Walking in L.A.

There’s a lost art out here in the west. It’s still alive in many other areas of the country (and world for that matter) but here in California, more specifically Los Angeles, it’s a rare thing. What am I talking about?

Walking.

I love to walk. I’ve been a walker since I was a little kid. My parents tell me that my paternal grandfather used to love when we would come for a visit because he knew he could go on long walks with me around the neighborhood near their snowbird home in Yuma, Arizona. My grandfather was a farmer from northern Minnesota, so I’m sure walking wasn’t just a hobby with him, but something he did every day when he was actively working the fields.

Me, I have no excuse. Like I said, I started young, so no profession could account for my preference to walk than to drive. I just always loved to do it. And unlike most other kids that didn’t mind walking, I’ve never grown out of the phase.

How does this related to writing? In two ways, actually.

The first speaks directly to the desire to succeed at my craft. And by succeed, I mean become published. I’ve written before about my dedication to specific hours to write. Part of what made that possible was the fact that I purposely chose places to live that were close enough for me to walk to my day job. Now, for someone who loves to walk, that could have meant somewhere within a half hour to forty-five minute walking radius, but to achieve maximum writing time, minimum stress transit time, and not arriving at work in need of a shower, my first place was about fifteen minutes from my office. Later I moved even closer…now it’s ten minutes from living room to office desk.

What’s so big about that? You’re probably thinking. You can understand the living close to work to give you more time to write, and eliminating the mind-numbing chaos that is L.A. traffic. Why wouldn’t someone do that walk?

See, you have to know something about the L.A. culture. I had friends at work that lived even closer to the office than I did, and they DROVE EVERY DAY. Crazy, I know…irresponsible even…don’t think I didn’t bring that up to them, multiple times.

But that sad statement on L.A. society aside, walking gave me the time to write the book that finally got published.

The second way walking helps my writing is that it’s a great way to think about things. I’ll often go on a long walk as I try to work out some problem. I’m strolling the streets of the city, often the only one on the sidewalk, and working out the best way to throw Quinn deeper into whatever his latest mess is. I love doing that. Thought, admittedly, I often get distracted by the things I see around me. Billboards or items in store windows or people in cars will send me thinking about something else entirely. Suddenly ten minutes will pass and I’ll realize I hadn’t been thinking about my manuscript at all. That’s the price you pay, I guess. I still love it.

Often on these walks, whether it be to the day job, to work out a story point, or to the store, I’ll see something or think of something that triggers an idea for a new story. Some times so many ideas that I can’t remember them when I get home. (I know, I know. I should carry a notebook with me. Never can seem to remember to do that.)

I have a daydream of walking up the coast of California. Just lacing up the boots, throwing some water and snacks in a small backpack, and just going. Sure, it would be crazy. I’d need a little more planning than that. But who knows? Maybe someday I’ll wake up and say to myself, “Why not?” Then I’ll head out the door and see how far I can get. I’ll bet I could write a whole novel on a trip like that.

Again, the trick will be remembering it.

What do you do to kick start your ideas? (And Rob, I don’t want to hear any more stories about long showers or car drives…) And more importantly…walker, driver or passenger?

A COUPLE OF NOTES:

1. If you are still reading this on the last Thursday in February, and it’s not passed 6 p.m. Pacific Time, you still have a chance to enter my sweepstakes for an advance copy of my next novel THE DECEIVED. Info Here.
2. THE CLEANER gets its UK & Ireland release next Thursday March 6th. It’s a mass paperback so perfect for carrying around and reading when you have a moment or two of downtime!

Brett

13 thoughts on “Walking in L.A.

  1. Alexandra Sokoloff

    I’m a walker and walking around Silver Lake (in LA) was myscreenwriting partner’s and my favorite work/think break.

    My favorite jump start to a project, though, is GOING there, preferably by road trip. And then walking.

    And living in LA so long, I’m an LA driver (people are always stunned at how right-brained little me burns up the streets when I get behind a wheel in the city) but I love relaxing into the passenger seat when someone else likes to drive.

    Reply
  2. Naomi

    I’m a total walking nut, too. I live in a part of Southern California where restaurants, banks, grocery stores (even Trader Joe’s!), bookstores (more than three), and movie theatres (both art and commercial) are all within walking distance. It’s faster and much less hassle for me to walk than drive, so I do. I’ve walked through most of the big cities I’ve visited–San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, NYC, etc.–and you notice things that wouldn’t normally see if you were in a car or train.

    Regarding walking the coast, my 71-year-old mother does part of it every summer. Check the organization, Coast Walk:

    http://www.coastwalk.org/

    Reply
  3. Mark Terry

    I’m a walker, too. Having a rambunctious chocolate Lab can be motivational, but I’d do it without him.

