find your way around

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Writing as an occupation is often sedentary, solitary, and stressful. Research is clear about the danger a sedentary lifestyle poses to our physical health. Similarly, solitude and stress can impact our mental health. But choosing to be a writer doesn’t mean you’re doomed to heart disease and depression.

10 Healthy Habits All Writers Should Practice

Want to avoid falling victim to the health issues lurking in the shadowy corners of your cozy writing space? Here are ten habits that will put you on the path to staying healthy as a writer.

1 | Drink plenty of water

I’m not going to lie, I love tea. And coffee. And while the myth that because they are diuretics they aren’t hydrating has been disproven, there’s still the whole question of “how much caffeine is too much caffeine?” Water is the best thing you can drink to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you don’t like plain water, there are plenty of options for adding a little flavor. My favorite is to throw some fruit in it. Hot water with lemon is great in the winter. In the summer, keep a container of water with fruit in the fridge. I highly recommend sliced strawberries and cucumber.

2 | Snack wisely

Does the cookie jar call to you when you’re stuck on a scene, or is that just me? It’s easy to find yourself eating way too much junk food while you’re working out plot points, so head yourself off by stocking up on healthy snacks. Fruit, nuts, boiled eggs, and cheese and crackers are my go to snacks. I try to steer clear of sugar as much as possible, because I have a raging sweet tooth and find it hard to control myself around a package of Oreos.

3 | Take breaks to stretch and move

Years ago, I worked in an office that required us to take alternating 5 and 10-minute breaks after 55 minutes of work. We could walk around, go to the restroom, get a snack, or step outside into the sunshine to chase away the fluorescent, windowless office blues. We were also given training on stretches we could do at our desks, but because I was young and indestructible, I rarely did them.

Now that I’m older and (debatably) wiser, I recognize the need to get up periodically to move around and stretch. If I didn’t recognize it, my body would surely remind me. A pomodoro timer is an excellent way to remind yourself to take a break and move around on a regular basis. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a pomodoro timer allows you to set intervals for work and breaks, much like my old office did. Most people seem to set it to 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break.

The timer is great because when I’m in a state of flow, sometimes I look up and realize I haven’t moved in hours.. And on those days when flow is nowhere to be found, I find it also helps me to focus if I know I only have to work for 25 minutes before I get a little break. There are lots of online versions of the pomodoro timer, including apps that you can install so that you have the timer on your toolbar and widgets that you can embed in Notion, which is what I use.

4 | Use an ergonomic workspace

This is one I definitely need to work on. I have a desk, but I never seem to actually sit there. I tend to get restless and move from place to place throughout the day, and most of those places (the coffee shop, my bed, the couch) are far from ergonomically correct. In fact, I think I fail miserably at implementing any of the requirements for an ergonomic workstation. An ergonomic setup will reduce strain on your back, neck, arms, and hands, as well as helping to prevent eyestrain. You can easily find adjustable desks and chairs at office stores, but I’ve also seen people modify their existing workspace to fit ergonomic guidelines using items they already have.

5 | Upgrade to a standing desk

If one of the dangers of the writing life is too much time spent sitting, then it makes sense that a standing desk is one solution. In fact, according to the Orthopedic Hospital of Wisconsin, standing desks offer several benefits as long as they are used correctly. A desk that can adjust to either standing or sitting height will offer the most flexibility, allowing you to change position throughout the day. I’ve even seen versions with built-in treadmills that allow you to walk while working at your desk. While I love the idea of getting in some steps while I work, I know that I am absolutely not coordinated enough to pull that off.

6 | Care for your eyes

I couldn’t tell you the number of times my parents told me sitting too close to the TV would ruin my eyes. And while it seems that was mostly a myth, I appreciate their attempts to keep me from blinding myself. Little did we know back then how much time we would come to spend staring
at screens, and it turns out that all that screen time does actually contribute to eye strain. Luckily there are a few things we can do to protect our eyes.

