Monday January 25, 2016

How Michael Harris transformed his attention span with a Russian classic

Michael Harris's writing has appeared in many publications, including Wired, Salon, the Huffington Post, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Walrus. His book The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection won the 2014 Governor General's Award for nonfiction. This week, Michael gives The Next Chapter a peek at his process in writing The End of Absence, a book about the experience of being the only generation in history that's going to know life before and after the advent of the internet. 

THE WAR AND PEACE CHALLENGE
One chapter in The End of Absence is based on attention span. And while I was writing, I wanted to try and train my brain back to where it was before it had become so addicted to digital distractions. So I decided to read War and Peace in two weeks. That meant about 100 pages a day, which is not that crazy. I would go on these long walks through my neighbourhood. And I did finish reading it by the end of those two weeks, and what I found was that I was able to fall into a state of reverie, partly just because of Tolstoy's writing, but partly because I had spent all this time thinking about absence and solitude, but I hadn't really been giving myself that moment of absence, and in this case I had.

Michael Harris's comments have been edited and condensed.

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