SHAREN FORD: ON WALKING AND WRITING
During the year and a half I spent writing the first draft of IN SEPTEMBER, it often seemed as if I were doing more walking than writing. Although both activities had become a daily necessity – the walking because I have two large dogs (an Airedale and a Weimaraner), and the writing because I had a story I was compelled to tell – I wondered if I was using the dogs and their need for exercise as an excuse to postpone that often uncomfortable moment when I would be forced to put my amorphous thoughts into coherent sentences.
Covering several miles a day along the country roads of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I would forget to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings as I obsessed about the manuscript waiting forlornly at home for my attention. I imagined my characters, abandoned the night before in precarious or heartbreaking situations, unable to rescue themselves until I returned to the computer. With these fantasies came the worry that I was kidding myself; that, in reality, I just wasn’t a good enough writer to tie up all of my story’s loose ends into one entertaining package that would satisfy both my characters and my readers.
To chase away the demons of doubt, I invented a little challenge for myself. Pulling my mind back from its daydreams of Australia and India (two of the locations in my novel) to the here and now of Bucks County, I looked down the road to a distant spot on the horizon. I told myself that, if I could make it to that point before turning towards home, I could also make it to the end of the chapter I was currently writing. Day after day, the game worked so well that, eventually, I found myself envisioning the words “The End” waiting for me at the end of the long driveway that leads to my kitchen door. Sure enough, that night, at 11:45 pm precisely, I typed those magical words.
By then, of course, it had dawned on me that, while walking, I was actively engaged in the process of writing. Worrying about my characters as I put one foot in front of the other, I was actually resolving my own questions about their motivations, as well as working out the kinks in my plot.
Besides getting me to the end of my writing journey, there was an additional bonus to all that walking: their need for vigorous exercise satisfied, my canine companions would lie contentedly at my feet for the rest of the day, napping away the long hours while I ignored them and devoted myself instead to bringing the inhabitants of my imagination to life on the page.