Ways to prevent eye strain:

  • Block the blue light and glare coming from your screen with specially coated glasses or screen protectors.
  • Lower the brightness on your screen. My daughter recoils in horror every time she unlocks my phone in the dark. “Turn your brightness down!” she shrieks. I admit, I like a bright screen, but my teenager is right. Lowering the brightness reduces strain on your eyes, especially in dim situations.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, focus for 20 seconds on something at least 20 feet away. Another lesson I learned at that long ago data entry job that has stuck with me. It’s easy to get absorbed and forget that you haven’t looked up from your screen in ages. Again, that pomodoro timer comes to the rescue.
  • Use a bigger font. This is helpful since I’ve reached the age where I’m moving my glasses up and down my nose to read. I enlarge the font on my emails, websites, Scrivener, and anything else I need to read.
  • Let Siri read to you. There are many options that enable your computer to read text to you. Search “text to speech reader” and you’ll find lots of them. There’s another benefit to using a text to speech reader. Hearing your writing read aloud helps you catch things that your eyes skim right over because they’ve looked at those words so many times.

7 | Care for your hands

While text to speech readers are useful for resting your eyes, speech to text programs offer the same benefit to your hands. Carpal tunnel is no joke, y’all, and though it may take a little while to get over the awkwardness of talking to yourself, the benefit to your hands is definitely worth it. Like text to speech readers, there are many options for speech to text. but you likely already have the ability to dictate directly into your computer or smartphone. On a Mac, just go to File > Start dictation. On a PC, I believe there is an option called “Speech Recognition.”

In addition to using speech to text programs, you can protect your arms and hands when you’re using the keyboard. Stting at the ergonomically optimal height will ensure that your arms and hands aren’t bent at awkward angles. Wrist rests are also available to support your forearms and wrists while you type.

8 | Establish a regular schedule

Sometimes that’s more easily said than done, especially if you write full-time from home. Somehow, that tends to signal to people that you’re available all day. But if you can settle into a consistent schedule, your body (and mind) will thank you for it. A consistent schedule makes it easier to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. It also reduces stress, since you have an idea of what your day entails. And it also makes it easier to establish a writing routine, which in turn improves your writing skills and confidence in your work.

If your schedule is currently far from regular, I get it. Some of us just have a harder time setting those boundaries, with ourselves and others. Start out by bookending your day—decide on a time to get up and a time to go to bed. Stick to those times as much as you can, even on weekends. Then decide on your working hours. Let people know that you aren’t available to chat or run errands during those hours, because you’re working.

9 | Walk more

I wrote an entire post about the benefits of walking for writers, and it’s still my favorite form of exercise. Now, with spring peeking around the corner, is the perfect time to develop a walking habit. It’s also worth noting that while walking has the obvious benefit of getting you out of your chair and moving, which is great for your physical health, it also does good things for your mental health. Just getting out into the fresh air and sun is a mood booster, and waving to the neighbors as you pass, or even pausing for a chat, is a good break from the solitude of your writing day. Check out that earlier post for more of the benefits walking offers.

10 | Take care of your mental health

The life of a writer can be stressful. There is pressure, both internal and external, to write something brilliant, or at least worth reading; frequent rejection, especially for those trying to break into traditional publishing; a (sometimes wildly) fluctuating income; days often spent in solitude; and impostor syndrome, among others. Any one of those stressors would be enough to affect your mental health, but when you consider that writers frequently face several of them at once, it comes as no surprise that they are among the top ten occupations most likely to experience depression.

But forewarned, as they say, is forearmed. Take steps to safeguard your mental health.

  • Establish a regular routine,
  • Be sure to get enough sleep
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Find writer friends you can commiserate with
  • Get regular exercise

Most importantly, don’t put off asking for help when you need it. It’s important to remember that there is no shame in seeking treatment. We all deserve to be in a healthy mental state.

Add these 10 healthy habits all writers should practice to your
routine so you can get back to worrying about fictional killers.

