TAoN No. 54: Something(s) to Praise

Plus: Searching for today's date, a new icebreaker, and more

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf. This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. ****Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.****

Something(s) To Praise

I’m late — two days late — in sending this newsletter! I feel behind on work for all the boring reasons. I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m going to keep the opener short & simple today, partly to make room for some fun reader contributions.

I often give students or workshop participants a double-sided assignment: On your next walk, or over the next week as you go about your business, make an effort to notice a problem that can be fixed — and (other side of the assignment) something, anything, that desrves praise. Obviously I mean non-obvious things; stuff that nobody else seems to pay much attention to.

Honestly the “problem” examples are usually more interesting. I often address design folks, and they’re wired to find and solve problems. But I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’re awash in problems these days. Problems we have to face, and solve.

So I’d now like to suggest an altered version of the assignment:

On your next walk, or over the next week as you go about your business, make an effort to identify as many things as possible that quietly desrve praise, that others seem to have overlooked.

I’m not suggesting living in denial. I’m suggesting a bit of balance.

Let me know what you come up with.


Something To Notice

6, 7, 8

“Something To Notice” is a simple suggestion for something you might want to make an effort to notice in the weeks ahead. That’s it. Here’s this week’s suggestion:

Numbers that align with the current date

Back story: Reader Judy Crockett told me about several of her noticing projects, but this one stands out to me. There’s an item in The Art of Noticing book on “counting with the numbers you find” — when you’re out, on foot or bike or car or bus, look for a 1, then a 2, and so on. Well it turns out that Judy did something similar a few years back:

“I looked for a number corresponding to the date for an entire month, and took a photo. The rule was that I could not use the same type of number twice. For example, only one address number. I made a photo book of the images.”

I love this challenge! (And to clarify, I think you can start any day — if you read this on October 8, look for an 8; tomorrow, look for a 9, etc.)

I also enjoyed several of Judy’s other enterprises, including her documentation of “the lesser bridges of Portland,” and walking “the entire length of my street … from the suburbs to the Columbia River, sketching and then painting anything of interest to me. Thirteen miles, 14 neighborhoods, +/-120 blocks, 53 pages of drawings. A slice of the city. It took over 2 months.” Here’s her Instagram.

Have a suggestion for Something To Notice? Tell me: consumed@robwalker.net


Neighborhood Calendar Challenge Update

Back in July I wrote that I’d started taking snapshots around my neighborhood with an eye toward compiling enough (12 decent ones) to create a 2021 calendar, and issued an invitation for you to join me:

Make a neighborhood calendar. This could mean personal neighborhood landmarks (spots you’d miss if you moved), or a recurring category: flowers, architectural details, birds, trees, even just a particular color, anything you want. Document all the interesting mailboxes or fence ornaments or store banners or the backs-of-stop-signs or whatever it is — good, bad, indifferent-but-interesting — that you have noticed recurs through your neighborhood.

More here, and an August update (including reader suggestions the best services that produce calendars) here.

Here it is October already, and I’m realizing I need to wrap up my image collection soon. I have a lot to choose from already, but I’m really going to miss this silly project when it’s over. One of my more recent snaps above. A reader correctly deduced my calendar’s theme from an earlier sample. Can you guess from this one?

And of course I’d love to hear about it if you’re working on a calendar. As I said earlier: I like having a goal associated with the end of 2020. Keep me posted consumed@robwalker.net


Icebreaker Of The Week

  • There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here. || There’s also an Icebreaker Slack app, here. (Back story on that here.)

This week’s icebreaker is a recent submission from reader Andi Foster.

If you had to survive as a fruit, what would it be?

Couple of notes about this one. First, I adore this kind of question. I know there are those of you who will find it too weird. I find it just weird enough.

Second, Andi attributes this to “my college roommate.” Credit noted!

Third, Andi clarifies some important extra parameters: “You are just surviving, you cannot move as the fruit. I heard [my roommate] ask this question many times and I always end up changing up my answer. Currently I want to be a banana, because then I would be with friends!

I’ll get back to the backlog of submissions next time, but as always, I still want more:

Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to consumed@robwalker.net


In Other News

@rachelle.jhamilton, @raffaeldl, @bklynkennedy

  • “100 days ago, I announced I was easing up on blogging and fun daily projects … to start work in earnest on a new book.” Here’s what happened. From superstar friend of TAoN Austin Kleon.

  • The Nap Ministry … is an organization that examines the liberating power of naps.” More.

