When I began writing these daily Musing columns my purpose was not entirely clear but my process was. Clear, and simple: walk, think while walking, write, and then publish. Coffee was always involved before walking and while writing.
I kept noticing people walking dogs. They appeared happier than I was feeling. I wondered if maybe I needed a dog too.
No small deliberation … .
I’d had dogs as a child. I’d bought a dog for my children – we had a family dog. Then, as now, I was far away from family, living alone, and my desire to have a dog as pet and walking companion began fermenting. Deliberation confirmed my dog desire; not so much care, walking, and logistics of having one but realizing my lifestyle would be remade. For the lifetime of the dog. Big judgment call. For me. And for the dog. At that point I was golden retriever focused after considering numerous breeds (I wish someone had mentioned how much they shed).Convinced, I got one.
Whatever age, buying a dog is not purchase transaction as much as it is transformation to being child again inside a grown up body. Playfulness returns where emptiness of not feeling playful had been, blunt sadness of its absence suddenly dissolved.
After all this time I remain completely confused about whether I’d have continued writing this way, or at all, if it wasn’t for the habit, the routine, the repetition of that daily purpose. Some scientists should study that more, but I digress … .
From pup through geriatric stages, walking Gusta every day was part of my routine, and part of my writing process which changed scarcely over time. Writing a short while before heading out, writing ahead – for following day and then publishing polished version of what I’d written the day before, became my norm. Over time, managing a large mailing list and website archive – this became a judicious economical use of time and energy.
In my mind this process remained indistinguishable – my walking habit had moved from frequent (prior to the first Musing) to ‘daily without fail’ and essential, in my mind, to writing this column.
Walking, obviously, was essential to dog needs, but it wasn’t apparent at first – dog walking became a critical element in my nascent writing life, this walking/thinking part of my writing process.
Dog gone two months now, I’m walking still – every morning, but often not so far. Most days not as early. I’ve wondered whether my creative chicken-egg sequence has rejiggered itself without my knowing.
Often my walks aren’t as easy to get started early, because I first sit down to write and got enmeshed in what I’m writing, or that I spend more time reading papers and overnight emails between coffee refills – in part because a four-legged critter isn’t sitting by the door, eager to get outside for toileting and sniffing around our routes. Sometimes my belated walk is actually a rationalization that ‘I must do this to keep with my routine’ exercise – or is it fear the writing will change?
Convolution here is not about habit as much as about process, self-pressure, and fear I’ll lose my feel for this. I admit some of that fearfulness is a concern this daily exercise of freedom will end, or be less relevant for me, for those who read and appreciate what I write.
I’m not trying to sound an alarm or to paint myself into a decision-forcing corner. Like exercise in all its forms, walking is more important for my physical and mental health than ever. The question, whether it is essential to the writing?
The writing seems less connected to the walk experience in terms of what I write about; for a long while now I’ve rarely written about the weather or what I see while walking – partly because I’m writing something I’ll publish the following day when weather and sights are different, but because I’ve gone from writing in my belly to writing in my head. Not suggesting that is good or bad, just that it is a change and I recognize it as such.
The other change, inaugurated nearly two years ago, writing further pieces day. Sometimes one, sometimes several.
I write a few unconsidered thoughts first – then walk, then complete the piece – or start fresh on returning. Diversions too; spending a few minutes each day writing and polishing other writing pieces I do weekly, and finding time to spend on ‘the novel’ in my head for six years, on paper for two and only recently has it caught fire. I’m spending more time on it lately and will continue with newly found intensity.
As for morning perambulations, I’ve continued for exercise as much as for writing stimulation; still, I am disinclined to remove any aspect from my whole Musing recipe – partly for fear it will change things, partly for fear it won’t … .