    And no, it’s not just LA, although you’re probably worse than most there. My youngest son’s friend’s house backs up to their elementary school. I kid you not, they can walk out the gate of their back yard and they’re in the parking lot of the school–and she drives him to school. I mean, really, it’s like 40 yards, if that.

    Today I was walking Sean to their house and she came and met us halfway to pick him up, apparently not satisfied to wait until we showed up at their house in 3 minutes. Granted, it’s cold today, although nice and sunny, but gimme a break. We’re 3 blocks from the school.

    I get a lot of story ideas when I walk.

    And I’ve thought how cool it would be to walk the Michigan lakeshore. Up from, say, Lake St. Claire to Lake Huron, up to Mackinaw where Lake Huron becomes Lake Michigan, and back down again. Very cool.

    Reply
  4. Naomi

    Hey, Brett–

    Would you be interested in trying to walk a part of the 22-mile Sunset Boulevard someday? Western would be cool, too–but a little too ambitious.

    Reply
  5. toni mcgee causey

    Well, my commute to work has always been about ten seconds down the hall, since we’ve always had the construction business and we’ve always had the office in the house. Otherwise, we’re not close to anything, and there are no sidewalks in the area where I live. There’s finally a walking path on the main road into the area (and two bikers were killed recently by an 18-wheeler, who genuinely couldn’t see them as they left the path and he rounded a curve). I never thought I’d enjoy walking as a commute… until I visited NY a couple of times last year. I *loved* it. Loved the city, loved being able to walk to so many places within close proximity. Loved that everyone else walked, too. If I had the ability to live somewhere like that, for that reason alone, I’d move, because it opened up a whole new perspective for me.

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  6. Brett Battles

    Naomi, you’re on! I’d love that.

    Louise…most of my memories of Yuma are just flashes…don’t think I’ve been there since I was about 13 or 14 at best.

    • Date Trees• The velet Snoopy paintng my grandmother bought for me just over the border in Mexico (I still have it)• A giant earth mover that has tires at lesat twice the size of my dad.• the remains of the wooden highway swallowed up mostly by the dunes a few miles away in California.• An old 1800s fort/jail• And the mobile home park my grandparents lived.

    God, haven’t really thought about Yuma in SO long…

    Reply
  7. Tom, T.O.

    Very interesting, Brett. I’m a walker, too. My wife and I walked a lot in Albuquerque while at the Hillerman Workshop, then in Cimarron afterwards (a nice 13-14-mile hike to see some petroglyphs). Years ago I was visiting L.A. for a Travelers Insurance workshop and walked to Santa Monica–okay, I didn’t know how far it was, and it was too much for my friend, so we took a bus back.Should you want company on your walk up the coast, I’m game, now that I’m retired. We can drop in on Louise!

    Reply
  8. Catherine

    I’ve gotten out of the habit of walking a bit lately as it’s rained almost non-stop for the last few months here.If/when it eases up I’m hoping to start doing my late afternoon walks into town with a small backpack to pick up fresh produce for dinner.It helps shake off any stresses through the day.

    Although the writing I’m doing is academic there are times where I get stuck on a point. A walk seems to help shake things loose.

    The place that really helps clear my mind is a pocket of rainforest that was set aside as a reserve about a century ago. It’s a 10 minute drive from here and once you enter it the canopy sort of encloses you in a green cathedral atmosphere.The paths twist and turn like a celtic knot.So after an hour in there I emerge feeling like I’ve entered some weird energised state of grace.

    I’ve been mulling over a reward walking trip when I graduate…I’m not sure at this point if I’ll base it around exploring a city or a new patch of bush.

    I had someone tell me once that walking often acted as active meditation. I do find it stimulates new directions in my thinking, and it is a great way to see a new or old place.

    Reply
  9. Rob Gregory Browne

    I used to be a walker. Liked to walk everywhere.

    Now I’m a sitter. Often a layer-downer. Frequently a sleeper.

    All of these things help me with my work, if not my weight and general good health.

    My lovely wife is a runner. Every day. She makes me look like a schlub. Okay, *I* make me look like a schlub, but she ain’t helping matters.

    Maybe I’ll take up walking again.

    Or maybe not.

    Reply
  10. Zoe Sharp

    Brett – just mistyped your name and it came out as Bert. Don’t see you as a Bert, somehow. Anyway, I digress.

    Interesting points you raise. I firmly believe that the bit of your brain that controls muscle memory, that you use for any physical activity, like walking – or even lying down and breathing, Rob – or ironing, or playing tennis, or whatever, interferes with the other half of your brain. The creative bit. One half is the sensible side, the other is more flighty. So, distract the boring half with a relatively mundane task, and the free-spirit bit can soar.

    Cycling works for me.

    Reply

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