  • Behold the zonkey. It’s part zebra. Part donkey. Weird? You bet. That’s the point. The Zonkey Project™ aims to help innovation leaders, and indeed all people, learn to embrace and celebrate the wonder of the world’s oddities. Not ‘fix’ them.” From friend of TAoN Earle & Co.

  • An ‘Awe Walk’ Might Do Wonders for Your Well-Being

Okay that’s it! Next issue in (less than) two weeks.

As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: consumed@robwalker.net.

Thanks for reading!
rw

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share it and/or sign up here: robwalker.substack.com.

Twitter | Facebook | Medium | RobWalker.net NB: I use Amazon Affiliate links

All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032 

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TAoN No. 53: Agenda For A Group Walk

PLUS: The sound of thunder, a new icebreaker, and more

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf. This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. ****Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.****

Agenda For A Group Walk

Last year, I was supposed to coordinate a two-hour round-trip hike, working with experts from the Berkshire National Resource Council, in connection with the Solid Sound festival. For personal reasons, I ultimately wasn’t able to do this — but I did create a kind of agenda/plan for the hike before I had to beg off.

I came upon that plan recently, and I’m sharing it here, because I think it’s not a bad starting point for any group-walk agenda.

It would probably have to be modified or adapted (you may not have an expert guide, for instance). But the only real requirement is that this should be a “destination” walk – you’re going to some pre-determined spot, and turning around to walk back the way you came.

As for the “group” element, that may take some forethought to make sure you’re observing pandemic safety, but it could just be a family, or a small number of properly distanced friends, or even a group of one. Or clip and save for a group-ier future.

I’ve modified the agenda slightly, but I’ve left in the page number references to The Art of Noticing book that I noted to my erstwhile collaborators on this effort. Consulting the book is not necessary, but if you have it, it might add something. Or not. Anyway here goes:

Pre-walk:

  •  If you do have (or decide to be) an expert, that person should in advance identify a few points of interest worth pausing over, both on the way up and the way back. I note these as Stop 1, etc. below. [The book recommends taking “a walk with an expert” in the exercise on page 106.]

More generally, all participants should prepare to pay attention:

  • Look out for one thing you’ve never seen before. 

  • Keep an eye out for the oldest thing you can spot, and the newest. Think about which will last longer and why. [P89]  

  • Look for “ghosts and ruins,” meaning evidence of change & the past. [P101]

  • Think about who made the path you are on and why; be on the lookout for what would not be here if this had remained untouched nature.

  • Imagine that when the walk is over you will make a personal map of the trail pointing out the most interesting parts, for you (include sounds, smells, etc). [P205]

On the way to the destination, stop twice:

Stop 1: 

  • Point of interest chosen by the expert [or improvise and pick a spot as you go].

  • Hunt for a sound. “Collect” sounds as you go, from here on out. Keep an ear open to the unexpected.

Stop 2

  • Point of interest from the expert [or choose your own etc.]

  • For the rest of the walk in this direction, everyone stays silent. No conversation or chitchat. Just focus. [P181]

Arrive at Destination

  • Spend the first two minutes maintaining silence, just observe, take in the view or whatever the attraction may be — “look slowly.” [P18]

  • Discuss what you saw during the silent stretch.

On the way back: 

  • Be alert to smells, and textures.

  • Consider what object (natural or otherwise) you encounter that you would most like to interview. [P214] 

  • Try to notice something you missed on the way up.

  • Take a “sound shot,” a snapshot but of sound, using the voice recorder on your phone to capture one minute of sound. Later, send it to someone and see if they can guess where you are/were. [P74]

Stop 1 (Different stops than on the way up) 

  • Point of interest.

  • Look up; look further up. [P21]

Stop 2

  • Point of interest.

  • Have a No Picture moment: Look for something that would make a terrific snapshot. But instead, just look at it, and try to remember it. [P104]

End: 

  • Pause a moment, let anybody make any observations they want to (if somebody took and wants to play a sound shot, for example, or bring up results from any of the other prompts above). Take as much time as you need.

  • Adjourn. 

Going through this, I’m sorry this planned walk never happened. But maybe you’ll make your own version happen!


Okay That Was A Long Entry!

Notebook-Mining, the calendar challenge update, and other reader feedback will all return next time.


Something To Notice

“Something To Notice” is a simple suggestion for something you might want to make an effort to notice in the weeks ahead. That’s it. Here’s this week’s suggestion:

The sound of thunder.

Back story, from reader Page Inman: One thing I noticed after reading your book was the sound of thunder. I had never really listened to a clap of thunder from beginning to end. It's an interesting sound to follow. Weather sounds are like a mini symphony from wind, rain and thunder.” Yes. Extra true here in New Orleans lately. Thank you so much, Page!

