Why walk to write?
Research indicates that the simple act of walking, especially when done in nature, enhances creativity.
Moreover, traveling outside our comfort zone — into foreign places or even in new neighorhoods in our own cities — boosts creative thinking and problem solving.
It stands to reason, then, that taking a walk (whether a 30 minute vigorous stroll outside your door or an hours-long ambulation along one of the world’s ancient roads or spiritual paths) has the power to break open the creative centers of the brain and break down writer’s block.
In fact, it doesn’t just stand to reason. Walking as a prelude to writing actually works.
Several years ago, I walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago across Spain, a journey that set the writer in me afire.
This adventure increased my measurable level of creativity (using standard creativity measures used in research), returned me to a daily writing practice, and, most importantly, led me to claim the titles of both writer and artist.
A similar uptick in creativity, dedication to a daily writing practice, and sense of oneself as a “real” writer was experienced by participants in my Master’s thesis project: A walking writer’s workshop that traveled 100 miles across the Scottish Highlands in 2019. These experiences and solid research linking walking and writing led me to develop Compass Writers.
Take a look at some of the evidence:
What is the AWA method?
About the AWA Method
The Amherst Writers & Artists method is prompt-based and designed to make all writers of all levels feel safe and equal and thus allow them to write freely. As a free-thinking writer, you may use my prompts or follow your own muse.
All writers will be invited to read back their work in a non-judgemental environment.
IMPORTANT: We read back ONLY new work written during the session in keeping with AWA's liberating method.
A Few Rules of the Road
Please don't bring polished work not written during the session to read aloud. Reading aloud just-written work is a cornerstone of the Amherst Writer & Artists method which will guide our work.
This is an affirming, supportive environment. Thus, there is to be NO CRITIQUE of work read aloud during a regular session.
That means no negatives or ideas for changes should ever be proffered in our regular writing sessions. For groups interested in full manuscript critique, we will set aside a session or two within the workshop. Manuscripts to be critiqued must be submitted to group via email one week prior to the critique session.
A good guide for how to respond to just-written work is start your remarks with
"What stood out to me is ....."
or "What stays with me ...."
or "What surprised me was ....
You get the picture.
WE TREAT ALL WORK AS FICTION to protect the privacy of the writer.
The AWA method is based in the following philosophy. These affirmations rest on a definition of personhood based in equality, and a definition of writing as an art form available to all persons.
Everyone has a strong, unique voice.
Everyone is born with creative genius.
Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.
The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writers original voice or artistic self-esteem.
A writer is someone who writes.
Our Essential Practices
The following practices establish a safe environment where everyone is free to explore within their own writing and listen to each other with respect.
Everyone’s writing, including the leader’s, is treated with equal respect and value.
Writing is kept confidential and treated as fiction.
Writers can refrain from reading their work aloud.
Responses to just-written work reflect what is strong and successful.
Responses and exercises support the development of literary craft.
Why walk internationally?
Many of the world's greatest writers spent ample time traveling and reported that going to new, unknown, foreign places was a critical part of their creativity and process:
“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk . . . I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” — Soren Kierkegaard
“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” — Henry David Thoreau
“Only thoughts won by walking are valuable.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Current research backs these and other contemporary authors up on their notion that travel tickles the muse. Check The Research page for a look at what scientists have discovered about travel and creativity.
What is Arts Integrated writing?
Arts integration is an approach to teaching, learning, and actively engaging an academic discipline (in our case writing) by integrating fine and performing arts as primary pathways to learning. At Compass Writers, we often use simple art activities as prompts for writing sessions and as a means of more deeply accessing the creative centers of the brain.
In K-12 education, arts integration differs from traditional education by its inclusion of both the arts and traditional subjects as part of learning (e.g. using nature drawing skills to hone observation skills in writing.) The goal of school-based arts integration is to increase knowledge of a general subject area like writing or math while concurrently fostering a greater understanding and appreciation of the fine and performing arts.
Here at Compass Writers we use the arts integration model in much the same way. But engaging in simple art activities or observation of art we increase our knowledge of writing craft, start to observe the world anew, find writing prompts all around us, and gain greater appreciation for and sense of connection with the wider artistic world.
The research on the contribution of the arts to the cognitive field at the heart of writing show a great array of cognitive developments in spatial-temporal abilities, verbal skills, memory and spatial reasoning. For example, listening to classical music one hour a day increases greater brain coherence and more time spent in the alpha state (a state of aware relaxation stimulating imagination, intuition and higher awareness).
How do I set up a workshop for my writing group?
I am happy to present an AWA-grounded, arts integrated writing workshop to writing groups wherever they gather. Workshops are 1 day (8 hours) to 3 days (18 hours).
Workshops may be conducted online via Zoom or in person. In person groups must provide a location for gathering and writing, preferably in an area where participants may walk briskly for 30 minutes prior to workshop start time and at least once more during the workshop day.
NOTE: I am also happy to workshops that are not connected to writing. And those who cannot walk are always welcome. Walking is but one tool in our writing toolbox.
The minimum for a workshop is 5 participants, the maximum 10.
If your group meets outside of Seattle, I request that the group offer or cover my lodging during the workshop and cover one-half of airfare or train fees above $150.
What the fees?
Workshops lengths and times vary from one day to three or more weeks traveling and writing abroad. To see current fees, check out the Fees at a Glance page.