Walking has become my go-to exercise. I think because I don’t need any equipment to perform this feat (just shoes and clothes, unless I were trodding in a nudist camp). Also, I groove on the out of doors. Even though most of my peregrinations consist of trips around my neighborhood block, I can witness hummingbirds flitting above my head, snails creeping across the sidewalk, the occasional rabbit, and crows who heckle my progress. In short — total bliss.
So then I stumbled across this quote by famous director Ingmar Bergman: “Demons don’t like fresh air – they prefer it if you stay in bed with cold feet.” As artists, we all have our demons. They sink their claws into your shoulders and say you “can’t create today” or that you’re “no good.” These sorts of negative thoughts breed when you stay still, cooped up at home.
A few moments in the fresh air and often that negativity seems to have faded. I often carry a notebook (or my phone) with me to jot down ideas because they come to mind with a ferocity. It’s almost as if the fresh air is a tonic for writer’s block. It’s made me wonder if I could ever write while walking.
Getting outdoors brings to mind another quote, this one from Tolkien (via Bilbo Baggins): “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” So true.
It’s the shift of perspective that I’m most after with these sojourns around the neighborhood. The very fact that I am limited on what I can produce (no mobile keyboard or sketching supplies) frees my mind to consider other avenues. And this is what truly exorcises those demons.
A note of caution, don’t use walking as a way to avoid creating art. David Sedaris is famous for getting a fitbit and then going nutzo with it. He saw that when you reached 10,000 steps, it would send you a congratulatory email. So he walked and walked and walked. Sometimes racking up 60,000 steps (that’s 25 miles) in a single day. “I’m completely obsessed. It’s like a sickness,” he said in an interview.
So when your inner demons try to convince you that you can’t do it today, step out your door. Then watch them shrivel up and blow away on the breeze.