Space to Think My Own Thoughts
The value of creative thought before creative work
From August 10 to September 19, I hiked the Colorado Trail. I walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 440 miles in 41 days with a few days rest in the middle. I knew when I set out to hike that I would be writing about this journey afterwards, so I made notes along the way of the things I saw, the conversations I had, the way I felt.
I had an idea of what the book would be about when I left to hike the trail. But, as usual, my body and the trail had other ideas.
One of the things that is so magical about long backpacking trips is the silence. When hiking alone or lying awake in my tent, I hear the rustle of wind in the long grass, the scurrying of chipmunks and squirrels, and the movement of water—whether swift or burbling. This level of input is soft and spacious. It allows for the rattling loose of thoughts from deep in the mind. The fears and joys and memories and hopes for the future that often find themselves squashed beneath the daily to-do lists and the evening news and the surface interactions I drift through in a normal day.
It’s hard to recreate that experience of silence at home in my little condo in Denver when I’m trying to write. Sometimes I need to go somewhere that feels far from the voices and noises to call those deep thoughts to the surface. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to spend some time away after my hike in order to work on my next book at Horn Peak A-Frame, just outside Westcliffe, Colorado. With perfect views of the Sangre de Cristo range, trails less than a mile from the front door, and cozy coffee shops just a 15-minute drive away. I was able to find balance between the silence I needed to work on my project, the walking I needed to call back memories of the Colorado Trail, and the grocery store I needed to feed my post-trail hiker hunger.
When I arrived at the A-frame, I thought I would sit down, and the story would flow out of me. I thought I knew the story I was trying to tell. But the process of writing a book is not a linear sit-and-write-until-its-done kind of thing. Between spurts of writing, I found myself questioning the story, struggling to identify the deeper purpose, and calling friends for brainstorming sessions.
The cabin allowed me space to spread my brain out around me. I covered the dining room table with note cards—mapping the narrative and plot devices visually. I snuggled on the couch to cross-stitch and watch Netflix in the evenings. I took long meditative baths in the Japanese soaking tub. Each room served a different purpose in my mind and allowed me to move in and out of creative thought throughout the day.
I have been known to set unrealistic writing goals for myself—and this was no exception. I came to the cabin with very little planned. So, it quickly became apparent that I would need to spend some time outlining my story before many words could be written. But the planning phases of writing a book can be some of the most challenging and the easiest to procrastinate. It can feel unproductive to “think” about writing for hours at a time without producing much of anything that will make its way into a final draft.
The curse of productivity culture has stolen the value of creative thought. Before creative output—I need time to grind and mull and stew the raw experiences. And I couldn’t think of a more magical place to do it than the foot of Horn Peak, with its picturesque pyramidal summit standing watch over me as I marinate and work to process after 41 days of hiking.
If you're interested in reading about my experiences with long distance hiking. Check it out HERE.
About the Creator
Author of the award-winning debut memoir, Alone in Wonderland. Christine writes about outdoor adventure, familial relationships, friendship, grief and trauma. She's passionate about hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, & storytelling.
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