Walk. Look. Create.

footprintsI’ve been walking daily since I was a little girl. I have my father to thank for that. I relished my evening walks with him during my adolescent through teenage years. We’d set out, just the two of us, every evening after dinner, walking, sometimes talking, always observing the world around us. When we’d return, we were ready to tackle the dinner dishes and relax into the evening.

Walking is a gift. It is something most of us can do for free. Walking doesn’t require any special talents. We don’t have to buy any special clothing (although a comfortable pair of walking shoes is recommend). Most of us can simply head out our home or office door and just walk.

Walking is nature’s cure-all. No matter how I feel when I set out on a walk, I always feel better by the end. If I’m tired when I start my walk, I’m rejuvenated when I finish. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with work or personal issues when I begin a walk, I am clear-headed and focused by the end. And, of course, the long-term physical benefits of moderate-impact aerobic activities like walking are well known.

As an adult, no matter where I’ve lived – city or suburban setting, no matter the climate, I’ve always kept up my walking ritual. A daily walk, even a short one, is a must for me. I’m not one to listen to music or the news while I walk. I focus on my stride (to create a sort of natural rhythm). And I focus on my surroundings, trying to notice things that I’d miss if I were driving the same route.

I walk best alone. (Sorry, Dad.) Friends regularly invite me to join in their walking ritual, but I usually decline their offers. The benefits I derive from walking come when I’m able to think and observe in silence.

The simple act of a daily walk allows me to solve problems. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begun a walk thinking I had a big problem to sort through, only to determine, 10 minutes in, that I’d been blowing the issue way out of proportion.

And, best of all, I regularly experience creative breakthroughs when I walk. These breakthroughs happen when I’m not even trying. The act of walking and focusing on my stride clears my head. Ideas flow naturally. Dots connect themselves.

Walk. Look. Create. It’s really that simple.

by Rebecca Cochran

Day 121

by Rebecca Cochran

Bach logo

At the beginning of 2016, I began a personal experiment. I call it My Year of Bach. As a flutist, for as long as I can remember, Johann Sebastian Bach has been my favorite composer. I’ve written about Bach several times here in this space.

I decided to challenge myself by writing a short daily post on some aspect of Bach and his music. Otherwise, I didn’t set too many more rules. Like I said, this is an experiment, and I think we all need to experiment more.

My original goals were these:

  • Post daily
  • Learn as I go
  • Share what I learn
  • Enjoy myself

Now, 4 months in, I can report that I’ve achieved my original goals and more! I have posted daily, mostly “living in the moment,” rather than writing and scheduling posts ahead of time. This approach challenges me to be more observant, remaining on “high alert” for anything even remotely related to Bach that crosses my path each day. I’m conducting quick research, online and off. I’m asking more questions. I’m starting conversations with strangers. I’m listening more intently and attending more concerts and recitals. What I discover today will probably end up in tomorrow’s post. Bach is everywhere.

I’m learning to write more quickly. And, more importantly, I’m learning to trust what I write, rather than second-guessing myself. (There’s no time for that!)

I’m maintaining focus. Rather than going down rabbit holes in search of photos to accompany my posts, I’m staying focused on my writing.

I’m learning a great deal about my favorite composer. Every day, I seem to have yet another “aha moment” about some aspect of JSB. The more I learn about Bach, the more I want to learn.

In sharing my daily posts via Twitter, I am making new friends all over the world. I’m receiving wonderful comments (“Thank you, your latest post has helped me finish my term paper!”), great questions (“How do you recommend I start building a Bach listening library?”) and words of encouragement (“Wow! Keep up the good work; I know you can make it to Day 366!”).

Most importantly of all, I’m having fun!

Walking Backwards

BackwardsDid you ever try walking backwards? I did the other day. Well, not actually walking backwards…

I take a walk daily. I’ve been doing so since I was a little girl. It feels so good, so natural and it’s such a simple way to exercise my body and my mind.

The other day, on a whim, I decided to start at the end of my usual route and walk from there to where I usually begin my walk. I know…that wasn’t exactly rocket science, but it was interesting to take in everything in reverse, to see the “backs” of things: trees, buildings, signs, everything.

As I “reverse-walked,” I couldn’t help but see things differently. I spied a hidden garden that I’d never noticed before. I saw sunlight glistening on a building, giving it a dazzling glow that I’d been missing all those years I’d been approaching from the opposite direction. And, I couldn’t help thinking that I should walk backwards more often, literally and figuratively.

What might I be missing each time I start a project at “the beginning”? Could I achieve a better result if I started somewhere in “the middle” or, even, at “the end”?

Could I be a better problem solver if I consciously worked backwards? By clearly defining what the end result should be, could I reverse-engineer the steps needed to reach that goal?

Certainly, as a musician, I recall teachers suggesting that the best way to learn a piece of music is to “learn it backwards.” In other words, start from the final measure, then append and learn a few prior measures, little by little, until you find your way back to the beginning. This works particularly well when memorizing anything.

Might I be more creative if I consciously “work backwards” more often? It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of sticking to a system, especially when that system has been working well for a long time. If I reverse my creative process, might my results be, dare I say it, more creative?

The simple exercise of taking my walk from “back to front” has reminded me that there is more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

I need to practice walking backwards more often.

What analogies can you add to this list?

by Rebecca Cochran