10 Healthy Habits All Writers Should Practice. Pears, a cup of tea, and a book rest on a chunky blue blanket.

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Most years, I have big plans for January. It’s that whole idea of a fresh start, a clean slate. That this year, big things are in store. So I put together a list of goals, broken down into tasks, ready to go when the new year dawns. Usually, establishing a solid writing routine figures in that list. Some years I do pretty well, other years I find myself at the end of January with a list of uncompleted tasks, overwhelmed by guilt and frustration. It is some consolation to know I’m not alone. Studies have shown that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned by February. Still, it’s hard to arrive at the end of the year’s first month already feeling like a failure.

This January has been a little different. The past few years have been incredibly difficult. Again, I know I’m not alone in this. And while there are certainly things I’d like to accomplish this year, I knew that I just wasn’t able to jump headfirst into goal setting. I recently started reading Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, and found myself drawn to the idea of rest and retreat. January and February are the darkest, coldest months where I live, and they can be brutal for those of us who suffer from mood disorders. I decided that instead of pressuring myself to dive into 2024, I would ease in, taking things slowly and using the entire month of January to make a plan for the rest of the year. Because, as Rosalie Muller Wright points out—

The image of a winter garden, seemingly dead and dormant, but with so much happening just below the surface, really appeals to me. Without the winter, there could be no spring. So I have arrived at the end of another January, focusing on hope rather than frustration, because I know that the seeds I’ve been planting are still there, patiently biding their time.

Among those seeds is my desire to develop a consistent writing habit. I’ve gathered a few tips to help set me up for success in that attempt, and I’m sharing them here in the hope that they might help you, too.

Whether you’re easing into the new year or you’ve already checked off an impressive number of items on your to-do list, these ten tips will help you create a writing routine that you will stick with throughout the year.

1 | Shift your mindset

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that each action we take is a vote for the kind of person we want to be. How do you vote for your inner writer? By shifting your mindset.

Instead of I want to be a writer, start saying (and thinking) I am a writer. And what do writers do? Writers write. So show up and write.

Write spellbinding prose or trash, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the more you write, the more you’ll hone your craft and begin to accept that you are, in fact, a writer.

2 | Lower your expectations

But aren’t goals supposed to challenge you? Not necessarily. As Elizabeth Spann Craig suggests, sometimes the best approach is to make your goal small. Ridiculously small.

At first, the goal might just be opening your manuscript or sitting down at your desk. Remember, you’re training yourself to show up because you’re a writer.

Once you are showing up consistently, raise the bar, but do it incrementally. The goal should always feel within reach. It’s much more intimidating to sit down to “write my novel” or to “write a chapter” than it is to “write 100 words” or “write for 5 minutes.”

Consistently meeting a goal, even a small one, strengthens the habit of sitting down to write. And remember, it’s a goal, not a limit. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll continue writing after you’ve met your goal, but even when you don’t, you’ll have another win to check off.

3 | Find your peak creative time

We each have a certain time of day when we are more productive at specific tasks. Many of the writers I follow prefer to write in the early morning hours. As in, before the sun comes up. That’s definitely not going to work for me. I just can’t see myself feeling creative at 4 a.m., although I kind of wish I could.

Try out some different times. Make a note of how you feel when you sit down, how many words you’re able to write, and how many of those words you end up keeping. All of that information will give you a better sense of when your most productive writing time is.

4 | Schedule your writing time

Once you’ve figured out your peak creative time, schedule it.

Actually schedule it—write it in your planner, just like anything else you want to be sure to get done. This appointment with yourself is just as important as the appointment with your dentist or with your friend for coffee. And when you’ve shifted to the I am a writer mindset, scheduling your writing time will feel more legitimate.

Finding a planner with a habit tracker has been really beneficial for me. There’s something about seeing the checkmarks lining up that is surprisingly motivating. I’ve included a free printable writing tracker for you to download at the end of this post.

