September 4, 2013

Let me take you for a Walk

Dear M,

I can see you raising your eyebrows - surely I am not going to talk about Walking when the topic is Writing? But you know how I am: when I am determined to push my point across, pushing my point across is what I do. Wait, allow yourself to be convinced.

I like reading the biographies of authors - an autobiography is more enriching, but not available all the time - and if I do not have the patience to read the entire book, I settle on the author's bio on Wikipedia and other websites dedicated to him/her. In the most detailed biographies, I have noticed without fail the authors' fancy with evening walks. If they all do it, you agree that there is something to it.

I like evening walks too. (Oh, so that raises me to the same league as the authors I admire, eh.) Not that I get to do it every day, but when I do, they leave me with an amount satisfaction that I cannot explain or justify. There might be a number of reasons to it, not the least of all is that writers are generally cooped up inside their houses poring over their stories, and a breath of fresh air would only do them good. That is my excuse, anyway.

Some days, my only reason to go outside is to take a walk. Even though the walk is confined to a certain space, it is like allowing the sunlight to burst into the darkest corner of a room - all warm and bright and shiny and sudden. After the walk, everything gloomy about life seems to have shattered into a million pieces. I don't even know what that means. But I do know how that feels.

The very first thing that it does to me is provide me with a distraction. Rather than look at my work area with its fusillade of thoughts and scraps, I could look at the trees and the ground and the wind and the playing kids and the gossiping mothers and the evening walkers and the people returning from offices and the vehicles and the stray dogs (lots of them). I speak to some of them (not the dogs). There is also the highway with its noise and pollution and shouting people and impatient drivers and terrified pedestrians, but I would go there only if I want to write about a mad traffic junction. An hour of walking opens me up and, as I said, throws light into my darkest sides (which I have in plenty). Artists run the risk of letting their dark sides grow too much, because they forget to show themselves to the sun.

A walk refreshes me and cheers me up the way nothing else can - except a nice, long, warm bath, perhaps. No, on second thoughts, the bath doesn't come anywhere close to it.

It also provides me with some clarity on my writing - or perhaps it is the distraction that does it. When I return to my writing after the walk, often I begin to think from other angles and see newer perspectives. New ideas spring up into view, issues I hadn't thought of, resolutions that seemed impossible - everything walks in to my freshly-scrubbed mind and takes their seat.

But just as in the case of all things important to writing, this is also something we could neglect easily. We do not miss walking if we do not do it, not always. It is easy to postpone or cancel it for a day. But when we do give it its due, we realise its significance and the fragrance it brings to the purpose of our lives.


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