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! 🙂