5 | Minimize distractions and obstacles

The key to developing a new habit is to make it easy by removing as many stumbling blocks as you can ahead of time. If you’re working on developing a morning run routine, you’re more likely to succeed if you lay your running clothes out the night before. Removing obstacles ahead of time is equally important in developing a writing routine.

We all face different obstacles, but here are a few ideas for minimizing some common ones:

  • Be clear with those you live with. Let them know they are only allowed to disturb you if the house is on fire. It may be hard at first to get them to abide by the rules, but remember that I am a writer mindset—the more consistently you stick to your writing schedule, the more those around you will respect your writing time.
  • Turn off your phone, if possible. If not, put it out of reach and make sure it’s set to only alert you in case of emergencies, like an imminent tornado or a call from someone you can’t ignore.
  • Keep everything you need for your writing sessions in the place where you intend to write. If you’re anything like me, a side trip to retrieve a favorite pencil will turn into washing the lone dish in the sink, realizing you have no clean dish towels, throwing the dish towels into the washer, seeing that you’re low on laundry soap, adding laundry soap to the grocery list app, skipping over to check Instagram . . .

6 | Create a ritual

Our brains are amazing. They are wired to make connections. When you repeatedly follow one action with another, your brain will form a link between the two. Your ritual should be simple and quick, such as:

  • Picking up a special pen
  • Donning a certain item of clothing
  • Lighting a scented candle
  • Listening to music or nature sounds
  • Making a cup of tea or coffee

My current work in progress is set in the fall, so part of my ritual is lighting a fall scented candle and making a cup of Harney & Sons pumpkin spice tea. Whatever ritual you choose, you’ll find that, over time, your ritual signals to your brain that it’s time to write, making it easier to get started.

7 | Stop while you’re still excited

It may seem as if you should keep writing until you come to a natural stopping point, but most writers find it’s better to stop mid-scene or even mid-sentence. Stopping while you still know what happens next gives you a natural jumping off point for the next day’s work. And even though you know what is going to happen next, maybe jot down a few notes to jog your memory if you’re as forgetful as I am.

Now, when you sit down for your next writing session, you won’t be staring at an empty page. Your future self will thank you.

8 | Tell someone

Having an accountability partner greatly increases the chances that you’ll show up regularly for your writing sessions. Knowing that you’re going to have to check in with a friend and compare word counts might be just what you need to get you into your writing chair.

Don’t have any writer friends? Join a writer’s group. Online groups, such as Sisters in Crime, often have word sprints or other group writing activities that can give you that extra push to get some words down.

Are you active on social media? Post about your writing goals and promise your followers an update each day. It doesn’t get any more accountable than posting your word count for the whole world to see.

Your accountability partner doesn’t have to be a fellow writer. It can be your mom or your spouse or anyone who supports you in reaching your goals. When I told my family I was writing a book, my teenage son took it upon himself to ask me multiple times a day if the book was finished yet, and if not, why wasn’t I writing.

You know that cliché of the writer scribbling away all alone in a garret? Forget that—go tell someone and make yourself accountable.

9 | Write when you don’t feel like it

If you are reading this post, I suspect you know from experience that there will be days—lots of them—when you don’t feel like it.

Most days, I will put off writing by any means possible. But when I sit down and force myself to write something—just a sentence, a paragraph—it puts me into the I am a writer mindset, and I find that maybe I do feel like it after all.

On days when you’d rather clean toilets than write, make a deal with yourself that you can stop as soon as you meet your goal. While there will be days when you don’t want to stop once you get going, there will also be days when it’s a struggle to reach even your ridiculously small goal and you stop as soon as you hit it. That’s okay. You still showed up.

Which leads us to #10 . . .

10 | Be flexible

One of the many things the past few years have taught us is the value of flexibility. When the world shut down, writers who could only write in cafés were in trouble. So were the ones who could only write at home in the silence that fell after their families left for school and work.

Try to find a way to pivot your writing routine when life demands it, or when you just need a bit of change. I prefer writing at home, but I’ve also spent a lot of time writing in coffee shops while waiting for my one of my kids to get out of class. Luckily I can bring some of my rituals along—hot tea and thunderstorm sounds are portable.

