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Guest Post by KimLuster - Mind March

HippieVan at 12:00AM, April 10, 2015

(The following perspective piece may be more representative of a deranged mind than of a model that will actual work – attempt to replicate at your own risk)

A while back there was a discussion here on the Duck about what gives us renewed inspiration for our art, about the sorts of activities that recharges our batteries, infuses our brains with new ideas, new directions… Like many others, I mentioned that going for a walk will often do it. A leisurely stroll can get my mind to swimming, stir up the riff-raff, and maybe make a few good ideas float to the top. It works, certainly, but (for me, your mileage certainly may vary) what works even better is turning that walk into a power hike.

What is a power hike? Well, it can vary, depending on your fitness level and sense of adventure, but for my husband and me, it means an 8-15 mile trek through wilderness, on pathways that take you up and down hills, through rock formations, where you may have to climb a 30-foot cliff to continue on. Where there’s an element of fear, hoping you haven’t miscalculated your course and won’t still be in the woods come darkness (and your mobile is out of range and useless). Where, after hours of walking, you have to make yourself quit looking for the endpoint around the next bend, and instead enter a Zen-like state where you only focus on the next step. Where you’re a few pounds lighter (from sweating) even though you’ve drank enough water (never scrimp on the water) to kill a horse. Where you literally ache when you’re done…

What’s inspiring about this, you may ask? Maybe it seems more like self-torture! Still, there’s just something different, a raw feeling of triumph, about overcoming physical adversity! It hits us deep down, where the reptile, the Id, the beast, still lives! It’s an age-old truism, a deep satisfaction that has no comparison! But for me something else happens…

While under the physical stress of a power hike, my mind sort of splits; compartmentalizes! And this new part starts dreaming, imagining things at a kaleidoscopic pace! Maybe this is indicative of how messed up my brain might be, or maybe it’s a more common phenomenon than I realize! The main (sane?) part of my brain continues to pay attention to my steps and surroundings, while this new section becomes an idea factory. Novel thoughts, new characters, and plot structures wash over me! One after another – long story chains! I’ve created entire novels and movies in my head in a single hike, in vivid detail. How I wish I had some sort of recording device that could read my thoughts, because once I’m home and rested, without fail, I cannot remember all the epiphanies I’ve had, or even most of them… When I sit down and try to salvage as much as I can, just like Samuel Coleridge, that mental ‘in-the-zone’ state has left me. I’m often left with fleeting wisps of stories… I can still feel them, sense them, how beautiful they were, but the details are gone!

But not always! Sometime, magically, they stick! I created the entire plot for my story, The Godstrain, during an eight-hour hike along the Appalachian Trail four years ago, and I still remember it all vividly. I haven’t deviated from it (same for small details) since starting. Some time back I accomplished the same thing with a written novel, resulting in 900 typed pages. I’ve attempted to get the novel published (without much success so far) but now I’m strongly considering converting it to a visual novel once my web comic is complete (honestly, as much as I love writing and drawing, I haven’t pushed myself near hard enough to get recognized for it, and that’s totally on me… but it’s never too late to do differently)

I’ve often wondered about this phenomenon! What causes it? Is it just a rush of adrenaline, endorphins, and other hormones that does it? Is it a safer (well that’s debatable) way to awaken the muse, not unlike Coleridge’s opium addiction? Who knows? Who cares?! All I know is I’m ready to go on a power hike again! And if I’m not alone; if anyone else has experienced a stressed-induced wellspring like this, please tell me! Madness loves company!!

A giant thank you to KimLuster for writing another guest post that puts my regular ones to shame! Be sure to check out her awesome comic The Godstrain!

This newspost is the second in a series of three guest posts that I'm putting up while I'm busy with the last of my coursework. Tune in next Friday when our final guest contributor will be the ever fascinating Ironscarf!

Have a comic milestone, a community project or some comic-related news that you'd like to see here? Do you have original art for our newspost image database? Send it to me via PQ or at hippievannews(at), or leave a comment below!
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skyangel at 4:52PM, April 12, 2015

I totally agree with this. The worst thing ever is to sit staring at a blank screen and hoping something will come. I've often found that taking a long walk or doing a fairly mundane task such as the washing up really helps to free my mind up in very relaxing way and often without any real pressure at all. I envy you your countryside though, the best I can do is to walk across town via the park too!

KimLuster at 12:45PM, April 12, 2015

*sings* these boots are made for walking... and that's just what they'll do...

HippieVan at 8:45AM, April 12, 2015

That's such a lovely, poetic idea, usedbooks!

usedbooks at 5:36AM, April 12, 2015

Sometimes, I feel like the plotlines for scripts I'm struggling with are sitting somewhere waiting for me to pass through. I was blocked on one story for around 8 months. Then I went to a park where I had worked and walked down a familiar trail, and the story just came pouring into my head.

KimLuster at 6:56PM, April 11, 2015

@cdMalcolml1: Strange how we can miss the times when our lives were harder. Time and again it seems our most creative moments are during such times - and of course we miss that!