Have a suggestion for Something To Notice? Tell me: consumed@robwalker.net


Icebreaker Of The Week

  • There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here. || There’s also an Icebreaker Slack app, here. (Back story on that here.)

This week’s icebreaker comes from a tweet by writer and friend of TAoN Ben Greenman:

Dark question, but what song would you like to be played at your funeral?

Check out the answers he got, here. And check out Ben’s work in general, he’s brilliant!

Next time I’ll get back to working through the backlog of submissions, but as always, I still want more:

Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to consumed@robwalker.net


In Other News

@soymajoacevedo, @tandaard_uitgeverij, @toolsforourlife

Okay that’s it! Next issue in two weeks.

As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: consumed@robwalker.net.

Thanks for reading!
rw

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share it and/or sign up here: robwalker.substack.com.

Twitter | Facebook | Medium | RobWalker.net NB: I use Amazon Affiliate links

All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032 

Unsubscribe Here if you wish.

TAoN No. 52: A Sonic Bucket List

Plus: Something To Notice; CrazyBird Podcast; A New Icebreaker; and more

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf. This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. ****Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.****

The Lesson of the Sonic Bucket List

What sounds are important to you?

A recent episode of Earshot, an audio documentary series from Australian public radio, highlights that question by telling the story of a 38-year-old woman named Kylie Webb.

She has a condition that at some point in the not-too-distant future is going to take her hearing away. As a result she has compiled “a sonic bucket list” — a list of 11 “sounds that I want to commit to memory.” That means making the effort to experience or re-experience the roar of a sports crowd, an Italian opera, waves crashing on the beach.

As Webb explains, compiling her list was no quick or easy task. “It’s not until you’re told that you’re not going to be able to hear things that you start thinking about all the sounds that you like.” The documentary picks up with her having four sounds left on her list, and accompanies her in listening to, for instance, a soaring church organ and (of all things!) a private bagpipe concert.

Sound can connect us to the past, perhaps in emotional ways, and Webb’s quest is partly about grounding what she hears in her other senses. But the deeper lesson is that she now treasures these sounds that she’d always taken for granted.

I don’t know that it’s possible to re-create her “bucket list” approach in any genuine way, unless you’re in a similar circumstance. But I think it can inspire anybody:

Spend a week being alert to the sounds that mean the most to you, the ones that have meaning and spark memory — the ones you’d miss. (The sound of the dog’s nails clicking on our hardwood floors comes to mind.)

Now spend a week each on other senses. What tastes would you most want to commit to memory? What scents? So forth. (Just don’t do them all at once; spend a week or even a month on each. It’s a good background quest to have running as you go about your life, to prod you to notice things you’d normally just gloss over.)

Kylie Webb’s site/blog is here. Check it out. And here again is the link to the Earshot episode.

A final note: As I was writing this, I wondered if any TAoN readers might have experienced the loss of hearing, or any sense — and what you might think of Webb’s story, or this subject in general. Feedback/insights welcome: consumed@robwalker.net

Something To Notice

“Something To Notice” is this newsletter’s latest feature, debuting right now: A simple suggestion for something you might want to make an effort to notice in the weeks ahead. That’s it. Here’s this week’s suggestion:

The shadows of birds.

Back story (strictly optional): I glanced out my office window in the middle of a sunny day the other day, and noticed a bird’s shadow flit across the street. I thought that was cool. Now I’m on the lookout for bird shadows all the time. They’re elusive.

Have a suggestion for Something To Notice? Tell me: consumed@robwalker.net

Notebook-Mining

I’ve been going through the (digital) notebook where I collected material for The Art of Noticing, and picking out fun/useful stuff that didn’t end up in the book, and sharing three examples per issue (even if they’re “old”). Here goes:

Icebreaker Of The Week

  • There’s now a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here. || There’s also an Icebreaker Slack app, here. (Back story on that here.)

This week’s icebreaker comes from Wm Henry Morris:

Which book did you read in college or high school that was actually interesting enough that you still think or talk about it sometimes? 

He adds: “This has the advantage of not only interesting talk about whatever nonfiction and fiction books the folks in the conversation mention, but, in my experience, it also leads to talk about favorite teachers and classes, the merits and demerits of assigned reading (and formal education, in general), post-formal education reading habits, reading recommendations, what makes a book or work of art memorable, etc.”

Agree — great stuff! Thank you!

I continue to work through the backlog of submissions, but as always, I still want more:

Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to consumed@robwalker.net

In Other News

As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: consumed@robwalker.net.