Sometimes you’ll be able to pivot, and sometimes you won’t. Some days you just won’t be able to stick to your routine. That’s okay. Don’t let one missed session throw you off your game.

Just remember to show up the next day.

Ready to get started on that routine?

Like most things of value, establishing a writing routine that works for you will take time. You’ll need to experiment to find the routine that’s right for you, but that writer inside you is worth the vote.

Do you have a writing routine?
What is your favorite time to write?
Let me know in the comments!

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November is right around the corner, and with it comes National Novel Writing Month. Stock up on coffee, tea, and chocolate, and let’s get writing!

What is National Novel Writing Month?

NaNoWriMo, as it is affectionately known to the thousands of writers who look forward to it each year, is a month-long writing free-for-all. The goal is to start the month with an idea for a novel and to write 50,000 words of that novel by November 30th.

It’s not as insane as it sounds. In 2018, 287,327 people participated in NaNoWriMo. Of those, 35,387 “won,” that is, reached the 50,000 word goal. That’s about 29%.

Check out this post from last year for more information about NaNo.

What do I win?

Well, nothing exactly. No prizes are awarded to those who manage to get 50,000 words down before midnight on the 30th, but they do have all that sand in their box, just waiting for them to start building castles.

There’s also a nice certificate to print out and hang on your wall.

If that’s not enough to tempt you, NaNoWriMo has several sponsors who offer incentives. For instance, winners can purchase Scrivener at a 50% discount.

Speaking of Scrivener . . .

My favorite Scrivener trick

I am not an organized person by nature. I try, but I usually fail spectacularly. Scrivener helps me keep my scattered thoughts neatly organized and easy to find. I could go on for days about how much it has helped me with organizing my writing.

But this tip has nothing to do with organization and everything to do with inspiration. As a photographer, I’m a very visual person, and it really helps me to be able to see my characters and settings. I have Pinterest boards for my books, but clicking over to Pinterest when I’m supposed to be writing . . . doesn’t end well.

What I really needed was an inspiration board in Scrivener, so that I could take a virtual stroll through my fictional town without getting distracted by the internet. Luckily, creating an inspiration board with Scrivener is super easy.

How To Create an Inspiration Board In Scrivener

1 | Create a new folder to hold your images

Add a new folder to the binder. This will be the basis of your inspiration board. You can add more folders inside this one, or simply keep all your photos in the same folder. I divided my inspiration folder into sections for characters, their homes, and my fictional town.

2 | Next add some images to your inspiration folder

There are a couple of ways to do this, depending on what you want to keep in your folder.

For an Images Only Board

The simplest way to add images is to click on the inspiration folder so that it is active, then drag and drop images into the editor pane. (That’s the big one in the middle where you type your manuscript.) Alternatively, you can right-click on the inspiration folder then choose Add > Existing Files, which is useful for adding several images at once..

The images will be added to the folder as image files rather than documents, and the image will appear in both the editor pane and the synopsis pane of the inspector, as well as on the index card in cork board view, which is important for creating a visual inspiration board.

By clicking on the text/image toggle in the upper right corner of the synopsis pane of the inspector, shown below, you can switch from image view to text view, where you can jot notes and title the image.

You can also add notes in the notes pane below the synopsis pane, but you won’t be able to add text in the editor pane. Double-clicking on the image in the editor pane will open a window that allows you to adjust the scale and orientation of the image.

For an Images + Text Board

Sometimes I prefer to create documents within the inspiration folder, then add images to them or to add images to existing documents in the binder, such as character or location sketches.

To add a photo to a document, click the image/text toggle in the upper right corner of the synopsis pane of the inspector. When you toggle to image, you’ll see a prompt to drag an image into the synopsis pane. Just drag it over and drop it in.

