Good thoughts tend to shy away from short walks with a destination. They’re kept at bay by the neuroses and instant replays that circle endlessly like tethered carrion.
Do you want to know the only way I’ve found to think while walking? Talk out loud. Loudly proudly aloud. Feel free to gesticulate. Close your eyes if traffic conditions permit. Tell yourself a story. Don’t use your normal voice.
Why would talking out loud make such a colossal difference? Perhaps because repetition feels explicitly boring out loud, so we avoid re-treading the same paths. Perhaps because full sentences flush and flesh out our half-thoughts? Perhaps because serializing our massively parallel murmur squeezes the thoughts out one at a time with greater velocity, like putting your thumb on a hose.
The effect is so striking that I’ve wondered about potential neuroscientific explanations. It could be that different neural pathways are being activated – perhaps it is only by vocalizing that we recruit speech production areas, or only by hearing our own voice we recruit speech comprehension areas. Or just that there’s less neural juice sluicing down the byways of my mind during my inner monologue, and the extra oomph required to speak gives the thoughts extra vivacity.
The explanation I favour? If I’m going to have to listen to myself, I want to be entertained.
P.S. For best results, wear a hat and learn to talk like Tom Waits.