We’ve chatted about this before, but a recent piece in The New Yorker titled “Why Walking Helps Us Think” has once again taken a look at the importance of walking when it comes to the creative process. While the article explores the way in which strolls can empower writing, we can definitely apply its findings to all creative pursuits.
The article’s writer, Ferris Jabr cites a bunch of scientific research that explains how the physical act of walking benefits the primarily mental act of creative business. But how? It says:
The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention.
For me, the most interesting part is at the end of the piece where Jabr explains how taking a literal journey trains our brains to take a creative journey. He writes:
When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts.
The above reminds me of this hunk of wisdom from the great screenwriter Charlie Kaufman who explained how getting lost on a simple walk mirrored his creative process.
He discussed what he realized after his walk:
"I'm not the same person that I was. I did this thing, and now I have other things that I can write about and think about and can include into this work. I did something else by being lost."