The image will appear in the synopsis pane as well as on the index card in cork board view as long as the toggle is set to image. It will not appear in the editor pane. (It’s also possible to drag images into the notes section of the inspector, but those won’t show up in cork board view.)

3 | Switch to Freeform Cork Board

When I’m working with scene cards to get my plot in order, I like to have all my notecards in nice orderly rows on the cork board. But for my inspiration board, I prefer a slightly messier approach. To get the mood board effect for your inspiration board, you must first switch your cork board to freeform.

Click over to cork board view and look for the buttons at the bottom of the screen.. You want the one that looks like a four-paned window and the one to its right.

The window-shaped button will give you nice neat rows of cards. But when you click on the freeform button to the right of it, you get this . . .

These are a few of the images in my Hawthorne folder. The book I’m working on right now is set in autumn, so these are mostly images of what I imagine my fictional small town might look like in the fall. This is especially helpful when it’s 95 degrees outside and I’m not feeling the fall atmosphere.

In freeform mode, the cork board is just like an actual bulletin board. You can drag your images around the board and arrange them however you want. It’s a mood board for your novel.

Try adding some photos to your Scrivener project

Much like Photoshop, Scrivener offers several ways to do the same thing, so I’m sure there are other ways to add images to your project. These are just the methods I use. If you’ve never made an inspiration board for your Scrivener project, give it a try. You might be surprised what a boost it gives to your creativity.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? If not,
you should join us this year!

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Spring is finally here, bringing sunshine and longer days. After months of being stuck indoors and weeks of endless rain, I’m ready to get out and play. Then I think that maybe I should be working more and playing less.

But what if getting outside could be work, too?

Four years ago, trying to lose a few pounds for my brother’s wedding, I started taking a long walk every evening. One day I forgot to charge my phone, so I walked in silence. No music, no podcasts. About halfway through that walk, two people I’d never seen before strolled into my head and started arguing. That was the seed of the first Fox Sinclair mystery.

The creative side of my brain took over during those walks. I would start out with my mind consumed with my to-do list, but within the first ten minutes or so, all those things began to fall away. As my mind cleared, it wandered back to my story. Over the course of weeks and months, more characters and details fell into place.

Need some persuasion to lace up your walking shoes and head out the door?

Here are 5 reasons walking is the perfect exercise for writers.

#1 Writing is a sedentary occupation.

The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle are numerous—increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and depression; back problems; even a link to dementia and cancer. When I worked in data entry, we were required to take a break every hour to get up and walk around. Writers often work from home, though, where there is no supervisor to remind us to get up and move.

Scheduling a daily walk makes it much more likely that you’ll actually do it. And I do mean scheduling—write it in your planner, set a reminder in your phone, whatever works for you, just make sure it’s set for a specific time in your day. Once you get in the habit, you’ll be surprised how quickly you come to crave that daily walk and resent anything that keeps you from it.

#2 Writing is a solitary activity.

Sometimes writing can get a little . . . lonely. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert who can happily spend hours alone, but I also know from personal experience with depression that too much alone time can be a dangerous thing. Sometimes those walls start to close in, and getting outside for a walk is a great way to combat that solitude.

I’m not saying form a neighborhood walking group, since I really prefer walking alone. Especially since silence is best to encourage a wandering mind. However, just the act of getting out of the house and around the neighborhood, waving at a neighbor doing yard work or greeting other walkers, can make you feel less isolated.

#3 Walking is an exercise you can do anywhere.

One of the best things about walking is that you can do it just about anywhere with no equipment aside from a sturdy pair of shoes. At home? Lace up your shoes and head right out the front door. On vacation? Take a walk to explore the new city you’re in or hit the beach for a nice barefoot walk along the water’s edge. Raining? Head to the mall and walk indoors. Although I admit I kind of enjoy walking in the rain, as long as it’s a light rain.

Most days, I walk around my small-town neighborhood. The route is so familiar to me that I don’t even have to think about where I’m going—which makes it even easier for my mind to go wool-gathering. In the summer, when we head to the beach, I love waking up early (and that’s a big deal for this non-morning person) to walk alone on the beach as the sun is rising.

