Showing posts with label walk and run. Show all posts
Showing posts with label walk and run. Show all posts

08 January 2018

Wandering with a Story

by Stephen Ross

A friend sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic. It's about how writers run. Maybe she was suggesting something. I'm a writer, but I don't run... but then I'm not exactly immobile. I walk; as in long walks for no reason other than the walk itself. So, in a sense, I am a writer who runs, I just do it with, ahem, "considered application." And like the authors mentioned in the Atlantic article (Louisa May Alcott, Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillo, et al), the forward propelled movement with no specific goal other than the movement itself is absolutely linked to my writing.

Absolutely is perhaps too strong an adverb. But the relationship is symbiotic. There is simply nothing better after a long day of writing to throwing on a t-shirt and pair of shorts, lacing up a pair of sneakers, and heading out for a brisk stroll. I have a natural circuit around my neighborhood. It's about seven kilometers, features a hill climb, and takes about an hour. Perfect.

First up out the door is the intake of fresh air; great lungfuls of it. And any kind of exercise has to be good after sitting at a desk for several hours. It gets the dopamine flowing. But what it's really about is the plunge back into reality after a day spent ensconced in the imagination. Writing is a form of meditation. It's a concentration that disconnects you from the here and now. You go with your story. You flow with it. You enter its world and your mind "exists" in its space and time.  Walking brings you back.

And brisk walking is a form of meditation itself, although a more rhythmic sort. It's a straightforward repetition of physical action. And it's passive, so you don't need to think at all while you do it. But, of course it is, in that passive state, with the dopamine flowing, the perfect time to think; to ponder, reflect, and consider. And here's where it's symbiotic for me, because I think about the writing I've just been doing.

And I realized sometime ago why the walking + thinking about the day's writing can be so effective: I can't edit. I can't call up the text on a screen in front of me and read it over. I can't move things around: a word dropped here, a sentence rewritten there.


Everything has to be from the memory. And as such, the thinking becomes more analytical in nature. Firstly, questions, e.g., Does the story really work? Are the characters' motivations clear and defined? Is the twist at the end twisty enough? And so on. And then out into the realms of meta-thinking, where, in the meditative state of the walking, the mind wanders in and out of the story, and I'll ponder everything from its word count to the hero's hat size. It's here where the imagination roams free.

And it's here where things can spark.

I wrote a story once about a young boy who enlisted the help of an elderly, retired policeman to look for a missing friend (The Man with One Eye, EQMM, December 2010). While out on a walk during the writing, an idea came out of nowhere to make the old man a retired gangster, instead. The character immediately became more interesting to write and the story was better for it.

Just about every story I've written has had a spark or two like this. Walking invokes a form of lateral thinking, or thinking outside the box (leastways, outside the house), which is completely different to the thinking when sitting at the desk staring at the text on the monitor.

Needless-to-say, I always have a notepad and pencil on standby for when I return home.

Beethoven was keen walker. He favored forests, and he was lucky; in 18th Century Germany there always seemed to be one handy. I don't have the luck of dense foliage to roam about, but it helps that where I live (borderline suburbs/rural) is low density traffic and people, so I encounter little distraction when out. My fellow footpath travelers are dogs, mostly; out taking their humans for walks, and no doubt mulling over their day's work, just like I am. This bone or that bone? Shall I annoy the cat, this evening? Shall I continue work on my memoirs?

Ray Bradbury was another walker. He hated cars and never got a driver license.
"What are you doing out?"
"Walking," said Leonard Mead.
"Walking!"
"Just walking," he said simply, but his face felt cold.
"Walking, just walking, walking?"
"Yes, sir."
"Walking where? For what?"
"Walking for air. Walking to see."
From The Pedestrian
Ray Bradbury, 1951
And, of course, the last thing I would say is that all that walking is kind of healthy. So there it is.

