Writing and Walking – A Combination I Cannot Do Without

by martinhesp


Writing, thinking, walking – walking, thinking, writing… That’s how I spend an awful lot of time here in my hidden valley on Exmoor.

It’s the writing, of course, that pays the bills – but it wouldn’t get done without the other two. The act of writing and thinking go hand-in-hand. There’ll be splurges when I am writing features for my newspaper when the fingers never stop hammering across the qwerty keyboard – and that is particularly true when I might be putting together a heart-felt opinion column.

But a lot of chin-rubbing and staring into space goes on as well. For years I have worked in a converted loft-space that only has roof-light windows that I can’t see out of the room from my desk – and this is a deliberate ploy on my part because I wonder how much constructive thinking I’d get done if I was able to gaze out at an ever changing and fascinating world.
After an hour’s solid writing and intense concentration, it is amazing how the antics of, say, a small bird (like the goldcrests which live in my garden) can absorb the eye and brain. But if you are working to lots of tight deadlines – as you inevitably are for a daily newspaper – there’s no time for such luxuries.

However, I do sometimes think my mind should get out more, so to speak. Which is why I have been contemplating moving the office to another upstairs room and having french-windows installed so that I get a view of the valley. Such a move will cost time, effort and money – and it might not work. It could be that the writing environment I’ve had for years is something I can never escape from – if I wish to continue production levels of the past decade.
Be that as it may, the one thing I cannot do without is the daily writer’s walk. All the photographs in this blog were taken by me in the last hour on one of the walks I take with my lurcher dog – and I hope you can see how beautiful this corner of the Exmoor National Park is.

I live in a hidden valley that few people ever visit – and it is rich in rights-of-way and ancient cart-trails and packhorse tracks, so that I can wander pretty much endlessly without having to repeat the same route more than once in a month. And I am referring here to walks that take me away from roads and houses – these are muddy paths and tracks that ascend through woods out on to airy heaths – that weave through great forests up to lonely ridges – and even secret byways that take me out of the valley altogether into neighbouring river systems.
Vast and empty countryside (on a British scale, at least) is the most conducive thing there is to thought and therefore to writing. I can be just about out-of-steam at my desk without the will or energy to construct another sentence – and an hour’s walk in these hills will restore the wherewithal to carry on for the rest of the day.

I often do the walk in mid-afternoon when eyes are beginning to droop and the letters on the screen are starting to merge in one weary blur,

So that I’m thinking – who gives a toss? Not me. Probably no-one else either.

One hour later, refreshed and fully oxygenated, I’m back and thinking: “Actually, I do care – and I am certain others will too.”

Without that on board, there is no writing. You have to care – you have to believe people reading the stuff will as well.

If you are interested, I will return to the subject of walking and writing – because I think it is a fascinating and crucial one.