Walking My Way Back to My Desk

Walking & Writing

Walking my way back to my thoughts.

I’d been working full-time revising a novel from August twentieth until September twenty-first. Those were four glorious weeks of concentrated work, during which I never had to wonder, What am I going to write today? I worked on the revision morning and afternoon, completing all other assignments as breaks.

I love working deeply in a book, where I have its alternative universe to keep me company during the activities of daily living, from weeding the garden to hanging the laundry and other necessary chores. I’m particularly pleased about how I juggled this delicious revision task with the interruptions for the kitchen renovation, which demanded my irregular attention.

Amtrak's Vermonter

Editing the typescript on the train.

I pushed myself to have a typescript finished and printed in time to read it on the train to New York City for a weekend visiting friends, and I managed to proofread this version on the train ride home.

But back home, I didn’t have the anchor of this project to keep me grounded, even though I need to update the document before sending it to my next set of readers. It’s finish work, just like the kitchen, where I needed to make frequent decisions. In fact, the finish work of both the kitchen and novel are similar, demanding decisions about smaller and smaller details – a chapter heading, paragraph break, comma usage for one, and a door stopper, cabinet pulls and knobs for the other. Not just which ones, but where. The details seem endless.

And then there’s family life: my youngest and her partner returned from nearly six months hiking the Appalachian Trail, which they finished on the heels of a hurricane. They returned home tired and hungry. It’s been fun to feed them and hear their stories while they’re still fresh.

The upshot of this break in routine and concentration was first a sense of delirium – so happy to have completed the revision! How wonderful to meet an adult child for dinner in Manhattan before spending the weekend with friends! So relieved the hiking kids are safely off the trail!

But the delirium ended as it always does – with a crash.

Walking and writing.

Walking helps me find my writing voice after any hiatus. (photo courtesy of Leadership ‘n Motion)

I didn’t resume my routine. I didn’t check my planner. I didn’t reign in my mind, and my life wobbled out of control. I missed deadlines for two posts. (This one should have appeared last week.) I went to the grocery store without my list. I spent hours, it seemed, looking for my phone.

After four days, I’d had enough. I returned to my desk, I sifted my emails, and I went for a walk. It was on the walk that the word “Scattered” came to me, and I knew that wobbling from lack of routine and losing my focus would be the subject of a post. And that’s how I found my way back to work.

What’s different from the thousand other times this spinning off-center has happened, is that this time, instead of beating myself up for what I didn’t do, I’m congratulating myself on knowing how to pick up the fragments of my scattered concentration: Go for a walk, return to my desk, and start writing.

For me, the best way to regroup is to go for a walk and listen for my voice.

It works every time.

How to you regain concentration after it’s been disrupted?

writing and walking

Kate Link Lampel and I are collaborating on Women Women Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom on 11/4/17

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, walker and educator. She’s hosting Women Walking and Writing toward Wisdom WALKshop with walker and life coach Kate Lampel Link on Saturday, November 4, from 9 am – 4 pm in Newfane, Vermont. Early Bird registration ends October 7. For more information and to register, click here.

24 thoughts on “Walking My Way Back to My Desk

  1. Thanks for sharing your process. I’ve had a job since I was 13 and fantasize about quitting and being a full time writer. Can’t help but wonder what the loss of a schedule would do. Routine, even on vacation, is my go-to. The artist in me would likely prefer less of it haha. Congrats on your books.

    • And yet . . . sometimes routines are stifling. That’s another good time to go for a walk.
      Before I could write full time, I always had a pen and paper with me and often wrote in the car while waiting for a child’s class to be finished – and sometimes I just pulled over to write something that I felt urgent to preserve. In fact, I still carry the pen and paper at all times. And – especially at the beginning of a project, when I’m unclear about where I’m going – I sometimes deliberately seek busy places to write: a library or cafe or park bench.
      When all’s said and done, having a job that keeps you in paper and ink is important, too.
      Good luck with your writing, and thanks for reading the blog.

    • Yes! So another technique I find helpful is to clean a room or space that has fallen into disarray while you’ve been writing. Dusting, organizing and culling through piles of books, magazines and papers always helps me clear my mind and move on to the next project – with the added advantage of leaving tidiness in its wake – not a typical outcome for most of my endeavors! Good luck.

  2. Dang I wish I was anywhere near Vermont. I could totally relate to your story. I crash every single time I finish a story, usually about the same time–after initial revisions and the story is out. I like reading through it once more, but then when it gets to be nitpicking about details…the fun is gone. The story is over. And I always think there’s never going to be another story as exciting as the last, but then something jumps into my head, and I’m off again. Writing is life. Story-telling is everything.

  3. I think a walk is a great refresher. And it sometimes a walk makes its way into my writing. After observing the pattern of sunlight dappled walkways during a morning stroll, I realized something important that my main character would have noticed as she walked down the street in her life. Now she observes it in Chapter 2.

  4. Thank you for thoughts shared. I have come to realize I’m a different kind of writer. When I was working on a newspaper I was offered a cadetship to be a journalist. In a moment of sudden insight I KNEW it was not my pathway. Just the facts would have killed me. I was a storyteller but always it had to be what would be encouragement and blessing to others.(I found my path in genuine history but with fictional family. When I knew this about my own voice (ie not wanting to be popular or making money or a ‘living’ out of it I enjoyed the journey). I write because it is part of my life . Walking always inspires. I can understand Mary’s comment above. what is observed makes for real life doesn’t it. Cheers! and keep writing ALL.

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