Personally, I blame the dogs.
No, I don’t actually have dogs. I’m a cat man (Barry and Mac, since you ask: black and tabby respectively, disruptive and disrespectful boys). But in the long and long ago, when I was a teen still living at home, my sisters had dogs (Max and Tanner, since you ask: black and tan respectively, boy and girl, douce and obedient). And it was made very clear to me that these were my sisters’ dogs, but that it was my task to walk them. Family dynamics: what can I say?
At the time, I was just starting to sell stories to magazines. So two or three times a day I’d take the dogs out, trudge around the local park, think about plot ideas or the next scene or run a conversation through my head till it was working.
Process is sticky. Habits are … habit-forming. When I left home, I left the dogs behind but took the walking with me. It was utterly ingrained, that when I needed to think through an idea I had to go for a walk. I used to have set routes – one lap went through the cemetery, one around the hospital – so that I didn’t need to think at all about where I was going. Sometimes I’d come home no further forward, sometimes it paid lavish dividends; my first novel, The Samaritan, was conceived entire from an advertising hoarding I saw outside the hospital, and if I’d gone to the cemetery instead that day, who knows…?
Then I spent a year being crimewriter-in-residence on a sculpture project. No, I did, honest. Every sculpture project should have a crimewriter-in-residence. That should probably be a whole other post: but my point is, a part of my brief was to work with the boys to find ways of incorporating text into their sculptures. Which meant long sessions just talking through ideas in the portakabin that was our office. And after a while, I realised that the boys were laughing at me. That they kept laughing at me, every time. Which I figured out, eventually: as soon as we stopped gossiping and started talking ideas, I was up on my feet and pacing back and forth. Every time, and I hadn’t even noticed.
I can no longer think, sitting still. Apparently. It’s been thirty-some years since there were dogs to walk, and right now I’m trying to sort out a new book proposal, and at any moment I’ll be up on my feet and out of here, walking across the moor, looking for ideas. In the rain, as it happens. Man in motion.