Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 26, 2009

Walking and Writing

A friend I hadn’t seen in months recently asked me to take a walk. We met by a little post office in a nearby town, set off down the tree-lined street, then headed down dirt roads between corn fields toward the river. Amid the green fields, we caught up on events of spring and summer. We found ourselves back at the post office when she suggested we take another walk down the pretty street. It was then that she told me about something difficult happening for her family. We made a loop past blocks of houses, and she suggested we keep walking. She told me still more on our third walkabout while I nodded and tried not to make too many helpful/futile suggestions. On our last round I tried to really listen.

I think this has happened to most of us: someone asks to meet us, and we don’t really hear what it’s “about” until it’s time to leave. I make passes like this through my writing, too. I get down the facts of, say, spring and summer. As I go back through the draft, I see glimmers of what it’s really about. I try again, and on another pass-through, may find a way to move deeper. Just about when I’m ready to call it a day, or a year, or two, I might find my way into the deepest truth.

I’m reading Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry by Louise Gluck, something that caught my eye in the library. I like what she says about her process. “I wrote from what I know, trying to undermine the known with intelligent questions.” It’s not easy, is it? We’ve got to know our characters and situation, and ask good questions, too.

photo by my husband, Peter



  1. Your walk sounds like many of mine (in pre-Sweetpea days at least). I remember learning the phrase Solvitur ambulando in Latin class: “It is solved by walking.” Even at fourteen I could understand the truth in that, and it’s only become more true with age. And you’re so right to connect it with the rounds we make through our manuscripts!

  2. That’s a great phrase. Worth taking Latin for. But as I did not, I thank you for passing it forward.
    Walking with a toddler is different; but lovely at its own pace!

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