Million Mile Walker Dispatch, Daily Rituals That Enhance a Writer’s Productivity and Creativity, March Issue, 2023


Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,

Let’s explore what makes artists most productive based on their daily rituals, and I’ll reveal some of my secrets in Culture Watch. My Writing and Reviews will include an overview of my forthcoming book and my movie review of a coming-of-age story of a nine-year-old who aspires to become a writer.  I’ll also introduce a new podcast based on a revealing interview with the most successful author published today, J.K. Rowling.  We’ll learn What Others Are Saying, and Voices in Action will include more pearls of wisdom from fellow writers, plus an updated Calendar.

But first, if you click on my poster above, you can check out my latest column and information in the Arizona Authors Association newsletter, “Authors Digest.” This includes something on my presentations, interview at Global Connections TV, and my review of Martha Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” as well as materials and resources from some of the state’s top writers.

Culture Watch

 This book includes 161 short profiles from famous authors and artists, which I found inspirational and an opportunity to rethink my approach to writing and how to be creative and effective. I’ve often wondered how other authors and artists do meaningful creative work and earn a living, which many of these profiles deal with.

Here’s the author’s explanation on why he wrote this book:

In that sense, this is a superficial book. It’s about the circumstances of creative activity, not the product; it deals with manufacturing rather than meaning. But it’s also, inevitably, personal. (John Cheever thought that you couldn’t even type a business letter without revealing something of your inner self— isn’t that the truth?) My underlying concerns in the book are issues that I struggle with in my own life: How do you do meaningful creative work while also earning a living? Is it better to devote yourself wholly to a project or to set aside a small portion of each day? And when there doesn’t seem to be enough time for all you hope to accomplish, must you give things up (sleep, income, a clean house), or can you learn to condense activities, to do more in less time, to “work smarter, not harder,” as my dad is always telling me? More broadly, are comfort and creativity incompatible, or is the opposite true: Is finding a basic level of daily comfort a prerequisite for sustained creative work?

I gravitated first to my favorite authors like Graham Greene, who decided to write a book of questionable quality because it would be a good seller and allow him to pay the bills while finishing his classic, “The Power and the Glory.”  According to his profile on Greene, “…To manage the pressure of writing two books at once, he took Benzedrine tablets twice daily, one upon waking and the other at midday. As a result, he could write two thousand words in the morning alone, as opposed to his usual five hundred….”

I also checked out the profiles of several of my favorite musicians, like George Gershwin, who, according to his brother, Ira, “Never released.” He typically worked for twelve hours or more a day, beginning in the late morning and going until past midnight…. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse, he would compose at most three songs a year… “Like the pugilist,” Gershwin said, “the songwriter must always keep in training.”

This is an excellent and inspiring read for all writers and artists looking to improve their habits and creativity, as well as appreciate our special vocation by looking in at the “rituals” of others.
Here are a few of my daily rituals:

  • Up at 6:30 with stretching exercises
  • Meditation/prayers and reading an article from Sojourner Magazine
  • Check email and an occasional post on Facebook and Twitter
  • A 20-minute walk listening to podcasts like Ezra Klein, Border Chronicles, Word Day, the Rumble, Fareed Zakaria GPS, The Economist, or Ted Talks
  • Review online news from the New York Times, Phoenix Republic, Prensa Libre, and Google News
  • By 9:30, I’m writing and submitting proposals for my book or writing an article, my blog, or a column for the Writers Digest
  • Lunch while watching BBC News
  • Afternoon: continue writing
  • A walk listening to music/winding down
  • Dinner
  • Evening—2 hours reading starting with an article from the New Republic, In These Times, The Nation, Writers Digest, IBPA, or Writers & Poets
    • Books: I finished and reviewed The U.S. State of War by David Vine and started Facing the Congo: A Modern-Day Journey Into The Heart Of Darkness, by Jeffrey Tayler.
  • Exercises—Resistance bands, push-ups, and more stretching
  • In bed by 10:00 p.m.
  • Constantly interact with fellow writers in various writers’ groups and members of groups like PEN America

Here’s a link to the entire book review:


 My Writing, Interviews and Reviews

I’ve submitted my first proposal for my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader: What You Don’t Know And Why You Should Care, to Mimbres Press at Western New Mexico University in Silver City. I connected with the Managing Director, Jared Kuritz, when he made a presentation to the Phoenix Writers Club.

