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Hiking for Writing I


All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.

Friedrich Nietzsche


I’ve just got back from a long weekend hiking in the Lake District. We were blessed with amazingly beautiful weather for the start of April and climbed Scafell Pike. Not content with that challenge, we zipped up Scafell…and then had quite a long walk with achey knees down a scree slope to get back to Wast Water.

DSCN7161I love walking – whether it’s up a mountain, round a lake, popping to the shops, or up and down Bristol’s steepest hills. So I was interested to read Mark’s Daily Apple blog on Why These Nine Famous Thinkers Walked So Much. William Wordsworth, who famously climbed many of the hills in the Lakes, used his walks to compose his poems – the act of walking was ‘indivisible’ from the act of writing. Charles Dickens found writing quite difficult and used to walk 20-30 miles a day to get some relief from his work. Soren Kierkegaard deliberately used walking to help him mentally compose paragraphs and think through new ideas. He said:

I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.IMG_1844

For me personally, walking is a release from, ‘the psychological burden of remaining still.’ It’s fantastic exercise, it allows me to get a dose of nature (climbing Scafell I saw buzzards, crows, larks, stonechats and wrens), fresh air, sunshine, exposure to the elements. It helps me step away from my work and see the Big Picture and to plan. Usually I walk with a friend and I’m inspired by him or her and relish their conversation – or else I’m with my four-year-old daughter, appreciating her quirky, fun-filled take on life. I’m able to approach my own work with enthusiasm afterwards.


Above all, walking allows me to think about my writing: my characters, tramp through thorny plot problems, see the trajectory of my novel. However, to do this, I need to walk in silence and without a companion – so one of my aims in the future is to try and build some walks into my life that are solitary: hiking for writing.

Do you walk? What do you think about when you walk?

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