Denver Diversions and a Paris Pause

Denver Union Station

Blogathon June 28

When I worked for the Smithsonian in my other life, I used to tell my staff not to eat their lunch at their desks. Many of them thought they had so much work to do, that they would be more productive if they worked through lunch. They weren’t.

Everyone needs a break, not necessarily a vacation (though that is always a fine idea), but a break from routine. “I don’t care if you don’t take a full hour,” I said, “but at least get up and take a walk around the block.”

Diversion.

Dictionary.com defines diversion in part as “the act of… turning aside, as from a course or purpose, a distraction from business, care, etc.; recreation; amusement; a pastime.” My Oxford dictionary app says it’s “the act of changing direction or use of something” (your brain perhaps), and “something that takes attention away from what is happening.”

Seems simple enough, but how often in our overly connected world do we do that? I believe it’s critical to good health—mental and physical (all the better if you go on a walkabout).

What exactly would we miss if we distract ourselves momentarily? Now, I’m not advocating procrastination—it does seem a close relative and certainly I’m guilty of that big time—but a little procrastination and diversion can be enlightening.

I once heard a buyer from Neiman Marcus, relay this story:

“Stanley Marcus asked us what we did on our fashion buying trip to Italy,” he said. “I told him all the appointments we had, all the meetings, all the things we accomplished.”

He interrupted me and asked, “but what did you do?”

“So I began again and he interrupted, repeating “but what did you do?”

“Clearly, I didn’t understand what he was getting at. So he explained that we did the company a disservice if all we did was work. ‘Go out to the opera, go to a museum,’ he said, ‘immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll be a much better employee.’”

That bit of philosophy has always resonated with me. I get some of my best ideas when I’m away from my normal routine. This isn’t brain science. It works.

So here I am in Denver at the 6th North American Conference of the Historical Novel Society. I’m attending seminars in an attempt to jump-start a historical novel idea. I’ve never written fiction before so I thought I’d pick up a few pointers. A few of the seminars are worthwhile and some not so much—except for the distraction they provide me. Because ideas, as I was always fond of telling my staff, come from everywhere. We all know about the light bulb that blinks brightly in the shower.

Friday, I had a free afternoon and took the light rail to downtown Denver, wandered the bustling 16th Street Mall (mostly pedestrian outdoor street) and checked out the newly renovated Union Station (photo above). Tomorrow, before leaving, Denver, I plan to visit at least one museum—all fodder for new ideas, related or not.

Tomorrow, back to Paris diversions.

Photos below from Historical Novel Society Conference Costume Banquet.

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