Brenda is offering a master key to creativity. The suggestion to walk away from daily issues for a set time or distance each day is a profound lesson.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking creativity is confined to artistic projects. Ludwig Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who many believe was the worlds most nuanced thinker. Ludwig was also a brilliant designer and engineer; he designed and flew his plane and designed a propellor which had a close relationship to the jet engine. Ludwig was also a great walker; in fact, he insisted on his daily walk only days before his death. The point here is creativity is not isolated to art. The creative mind works to benefit every aspect of life existence.

Times are confusing, and people are becoming fragmented. Differing opinions, science arguing against science. It becomes increasingly apparent we’ll never know the facts of this crisis. Those who rule have no option but to follow the furrows they have cut in the soil of society. Most realise there is no turning back and the uncertain future is breaking the will of millions. It seems there is a way to give the inner-being some respite and release for anxiety. The method is to walk! And choose to make the walk without focussed thoughts. One foot in front of the next and the senses focussed on the surrounding environment. The long term benefit is to my mind astounding and profound.

It’s Good to Walk

Ian Timothy

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