#4 Walking improves mental health.

I’ve struggled with depression off and on for most of my life, and I know that many other writers deal with it as well. I find that when I’m walking regularly, my mood is much more stable. On days when I’m in that dark headspace and really, really don’t want to get up off the couch for anything, if I can make myself get out for a walk, my mood always improves.

Whether it’s the sunlight, the physical activity, the fresh air, or something else, I always find myself feeling better about life in general after a walk. (A little tip for those of you who struggle with depression: if going out for a long walk feels overwhelming, tell yourself that you can turn around and come back after ten minutes if you want to. I promise you, nine times out of ten, you won’t want to.) And don’t just take my word for it. Studies prove that physical activity like walking improves mental health.

#5 Walking begets creativity.

Feeling uninspired? Struggling with writer’s block? Get up from the desk and go outside. Your mind will clear and ideas will come—even Thoreau recommended walking to get ideas flowing.

A Stanford University study found that walking increased creativity by an average of 60%, and that increase didn’t end with the walking itself but continued for some time afterward.
Why does walking spark creativity? I always assumed it was because my walks got me outside, seeing and hearing things that sparked ideas, but according to the study, creativity increases were the same for subjects walking outdoors and those walking indoors on a treadmill facing a blank wall.

A Few Tips For Your Next Walk

Ditch the tunes

While an energizing playlist is great when you are walking just for exercise, if you are hoping to release your creativity, you’re better off walking without the earbuds. Or, like me, with earbuds in but no music. The earbuds make it easier for me to smile and wave and keep walking instead of stopping to chat. (I’m a Southerner—the instinct to be polite and friendly is strong.)

Plus, music drowns out all the sounds that you’ll hear on your walk. Birds, the wind in the trees, the distant sound of a lawnmower . . . once, a murmuration of starlings swooped so low over me as I walked that I could hear the rush of their wings. I wouldn’t have heard that if I’d had music blasting through my earbuds.

Now, if you live in a city, you might need something to drown out the noise and get you in that creative mood. Instead of music, try a white noise app. There are some really fantastic ones available now. I love Rainy Mood and Relax Melodies. Even music without words can work. Movie soundtracks are great for setting mood.

Have a way to make notes

One of the most frustrating things for a writer is coming up with a fantastic idea, thinking that you’ll write it down later, and when you go to do that, realizing you’ve forgotten your brilliant idea. That happens to me all. the. time. Especially as I’m falling asleep at night. I’m getting better about always having some way to take notes handy.

When I’m walking, I use my phone for notes. There are so many options—voice memo apps, Scrivener mobile, sending yourself an email or a text, note apps, even saying “Hey Siri, take a note.” Then you don’t have to stop or dig your phone out. It’s like having your own personal assistant following you around all the time.

Enjoy your walk

If you head out the door determined to generate some ideas, you’ll stress yourself out before you even get started. Don’t have an agenda—just walk. Feel the sunshine on your face, smell the fresh-cut grass, enjoy the rhythm of your feet hitting the pavement (or the path). Not all my walks generate ideas, and that’s fine. For all the reasons listed above, walking is always worthwhile. Relax and enjoy yourself!

And in the words of the podcasters behind My Favorite Murder . . .

Stay sexy, don’t get murdered

As a mystery writer, I feel obligated to remind you to always let someone know where you are going to be before you head off on a solitary walk, whether through the forest or around the block. Be aware of your surroundings and listen to your instincts. They’re there for a reason.

How about you—do you enjoy walking or are you more of
a gym rat? Where do you find that you are most inspired?

Fueled by equal parts sweet tea and passion, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. 

Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can’t wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. I believe in real moments and heartfelt conversations on the front porch. In the kinds of images that remind you of the joy that can be found in the simplest of moments together. 

mystery writer & editor

I’m Amanda

Get to know me

hello there!

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Writing Routine

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