It’s surprising what a walk can do for your brain. Recently, I finished a big project. To reward myself I decided that for one week I could play with an idea. I wasn’t going to outline nor figure out time lines nor family trees nor any of the other things that give a story depth. No, for one precious week I could open my computer, write five hundred to a thousand words a day and then walk away.
Things didn’t go as planned. First, Hurricane Sandy hit and took out our power. We have a generator and a wood stove but to keep everything and everyone going took all my attention. The only time I had to write was a night (as long as I remembered to charge my computer via the generator) and by that time I was so exhausted I wouldn’t get much past four words before I fell asleep.
I decided that instead of a week, I would count my reward as seven non-consecutive days where it was possible to work. The week after Sandy (and, fortuitously, the day after we got our power back) I was scheduled to take my young child and travel to my sisters to look after my nieces for a week. While he napped, I decided, I would play.
Again things didn’t go as planned. Between the confusion of Sandy and now travel my son was thrown out of his usual schedule and he decided to test every boundary we have ever set several times to make sure I really meant everything from ‘eat your breakfast’ to ‘you may not drive the car’. This happens with every child so I’ve dealt with it before but it’s exhausting. When I finally got ten minutes to sit down and write it didn’t work. Words would barely flow, my lovely idea hid and sent it’s boring cousin.
I wanted to scream.
Then one of my wonderful nieces finished her homework early and wanted play with my son. I took advantage to give the two dogs in the house a good walk.
Jack, my sister’s lab, is in his prime and needs a long walk everyday. Asta, my Fox Terrier, is fifteen and though mostly blind is very fit and could trot from here to Jerusalem if someone would point her in the right direction. The sun was setting, a brisk wind blew and numbed my ungloved hands as we walked. After the first mile, something happened.
My brain turned on. Where it felt tired, fizzled and hardly able to hold an intelligent thought before it now sharpened and began to tick over. Despite my desire to just play with words I began planning a family tree. Scenes and dialogue became more focused, a sub plot formed. While Jack walked, sniffed and marked every tuft of grass and Asta solidly trotted along what had been a bit of fun took shape and officially became a WIP.
I always feel better when I exercise but rarely are the benefits so pronounced. If I ever get snagged again I’ll know it’s time to take my dog for a long walk.