The Guatemala Reader brings together nineteen essays and colorful photos to celebrate Guatemala, those who impacted the country or whose lives were changed after moving there. This story goes beyond the long experience of conflict, racism, and violence so often focused on, especially during the ongoing immigration crisis.

It includes essays about the Maya culture and traditions, adventure travel, profiles of individuals impacting the country on many levels, the contentious issue of immigration, and the growing number of Guatemalans abandoning their homes in hopes of a better future. It also includes making a documentary on what underlies this phenomenon, book reviews, and a postscript on the state of Guatemala today, as well as my reflections on living in and around Guatemala for fifty years of observing this small Central American country.

I wrote the book for travelers, scholars, students, and practitioners alike, as it presents the stark realities behind the beautiful façade of Guatemala. Not the report of a journey, but a memoir, an autobiography, a confession, a foray into Central American topography and history, a travel narrative, with observations of books and profiles of Guatemalan artists and advocates struggling for better lives and a more inclusive, just society.


An inspiring coming-of-age movie based on a story by J.R. Moehinger, who won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. This is a memoir about a 9-year-old boy’s relationship with a surrogate father and his assorted friends at his bar, The Dickens. The boy aspires to become a writer. The storytelling is outstanding. He was directed by George Clooney with Ben Affleck.

I highly recommend The Witch Tales podcast about the literary journey of J.K. Rowling and the controversies around Harry Potter, as well as the causes the author has advocated. Many churches tried to ban the books as “witchcraft,” bringing back visions of the dystopian world depicted by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale.

The author’s story is fascinating, as she was a single mom who suffered domestic violence and her first husband’s stalking. The interview reveals the challenges of success and the impact the growth of the internet had, mobilizing attacks on her views on feminism, among other things.

What Others Are Saying

Hi Mark,

I am a fellow member of the APW (Arizona Professional Writers) Book Club, and have unfortunately had to miss the last few meetings. I am trying to get reviews done of the books I missed. I wanted you to know that I just got one up on Amazon and Goodreads for your book, My Saddest Pleasures, which I enjoyed. I hope to see you at an upcoming meeting.

Best, Dianne Beeaff

On the Last month’s Million Mile Walker Dispatch:

Mark: You certainly are prolific!  Congratulations on generating a solid light of reason during this era of intellectual darkness in our fractured country. Abrazos, Hal Rifken, fellow RPCV & cinematographer

In my forthcoming book, The Guatemala Reader: It will be an excellent addition to a would-be PCV recruit/trainee, a serious sojourner curious about visiting our southern neighbors, or one who has seen, but would welcome further background to embellish their experience and understanding.  In fact, to that end, by referencing significant and globally recognized voices like Argueta, Asturias, Montejo, Goldman, de Berge, and Nan Cuz, you’re inviting the reader to go deeper with one or more of them (which found me pausing to do on the web as I read) and that bodes well for all… David Carlson, a former executive at International Medical  Teams and fellow fundraiser.

Voices in Action:

Who can unravel the essence, the stamp of the artistic temperament? Who can grasp the deep, instinctual fusion of discipline and dissipation on which it rests?  Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

Between books, I take vacations that tend to linger on for months. Indolence and melancholy then become my major vice until I get back to work. A writer must be hard to live with: when not working, he is miserable, and when he is working, he is obsessed. Or so it is with me. Edward Abbey, environmentalist and one of my favorite essayists.


The little birdie (Megan West, Director of Alumni Relations) confirmed that the article, “50 Years on the Road: A Journey From Peace Corps Volunteer to Author” will be in the Spring issue of the Westerner Magazine.


You can find my 75 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos, on my website, including a reduced price for my new book if you read it and pass it along to your local library. “Follow” me on Twitter., @millionmile_wal, and Facebook at for the latest international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it or, better still, purchase my latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road


Mark D. Walker



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