Now, you may be thinking that this is scraping the barrel of new things to do in 2011. In a way you'd be right. It's not skydiving, is it? It's not hurling an egg at a politician, or running naked round Cathedral Close. Yes, it was a walk on the tame side, I admit. But there is something to be said for exploring those bits of your neighbourhood that you simply never normally stray into. This is especially true for writers. Writers with writer's block.
It is currently unfashionable to talk about writer's block. We aren't supposed to believe in it any more than in fairies, or the God-who-almost-certainly-doesn't-exist. (A blog for another day, that.) I've written this before, but some of you will not have caught up with the fact that writer's block has been disproved. Not by science, interestingly, but by plumbers. You don't hear of plumbers with plumber's block, goes the argument. Ergo, there's no such thing as writer's block, either.
Have these people never had a plumber in? Do plumbers never say 'Oo, sorry, love. We're waiting on those Spanish tiles you ordered'--and then disappear leaving you with a bomb site for four weeks? If your plumber cannot get hold of the right cistern or a shower unit, your plumber will be blocked.
It's very hard core to pretend we're only tough journeymen of the word, crafting books for a living, plying our trade, not pampering ourselves with the luxury of imaginary blockages, like idle dilettantes (dilettanti, for any pedants reading this). But of course writers get writer's block. You get blocked if you're trying to write the wrong thing, whether that's a single scene, or an entire novel. And the best way to get un-blocked again is to stop trying and go for a walk.
And walking somewhere new is especially helpful. You can't force yourself to become inspired, any more than you can make yourself be struck by lightning. However, if you prance about on top of a tall building in a thunderstorm wearing a pointy metal hat, you maximize your chances. In a similar way, you can put yourself in the path of inspiration, by stepping outside your normal routines.
Hence my walk in Festival Gardens, where the blossom is starting to come out on the plum trees, even though the day was as grey and miserable as sin. I am now ready to finish that stubborn chapter I was wrestling with.