Walking and Musing

Walk at a pace of 20 minutes to the mile.

Posted Apr 06, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye

12019 / pixabay
Source: 12019 / pixabay

During the pandemic, I walked and rode my stationary bike. Not a Peloton, mind you. Not even a Bowflex that goes from side to side. A plain old Precors. Any movement is better than none at all, I figure.

Walking is good for you. When musing, I walk a 20-minute mile, not too fast, not too slow—a noodling pace. Often a piece I’m working on rolls around in my mind. I silently play with ideas, and as thoughts gel, I may come up with an opening line, ready to write when I get home to my desk.

Sometimes I think about new ways to say things.

Walking through the woods in Blithedale Canyon after a week of winter rain, it’s easy to see how cliches are born. The creeks are swollen, thick with silver water that sprints towards Old Mill Park, where the ghost of the sawmill from 100 years ago flits among the children’s swings.

How would I describe the water? In a way that hasn't been said before. Running, rushing, roaring? All accurate, but overused. I play with the cliches as I walk past the stream, mixing adjectives and nouns to break my logical, linear thought.

Roaring roses, rambling streams

Broken river, swollen dreams

Swollen river, roaring streams

Broken roses, rambling dreams

Roaring river, swollen streams

Rambling roses, broken dreams

Whooshing, tinkling, willing, thrilling.

A word about clichés. They became clichés for a reason—because they’re apt descriptions. If you decide to hone and revise, weed them out—go for fresh images: wrought iron fence posts like Zulu spears; spring grass as bright as parrots’ wings; words that slipped like minnows through my tears.

There are many resources to help you find language for sensory description. Cookbooks, chefs, or food magazines can show you ways to write about smell and taste. On the Internet, you can search for a phrase like “describe wine” and find a list of 20 adjectives. For sound, you could read books on music, and for sight, you could read art books or listen to museum audio guides. Good travel writing is filled with sensory descriptions because they help us experience the place as the writer did.

If you want to be a good writer, write a lot, read a lot, and listen deeply. Your vocabulary will expand along with your world.

Writing exercise:

Think of new ways to describe the following water scenes:

  • A flowing stream or river
  • A lake lapping the shore
  • Ocean waves breaking on the beach