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Hemingway Recommends Walking Away

This time last year Steve and I had just returned from a whirlwind four days in Paris, France. My first trip to Europe happened as a complimentary perk as a result of his taking a school group to London, England…so what luck for us to ring in 2010 at Les Champs-Élysées!

After falling in love with the friendly people, the beautiful architecture and the amazing food (bread, chocolate, and wine topped the list) and the sound of that wonderful language, my friend Brent, who is equally enamored with Paris, recommended that I read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway writes this book of memoirs about his early years as a writer in Paris, strangely enough also writing for the Toronto Star at this time.

I’m enjoying Hemingway’s descriptions of the times and of beautiful Paris, but the thing that is sticking with me most is his description of his process of writing. He has a room rented just for writing, and he forces himself to walk away after a good day’s work and finds that following these periods of intense work, he has to walk away and distract his mind with other things: friends, exercise, family, in order to be able to pick up once again with a clear and creative mind.

I hope that I can remember Hemingway’s Paris when I’m struggling to find some balance this year. Can I walk away from my work every day and let things ferment like that lovely wine from France?  I’m thinking that he was onto something there and that balance would actually help me be more productive in a deeper kind of way.

And, maybe more importantly, are we sharing these insights with kids?  Are we helping them understand how their brains are sometimes jet-surfing for quick bites and other times need to take a deeper scuba dive?  That clever analogy comes from The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr and if you haven’t already checked it out you might find it interesting to take a step back and think about how our internet lives might be affecting our processing of what we read online.

As I’m finishing this post I divert for a moment to read Will Richardson’s most recent post on Weblogg-ed (ok nobody’s perfect, I’m still multi-tasking) to find he’s thinking about balance this year too.   I don’t claim to have anywhere near the hectic online life he must have, but I find it interesting that I’m having this conversation with many colleagues these days…especially with Ron, Peter, Doug and Barbara, some of the deepest thinkers I know.

Funny to find some great advice about balancing my networked life from of all people, Ernest Hemingway!  C’est la vie! 🙂

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5 responses to “Hemingway Recommends Walking Away

  1. I love this post!

    I am in an intense writing project and I must remember your important words”I’m enjoying Hemingway’s descriptions of the times and of beautiful Paris, but the thing that is sticking with me most is his description of his process of writing. He has a room rented just for writing, and he forces himself to walk away after a good day’s work and finds that following these periods of intense work, he has to walk away and distract his mind with other things: friends, exercise, family, in order to be able to pick up once again with a clear and creative mind”

    It is soooooooo true, important, yet I try and keep writing as the clock is ticking and I become less and less productive. What I find is my best writing time is not always 9-5. I need to give myself permission to sleep in some days, and start when my brain is ready.

    Thanks for the inspiration Brenda as always!

    Like

    • Meg,
      I think Hemingway would be very much in favour of the sleeping in (although I think he worked mostly mornings at that time of his life and left by noon…nice hours!) and he’d probably suggest a glass of wine to go along with. 😉

      Good luck with your project!

      Like

    • Hey Meg,

      Hope that writing project is going well!

      I guess the critical thing, once again, is to know oneself. Each and every one of us is going to have a method that personally works. I am such a tinkerer that if I don’t ‘set myself up’ to write, I’m in trouble. I’ll get easily distracted – playing and learning.

      smiles you

      Like

  2. Ok, this is always a problem for those of us who have difficulty separating our lives into these various compartments – work, play, etc. I DO agree that it is the smartest and healthiest thing to do – so I think it is a matter of scheduling things wisely – things that ensure your full attention! That is one of the things I used to love about rock-climbing and mountaineering. In fact, I always wanted to write a book called “Zen and the Art of Climbing”. 🙂

    In case you and Meg didn’t know, Hemingway also loved Cayo Guillermo – esp Playa Pilar – in Cuba. Ummmmm…yeah…would make writing a LOT easier!! 🙂

    thx for the reflection!

    Like

  3. Barbara McLaughlin

    This post magically showed up in my Reader today (Jan 23) and I am so glad it did. Once my brain got past processing “PARIS!” I was able to think about how my body and brain seek a balance. I just go along for the ride.

    Writing for me is very visceral, I have either got something say or not. However, one of my weekly tasks is to write an article for our department newsletter, one that links the tools to curriculum and learning, and one that my Superintendent reads, along with hundreds of our admin and teachers. No pressure there.

    So I seek wisdom and thought from colleagues through Twitter, blogs, f2f conversations, and certainly you, Peter and Doug push my thinking in new and expanded directions. And then I need to back off, pursue activities that allow me to reflect and connect, until magically, up from the deep comes my happy thought, or at least this week’s post.

    It is an honour to be included in your list of scuba divers:)

    Like

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