How to Write a Poem While Walking

81º  ~ this air a comfort, showers hovering just a few miles to the north, taunting us, a pattern repeated all summer, the birds, chipmunks, & squirrels go about their business as usual

How to Write a Poem While Walking (for those able)

  1. This is not about speed, not about exercise, not about burning calories (the last two are side benefits, of course).
  2. Choose a safe path, free from obstacles, threats, dangers*.
  3. A treadmill may work, if free from distractions.
  4. Leave your earbuds at home.
  5. Walk at an even and steady pace, one set by your body rather than by music or an attempt to reach your target heart rate (attempts to regulate your pace are a distraction to the mind).
  6. Carry a smart phone (on silent) or a small notepad and pen.
  7. Divest yourself of the notion that anyone is watching.
  8. Walk and observe. Breathe. Be open to wonder.
  9. Let your mind wander.
  10. Be patient and alert.

Eventually, the words will come, perhaps first as a phrase. Repeat the phrase. Speak out loud, letting the words unfurl (see #5). Do not force yourself to compose; instead, keep walking, mulling over this phrase or idea. There are better than even odds that with your body in motion under its own power (and your inability to be distracted by other looming tasks), lines will begin to suggest themselves. Again, say them out loud and feel the rhythm of the language in the motion of your body.

When several lines have strung themselves together, you have some choices.

The old school method would be to keep memorizing lines as they come, repeating the whole draft out loud as you walk. Most of us, however, no longer have the memorization skills that our writer predecessors possessed. Luckily, technology fills that gap.

One way of recording your lines is to pull out that notepad and pen and jot them down. Since the purpose of this walking is not to exercise (see #1), there is no harm in stopping mid-stride to capture your thoughts.

Another choice at this moment is to use a smart phone to help capture the lines. I’m a fan of this method because I use the voice dictation function, reinforcing my speaking of the lines out loud, and I can continue to walk as I do this, keeping the natural rhythm alive. Voice dictation can be used in almost any text function on a smart phone and is usually indicated by an icon of a microphone within a program. You could text yourself, compose and send an email to yourself, or create a note. Of course, you could also use the voice memo function. I stay away from this because I don’t like to listen to the sound of my own voice.

Once done with the walk, you can sit down to compose the draft in your habitual way. While it would be easy to copy and paste if you’ve used a smart phone to record your lines in text, I do advocate for re-typing (while speaking the lines aloud), as another way of revisiting and revising as you go.


*Sometimes, you will need to walk a path on several occasions before any words will come. Sometimes, your body needs to learn the route so that your brain doesn’t have to make decisions.

Posted by Sandy Longhorn

1 comment

Kathleen Kirk

Love your instructions. I have composed while swimming and walking. Not yet by smartphone….