Long Walk Brings Writing Epiphany

Today, for the first time in weeks, I took a walk.

A long walk.

I put on my coat and my Boston Red Sox cap, and I walked a quiet road north of where I live. I passed a pheasant farm, which, if you don’t know Millbrook, probably sounds ridiculous. But trust me—around this rarefied countryside, pheasant farms are de rigueurwalking_in_the_mist.sized I passed a large meadow that my wife and I refer to as Darcy Meadow—named after Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, because on summer mornings there is often a romantic haze hanging over it like in the climactic scene in the 2005 movie. And I passed what we call the Christmas in Connecticut house. We call it this because the place looks exactly like the house in the classic film—especially when there’s snow on the ground.

I passed these things and kept walking.

As I continued to walk, sucking in the cold, fresh air, I could feel the fog clearing out of my head. My heart beat faster. Blood surged through my veins again.

All through the holidays, I had kept myself chained to my desk, attending to a number of business-related matters: doing a radio interview, updating this website and my Twitter page, being active on Facebook, writing some speeches, and interacting with fans of my books and readers of this blog.

In addition, for the past two weeks, I was dealing with a crisis in my personal life that put me on an emotional roller-coaster and caused me to lose sleep, weight and peace of mind.

But here’s the thing: Through it all—no matter what—I wrote.

Every day.

moleskinenotebookIn one form or another, and with varying levels of output, I have written every day for 25 years. Some days it’s been only a sentence or two in my pocket notebook; many days, a few pages in my journal; and on one exceptional day (during a manic cycle), I cranked out 8,602 words towards the second Dakota novel. (I’m sure of this number because, for a long time, like a lot of writers I kept track of my daily word output.)

I’ve written through a horrible tooth abscess, mononucleosis, and paralyzing depression. I’ve written through the death of my beloved grandfather, and I even wrote on the morning of my wedding (in my journal, briefly, about my bride-to-be).

I was pondering all of this—how writing has seen me through the best and the worst times of my life—when I reached the end of my walk. I was miles down a dirt road, Woodstock Lane. Ahead, a flock of wild turkeys walked out of the woods and crossed the road.

I thought about a difficult email that I’d had to write before I left on my walk, and how until I wrote it, I was uncertain how I felt.

And then, I had an epiphany. We writers live for these, and we always write them down. I took out my notebook and wrote,

If you are truly a writer, then writing is how you process the world, and you can’t be certain what you think or feel about something until you write about it.

 

I stood in the leaves on the edge of the woods and wrote many of the thoughts that appear in this blog entry. A Range Rover crept by, and in my periphery I saw the driver staring at me. I ignored him. We writers are used to this. We’re used to whipping out our notebooks at inopportune times, or in less-than-ideal places. Just yesterday, in the supermarket, I saw an attractive young mother with toddlers, and the scene reminded me of something, and I stopped in the Bakery section, planted my notebook on some boxes of pies, and wrote about it.

At that point, finished with my thought, I put my notebook away and headed back down the road. The wild turkeys were long gone. It was getting late in the day, and the woods were growing dark.

No matter what vicissitudes life has brought me, writing has always been there. And when I’ve had problems, questions, or crises, even if I haven’t written about them specifically, the very act of writing—writing anything—has brought me answers.

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By Chris Orcutt

Writer — The Dakota Stevens Mystery Series, Short fiction, Plays — Editor & Speechwriter for Hire — Avid Golfer, Chess Player & Awesome Wood-Splitter — Twitter: @chrisorcutt

Comments (6)

  1. Michelle February 13, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Writing does help see you through. Whatever it may be. Thanks!

    • Chris Orcutt February 14, 2014 at 12:07 am

      Thank you your comment, Michelle. It really does see you through. I’ve found that writing is especially therapeutic during times of heartbreak. As I note in the piece, I know for myself that I can’t know what I really think or feel about something until I write it down. Writing forces you to slow down the thinking process, so you clarify things for yourself.

      Here’s something that I find helpful: Writing a letter to somebody, in which you say all of the things you wish you could say to that person, and then not sending it. What’s important is your clarifying for yourself how YOU feel.

      If you’re keeping a journal, try to keep it with you all the time. Don’t write at particular times; write whenever it occurs to you: a sentence here, a sentence there. While waiting in the doctor’s office, or at the supermarket, or while cooking dinner.

      I hope you continue to visit my site and that writing continues to bring you some solace.

      —Chris :)

  2. Steve Campbell (@SteveCampbellFL) January 16, 2014 at 11:49 am

    That’s a great insight Chris, and something that’s been floating around in my mind for years, but without the clarity you articulated here. ” . . . writing is how you process the world, and you can’t be certain what you think or feel about something until you write about it.”

    I often find myself writing about things that I don’t yet understand, in an effort to gain understanding, but usually as a last resort. I see now that it’s something that should be put to use more often. At least in my case.

    • Chris Orcutt January 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Thanks, Steve! To me, the sad thing is that there are a lot of non-writers out there who could benefit from writing about their problems, but they’ve been convinced that what they may have to write will be worthless because of misspellings, mistakes in grammar, etc. The result may not be publishable, but it is still worthy as a device for self-reflection. I really appreciate your comment! —Chris

  3. Chris Shave January 16, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Writers have the uncanny ability to rediscover knowledge about themselves they have always known. Each time the experience is fresh and new, invigorating even.