How to Walk Around the Writer's Block

Some people do caffeine. Others do yoga. I do walks. And I like ‘em like I like my bathroom breaks, often and alone.

So check this out, it’s the middle of the day and we’ve just returned from a discovery meeting. A company named Wine Country Gift Baskets needs a brand video that communicates the power of gift giving. While the rest of the team gets to work thinking strategy and pulling art styles, I’m sitting at my computer staring at a blank page… it happens. But I’m not about to take this sitting down, so I grab a notecard and a pen, and I head for the door. For walks, I’ve got a long route and a short route. I take the long route.

I’m about ten paces out when the smell of heat and a few local bushes brush past my face. Suddenly I’m reminded of my grandma. They say your olfactory system is in close proximity to your brain’s memory bank, so apparently heat + office bushes = grandma… trust me, it makes sense. Anywho, that gets me thinking, “wow just a whiff of something and I’m instantly ten, playing in my grandma’s backyard. Man, I miss her.” And then it dawns on me, if only people in my life knew that something reminded me of them, or that I was thinking about them. I bet they would like to hear about that. There’s just something about the unexpected “how ya doin’?” call, the “saw these and it reminded me of you” gift, or the “just because” letter. And then blammo! A concept is born. “Appreciation doesn’t need an occasion.

You can watch here to see the finished project if you like, but really what I’m getting at is simply this… I WOULD NOT have been able to come up with this sitting at my desk. Without the walk, no smells; without the smells, no memory; without the memory, no concept. This is pretty much how every creative session works for me… sans or sans the smells.

But honestly, there’s a lot more to it than that. So let me just shoot out four quick reasons why walking can help you sidestep writer’s block or any other creative block for that matter.

THE COUNTERFEIT

Creatives work better with deadlines — they put the pressure on and get your imagination flowing, or else… In my experience, walks can create counterfeit deadlines to do just that. For example, if your walk consists of a stroll to the big tree at the end of the parking lot and back, then by the time you’re almost back at the office, your mind is going to start putting on the pressure. It’s gonna say things like, “oh no, I passed the tree… and nothing. I passed the oil stain… and still nothing. I’m ten feet from the door and, oh… what’s that? An idea?!” You’ve gotta create pressure, because the last thing you want is to sit back down at your desk with nothing.

THE NOISE REDUCER

Noise isn’t just audible, it’s internal too. If your office is filled with cackling hens, get out. If your head is filled with cackling hens, get out. You’d be surprised at how much peace you feel when you get outside. Even if there’s a lot of noise outside, sometimes that can help get your mind off whatever it’s mulling on. What you’re after here is peace from what’s distracting you, internal or external. Now, I know I just talked about “pressure” in the previous note, but that’s different, because it’s “controlled pressure.”

THE CRUNCHY-LOOKING LEAVES

Never, ever, underestimate a good crunchy leaf. Be honest… you will go slightly out of your way to step on that crunchy looking leaf. And when you do, man! You can almost feel the tiny crunchies relieving stress from your body and filling you with delight. Remember, writer’s block, creative block, sales block, or whatever kind of block you got, is all up here (points to head). It’s just your brain saying, “I’m depressed cause I can’t think right now.” So, see what happens when you lighten up a bit. Step on enough crunchy leaves, and you’ll change your attitude. Change your attitude, and you’ll bring back your creative aptitude. Man, I love the Fall.

THE 500 STEPS

Okay, so every once in a while you may not find the idea you were hoping for. It happens. But shoot, don’t get bummed out when you just did yourself a healthy favor. Walking is great for the body and for the brain. And much like the crunchy leaves, if you can find moments of delight elsewhere, you’ll forget that you’re lost and you’ll start to imagine again. It only takes a spark to ignite a fire.

That’s it. Walk on.

Casey Williams