A foolproof way into writing is a long (or long-ish) solitary walk.

I can’t count how many times I’ve received first lines of songs, wholly plotted fictions, or endings to essays as I’ve circled Stow Lake, wandered SF Botanical Garden or strolled west on JFK toward the polo fields.

Sometimes a story seed drifts in while I’m walking. It plants itself, grows like a silent weed and blooms later in a dream.

But I can never invite or expect it. I can only put one foot in front of the other – whether it’s for 10 minutes or 3 hours. There’s just something about walking that leads to writing.

“He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again…The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories…”

That passage by Kenneth Grahame, in The Wind in the Willows, has long been a favorite because I’ve often felt like Mole, especially on a walk along water. Grahame has written eloquently about how walking and writing go together.

So has Deena Metzger, described on her website as “poet, novelist, essayist, storyteller, teacher, healer and medicine woman.” (Yes, she is ALL those things and more.)

In her book, Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds, she recommends lonely walks as a prelude to writing.

“…the walks became longer, and night after night, despite rain or snow, I passed by the lighthouse, poked about the debris of the beached hospital ship in the bay, and stopped on the jetty to feel the ocean spray…Perhaps I did learn how to be a writer from those walks, as well as beginning the practice of solitude that has been just as essential to my work.”

Solitude. Breath. An unclenching of ego. These are the simplest gifts to writers; yet – all too often – they are the ones we’re most reluctant to grant ourselves.

I lead writing and mindfulness workshops throughout the Bay Area. My approach is adaptable in many settings — from helping groups honor an important life event to assisting a business team in articulating a shared vision. Contact me to learn more. For information on my San Francisco real estate practice, visit RealEstateTherapy.org or CynthiaCummins.com.