The therapeutic benefits of walking and writing

Victoria Field was in a time of transition following the breakdown of her marriage when she decided to walk the Camino (The Way) to Santiago de Compostela. Her journey formed the basis of her memoir, Baggage — A Book of Leavings, and what she learned from the experience.

Victoria Field

Life becomes very simple on a long walk. It’s just a question of putting one foot in front of another, day after day, with the decisions boiling down to a simple what (to eat) and where (to eat and sleep).

And at the same time, the rhythm of walking seems to create space for thoughts to drift, develop and coalesce.

At the end of every day, I wrote it all down. Not just the details of the scenery and encounters I’d had, but memories, concerns and dilemmas from a long time ago. I documented the walk forwards and my broken marriage backwards.

When I reached Santiago two weeks later, I’d filled my notebook and found that in my writing I’d arrived back at the beginning of my relationship with my ex.

In our Introduction to Reflective and Therapeutic Writing course, Anne Taylor and I explore how writing can help us understand ourselves. Over eight weeks, we approach this from different angles.

For Session 2, we explore journalling. Writing at the end of each day on my long walk was a way of checking in with myself and processing what I’d experienced. Like many journal writers, I didn’t know what I knew until I wrote it down.

Like many journal writers, I didn’t know what I knew until I wrote it down.

– Victoria Field

The focus for Session 4 – Writing Your Self, is on the process of shaping our experiences into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

On my return from the walk across Spain, I decided to work my notes into something coherent, that told a story that might be of interest to someone other than myself.

As all writers — and walkers — know, it’s easier to keep up momentum when there are others around.

I was lucky enough to join a mentoring scheme where a group of six of us met for a year under the guidance of writer and BBC producer, Paul Dodgson, to develop book-length memoirs.

On our course in Session 7, we explore writing in groups and discuss how it is that the group can facilitate us to go further and deeper in our writing.

If you’re feeling stuck, try going for a walk and writing down what you see.

– Victoria Field

Baggage – A Book of Leavings has just been published, five years after I wrote the first draft. It’s my first book-length memoir and there’s a definite feeling of completion seeing all that maelstrom of emotion organised and contained between two covers.

Publication is also a symbolic act of separation – the book is independent of me, making its own way in the world.

Walking has long been seen as a way of sorting out thoughts and dilemmas, writing similarly. If you’re feeling stuck, try going for a walk and writing down what you see.

Then think about joining a writing group, or signing up for a course — such as the excellent ones here at the Professional Writing Academy, and see where you go next!

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Meet your Course Director

Victoria Field

Victoria Field is a pioneer in the use of writing for health and wellbeing and is a qualified biblio- poetry therapist.

She has published several poetry collections and a memoir, has edited three books on therapeutic writing and has contributed to many academic and popular publications. She wrote a popular column ‘Crafting a Cure’ for Mslexia magazine. She has had three plays professionally produced. Her recently completed doctorate was on The Pilgrim-Writer looking at narratives of transformation in pilgrimage. More information on

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