Panman at 11:30PM, April 10, 2015

Don't forget to bring a pen and paper. There's a stretch of beach near my home I like to walk along. All my writing gets done there.

cdmalcolm1 at 8:13PM, April 10, 2015

I use to walk for miles just to get to school and work. During those times, I would do a great many things like practice doing voices, say every rap I ever wrote, and think of how to make my comic universe bigger with stories. I would walk 3 miles to school and walk 3 miles back home while I was in collage. I did this for 3 years 6 days a week walking pass Hofstra university and the Collusium. In high school I would walk from Green Acres Mall (Valley Stream) to Baldwin almost every school day when I didn't have money. That took 3 hours just to think about stuff. Had I not done that, I would have never came up with my comic universe. Plus, It bought me a great deal of time with getting know myself. I really got to get back to that. It was the only thing keeping my weight down. Until I got my first car. That was the end of my walking career. :( what helps me think now? Doing dishes, or working at my job. My inspiration comes from working. Having an active body, makes me think.

Genejoke at 2:37PM, April 10, 2015

I used to do something similar a few years back and I really need to get back to it. It will take a while to build up my fitness again though. The aspect that helps me is that it doesn't take much concentration, I can power walk and think without distraction. The environment will often inspire me as well. I didn't do long hikes, I would power walk a minimum of 5-6 miles (I guess) every day. I need to start that again.

KimLuster at 2:09PM, April 10, 2015

@Banes: It's intense, but you get acclimated to it fast! Essential things: a Good Set of Hiking Shoes (if you develop a blister by mile 3, it will be a bleeding gaping sore by mile 10 - get good shoes!!); a Good Walking Stick - three points on rough ground is lot more stable than two (we prefer strong cane one as you see in the pic, as you can use your arm strength to help pull yourself up steep places with them), and water... don't ever underestimate how much water your need... overestimating is bad too but you can always pour out ...! Other stuff (first aid, emergency camping) is helpful too, but you can do a pretty good short hike with the three essentials!!

HippieVan at 1:34PM, April 10, 2015

I like long walks as well for thinking, although I'm not much of a nature girl. I go for walks around downtown instead. The other two places where I always get my ideas are on the bus and in the shower. The bus is fine because I can write things in my phone, but shower ideas have often faded by the time I'm dry and dressed and ready to write anything down. So I bought myself bathtub crayons to jot down showertime thoughts! Silly, I know.

Banes at 12:21PM, April 10, 2015

That power hiking sounds mucho-intense! Long walks, or yard work, has helped me set the creativity free, too. I like what you said about clearing the mental riff raff. That feels like a big part of it. The dust/distraction gets cleared away and allows the inner gold to apear!

bravo1102 at 8:36AM, April 10, 2015

Distraction is a psychologically proven way to create. Then there are the endorphins released through brisk (but not exhausting) physical activity that also stimulate creativity. A great way to solve a problem is to put it on the back burner while doing something else and often the solution will suggest itself during another activity. It's a great way to break writer's block or to find that different point of view that makes a story come together. That EUREKA! moment when everything is crystal clear. Grab a writing implement and scribble it down and in my case be unable to read it later because of horrible handwriting. But as every brain is subtly different so is everyone's creative process.

KimLuster at 8:15AM, April 10, 2015

@FC: Yes I did a hike in the Rockies once - very different! I don't know exactly how high we were but we were 'up there'! Could feel it in our lungs! Acclimated fairly quickly though...!

VinoMas at 7:00AM, April 10, 2015

Great article Kim! Cool to find out ways people create!

fallopiancrusader at 6:56AM, April 10, 2015

Hiking at altitude (above 9,000' MSL) makes for an interesting experience as well. The combination of physical exertion and oxygen starvation creates all sorts of out-of-body tripping. There are a few hikes I did in the Grand Tetons and Mt. Rainier where I don't remember if they happened, or if I dreamed the whole thing.

BarryCorbett at 6:48AM, April 10, 2015

R. Crumb said he created all of his iconic characters while on LSD. For me, the shower has produced a lot of great ideas for jokes. Bob Mankoff, New Yorker Cartoon Editor describes Cartooning as dreaming while awake. We make intuitive leaps between unrelated concepts that are buried in our subconscious.

KimLuster at 6:35AM, April 10, 2015

@tupapayon: I wouldn't recommend a 'power hike' at night ;) And I know you were being mirthful, but I really do think mind-altering things can open up the creative portal to the mind... actually we know it can - too many stories about it (like Coleridge and his Opium)! I have thought some wonderful things when in an 'altered state' (details shall remain private ;)), but nothing works quite as well as the natural high I get from a hike!

tupapayon at 5:47AM, April 10, 2015

Manual work can do the trick… basically you find what works for you… great post, Kim… I wonder if walking in the woods at night might inspire some stories… maybe I should stick to my orange juice and vodka… equal parts of both: the juice of one orange per one bottle of vodka…

Abt_Nihil at 4:05AM, April 10, 2015

I agree with oz - I also tend to be quite creative during long walks. Especially if they're at night, when everything is silent, and the mind doesn't get too distracted with external stimuli.

ozoneocean at 12:41AM, April 10, 2015

What you say about walking in particular reminds me of the people who do the pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Compostela and Santiaga. They describe similar experiences.

ozoneocean at 12:38AM, April 10, 2015

My theory is that while the brain is occupied by a task that it has to focus on, that leaves the creative part free to get down to business (otherwise it'll get bored and you'll go mad). A similar thing happens to a lot people (me included) when you shower. The trouble is that you can't usually put those ideas into practise at the time... You can sort of get around that by getting drunk or in some other state where you put the fussy part of your brain to sleep instead of distracting it with work, which leave the creative part free to create unhindered. :D

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