Walking for thinking

I learned when I was in Classical Studies that Aristotle used to teach while walking in Lycée. I remember that story because in French «peripateticism» refers both to a philosophical school and a prostitute. I found that link interesting.

This story came back to me when I was writing my M.A. thesis. Once I had intense writer’s block. I wasn’t able to get my chapter right, and everything was a mess. Luckily, I had to go out to buy something and when I walked, it seemed like the ideas were magically coming to me. I picked one, and then continued to think about it and it made sense. Back home, I hurried to write it all down.

Now that I just started to write (draft number zero) of my PhD thesis, I am using the same trick. I am not facing a wall right now, thank God. At this stage it would be horrible. But I am trying to get my structure done and to think about that while I walk is helping me a lot.

I just go outside (but not in the woods!), usually when I have to buy something or walk to school, and I pick a broad topic. What are the problems with that topic? What happened more than three centuries ago (I am in history)? I let my mind fly free, and I am often rewarded with some trails to follow with more careful attention.

The other side of this peripatetic behaviour is that it’s great physical exercise. Maybe the fresh air is helping the mind. I don’t know.

If you try that, my advice for you is: have paper (or a cellphone) close by. To have good ideas and then forget them is frustrating, believe me.

Feature Image by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @lyly.man // @gradlifemcgill

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