My best writing time is when I am hiking.
The act of writing is not always done before a blank page. Staring at that blank page can actually make writing more difficult.
To write, you need to allow your mind to mull over plot points, character developments, possible twists, and countless resolutions. You have to live in your made-up world, letting it consume you.
To do this, I’ve found that it’s important to find a place where your guard is down, where your mind is free to roam and create.
To slip into my imagination, I get my body moving.
Using My Best Writing Time
I’m an avid hiker, and the more miles I cover, the less I worry about chores, bills, to-do lists, the practical matters that clutter my mind at home. As I walk along nature’s paths, the trappings of this reality fall away, and the world of my own creation finds space to expand and evolve.
The only thing better for my writing than hiking and letting my mind run free is hiking and imagining with another author at my side.
Allie Larkin, author of the just-released Swimming for Sunlight, and I hike together weekly. As we crest and descend miles of hills, we discuss everything from car problems to pet concerns, family matters to favorite TV shows.
We talk about the people in our lives in-depth: the complexities of our relationships, how they have evolved over the years, new friends, and old family roles. The writers in us always want to know more, so we go deep, looking at things from a new angle, trying to unravel the tightly wound mysteries of the human condition. We feed each other’s need for insight and understanding.
Of course, writing is a main topic of conversation. Our characters are discussed as if they were real people. We puzzle over a character’s motivations the same way we try to analyze a friend’s needs.
Our conversations span about five miles. As we huff up steep inclines and ease our way down the slope on the other side, we find out who our characters are, why they’ve made the choices they’ve made. The same way we talk of our loved ones, seeking to identify with them, we honor our characters with our time and shared compassion. We are as invested in our stories as we are in our own lives, and as we cover mile after mile, the lines blur between reality and fiction.
Fueling the Imagination
Inventing stories about the world around us entertains us. One time, we convinced ourselves that a large sun-basking lizard was actually injured and in need of our help. After time spent trying to find a way to ease the lizard off the path into safety, we finally got up the nerve to touch it. It scurried away, unharmed, and no doubt annoyed at these two women pestering it with worried tones.
We’ve nearly rescued off-leash dogs that were not, in fact, lost. We’ve stalked coyotes, worried they were dogs that had lost their collars. And sometimes we’ve alerted fellow hikers of snakes in the vicinity that turned out to be perfectly harmless.
While pondering whether to report a fire, we noticed a billowing white cloud in the distance. As the cloud moved, slowly and clearly between the rows of houses, we recognized the sounds and fumes of roadwork being done.
Our imaginations flow full force on our hikes, and we can add multiple layers of a story — backstory, motivation, conflict — to creatures that are just out enjoying nature the same as we are.
But giving ourselves, our work, and each other that time and space to dream and invent has been a gift. By opening ourselves to all possibilities, we feed off of our shared eagerness for a good story, equally invested in finding the deeper truth in every topic we raise, from love to politics, careers to favorite songs.
Our likes and dislikes get woven into our narratives, giving our characters fears and aspirations that feel genuine and essential. We hold space for each other to explore, and the expanse of the park around us offers us a respite from reality to do just that.
Meeting Friends along the Way
Friends we’ve made at our favorite parks will stop us and ask what we’re working on. We pet their dogs and listen to their tales of travels, their home renovations, their crazy cats.
The writers in us always wanting to know more, so we ask questions to get a fuller picture, to find the kernels of truth and vulnerability in what people are willing to share.
We avoid the old guy who always hollers at us to say hi, seeking to pull us from our reverie. But we look for the retired librarian and her gentle, sweet husband who always pause a few moments to catch up with us on what we’re all reading.
There is a pair of cream English golden retrievers who come to us for pets before taking off to chase a ground squirrel. A juvenile red-tail hawk perches on a branch just overhead, peering down at us with one eye, as curious as we are, and we marvel at its boldness.
We stay in our dream-state where everything is real, and anything is possible. And then we head home, our heads so full of new connections and expanded possibilities that we text about it for the rest of the day.
Turning Possibilities into Reality
Our minds stay open, even after we return to our day jobs, our chores, our to-do lists.
And the blank page, always waiting, is no longer an obstacle to overcome, but a wide-open field, as vast and welcoming as the trails of our morning hike, and I cannot fill it fast enough.
When is your best writing time? Tell us on Facebook!
Photo Credits: Cassandra Dunn
Cassandra Dunn (WNBA-Network) is the author of The Art of Adapting (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster). She has published 12 short stories in literary journals, and articles in Good Housekeeping as well as other publications. As well as being a writer, she is a developmental book editor.
Liked this article? Check out more of the Bookwoman Blog.