The article at The Atlantic is here: Why Writers Run

www.StephenRoss.live

Photo from www.Pexels.com

02 September 2013

Baby to Toddler to Published

Jan Grape
by Jan Grape

Our SleuthSayers blog is coming up on its second birthday on the 17th of this month. Wow, we're not babies anymore. We started out not really knowing where we'd go or who we might meet along the way, but it's been fun so far. We have an outstanding group of award-nominated and award-winning authors. We have a couple of writers who had to go on hiatus because of writing deadlines, yet we were able to add wonderful new folks immediately. Now at the terrible two stage, I expect more mystery, murder and mayhem, daily. If you only come around periodically, I suggest you try to come by on a regular basis. You might be surprised at our new running, walking, toddling stage and the very grown up published state.

The idea of comparing SleuthSayers to a baby just brings to mind how a writer is born, grows and develops. Not every writer, okay, there is the odd one or two published the first time out. Those are rare cases. And in reality most of those honed their craft in newspaper or magazine writing or editing. They could even have a background in public relations, advertising or graphic work. It's possible they have a background/work history which they then used to write, like a policeman, a CIA agent, a lawyer, a crime-beat reporter or they were a real private detective. Being a bit of an expert in their field helped their writing craft.

Most writers have to start somewhere in their life, usually at an early age writing. I know authors who wrote a novel when they were ten or twelve or fourteen years old. At any rate, they almost always thought about or wanted to be a writer. I knew one children's author who told stories to her class when the class work was over each day. She quickly learned in telling her tales to stop at the day at an exciting part so the other kids wanted her to continue the story the next day. She was a baby writer who grew up fast.

Another friend who wrote a novel at age 12, went around neighborhood selling copies. I know writers now who write and have children in school. They have to work their schedule around when the kids are gone and then be ready to be a parent when the kids come home from school. I knew one lady who had toddlers underfoot, who would type a line or two, then change a diaper or fix a bottle. More power to her.

I know a lady who is a best-selling author whose husband died from a heart attack and she had three small children and since she had always wanted to be a writer, decided to see if she could make it. She did.

Another writer I know, also a best-selling author who wrote a couple of medical mysteries because his wife was a doctor and he had someone who could help him with the technical parts. Then he wrote private-eye novels and next wonderful thrillers and he stays home and takes care of the kids, being Mr. Mom while he writes.

I always wanted to write and publish books but I worked as an X-ray Technician and Radiation Therapist and after doing that all day and with three kids at home, I didn't try to have anything published. Well, that's not exactly true. I wrote an essay for English class my senior year and unbeknownst to me, my teacher had it published in the school paper. The paper came out that morning and after first period class a bunch of kids came running up and told me that Miss Moore had published my essay in the school news paper. It was What Christmas Means To Me. I was so excited, kids wanted my autograph and that's when I knew I wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, that publication didn't survive and I don't have a copy of it.

My next publication was a scientific paper on a new machine we got in Austin at Holy Cross Hospital called a telecopier. This was before fax machines. The oncology radiologist I worked with was able to send a preliminary treatment plan using this machine and transmit this plan to an oncology radiologist specialist in Houston (not MD Anderson) where they also had a physicist. The Houston folks worked out all the details and transmitted the final plans back to our department in Austin. The article I wrote was entered in the Local Radiological Society contest and the Texas State Radiological Society contest and I won both prizes. The TSRS sent it to the American Society and they published it in their monthly journal. The local prize was $50 and local publication, but the TX RT Society prize was $500 and the promise of the publication in the national journal. That was the first paid publications and it was about twenty years before I was paid for a short story. And it wasn't a mystery. Another five years passed before I published my first mystery short story. Good thing I kept my day job.

But when I started writing with an eye to actually trying to be published, I was a baby writer. I had to learn to crawl, then to walk, and finally to run as a writer and get published more often.. I learned that as long as I kept writing...not really worrying about getting published but sending query letters out and eventually getting feed-back that I improved. I grew as a writer. And strangely enough I noticed there seemed to be a change, or a growth spurt about every six months. The best way to do that as all you SleuthSayers know and any of you aspiring writers want to know is to write, write, write. and read, read, read.

So keep in mind most of us start out as baby writers and we keep growing with all the trials and pains of a toddler and then a teenager, but finally we learn and become a published author. There're a lot of growing pains along the way but it's worth it. Just ask any SleuthSayer.