Thanks for reading!
rw

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share it and/or sign up here: robwalker.substack.com.

Twitter | Facebook | Medium | RobWalker.net NB: I use Amazon Affiliate links

All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032 

Unsubscribe Here if you wish.

TAoN No. 51: The Joy of Making ... Nothing

PLUS: Neighborhood Calendar Challenge, a new icebreaker, and more

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf. This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. ****Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.****

Make Nothing; Have Fun

I hope you’ll forgive a somewhat rushed/abbreviated version of the newsletter; the TAoN team is based in New Orleans, and thus spent some of the usual weekend newsletter-writing time preparing for the possibility of being hit by two hurricanes this week. It’s now clear that’s not going to happen, but having spent most of my life in hurricane-prone areas, I like to believe that the more I prepare for the worst, the more likely that prep will turn out to have been a waste of time. It’s almost a game.

And that, turns out, is my theme this week.

A recent New York Times piece on “play” makes a point that I don’t think gets made often enough:

“One way to think about play is an action you do that brings you a significant amount of joy without offering a specific result.” That means taking a bike ride because it’s fun, not because you’re trying to lose five pounds. “A lot of us do everything hoping for a result. It’s always, ‘What am I getting out of this?’ Play has no result.

Regular readers know that I really like the idea of doing something even though it has “no result” — at least not in the sense of a preordained payoff or goal. I think people too often get too hung up on whether they are spending their time in a way that leads to “making” something. Making something, and sharing your creativity — that’s great! But engagement with the world is a noble goal on its own, whether it leads to some particular act of creation or not. It’s okay to make nothing. It’s okay to play.

From that Times piece:

Social media can inspire people to do things for the purpose of sharing, as the platforms themselves encourage external validation. Since play is supposed to be intrinsically motivated, you might have more fun keeping it to yourself.

“It’s very important that we have moments of play all for ourselves.” Whether it’s kneading dough in the kitchen or riding your bike around the neighborhood, next time you do something fun, don’t share the activity online. This can help you focus on the pure joy of doing something fun for yourself.

In The Art of Noticing book I describe an exercise (partly inspired by Ian Bogost’s super-smart book Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games) that involves converting a workaday trip to Walmart (or some other blah retail environment) into a game, by keeping an eye out for the most absurd product you encounter.

Childish? Yes. That’s the point! Children are often really good at inventing games that relieve the monotony of any situation. Embrace that. In fact, I was going to offer more specific examples, but maybe it’s better to stop and make this week’s prompt a broad one:

  • Invent a game you can play in your everyday life — even if nobody else knows about it.

Don’t worry about a “result.” Don’t worry about making or creating. Just have fun.

Notebook-Mining

I’ve been going through the (digital) notebook where I collected material for The Art of Noticing, and picking out fun/useful stuff that didn’t end up in the book, and sharing (even if they’re “old”) three examples per issue. Here goes:

Neighborhood Calendar Challenge Update

A few weeks back I wrote that I’ve been taking snapshots around my neighborhood with an eye toward compiling enough (12) to create a 2021 calendar, and issued a call for you to join me:

Make a neighborhood calendar. This could mean personal neighborhood landmarks (spots you’d miss if you moved), or a recurring category: flowers, architectural details, birds, trees, even just a particular color, anything you want. Document all the interesting mailboxes or fence ornaments or store banners or the backs-of-stop-signs or whatever it is — good, bad, indifferent-but-interesting — that you have noticed recurs through your neighborhood.

More here.

I’ve heard fun ideas from a number of you, but I’m pleasantly surprised to report that very dear friend of TAoN Joshua Glenn has already created a calendar! It’s a collection of images of water-meter covers in his neighborhood — example above. Fantastic!

I mentioned earlier that I’ve made calendars in the past using Cafepress. There’s also Zazzle. Josh used Mixbook, and applauded the results. Another reader recommended Walgreens, and yet another recommended Costco. Other tips are welcome. And of course I’d love to hear about it if you’re working on a calendar. As I said earlier: I like having a goal associated with the end of 2020. Keep me posted consumed@robwalker.net

Icebreaker Of The Week

  • Reminder: There’s now a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here. || There’s also an Icebreaker Slack app, here. (Back story on that here.)

This week’s icebreaker comes from an anonymous reader:

If you had one opportunity to permanently change someone's life (better or worse) who would it be and how would you change it?

That probably doesn’t need any further explanation. Although maybe I would add something like: “politicians excluded”!

As always:

Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to consumed@robwalker.net

In Other News

@asophiawood, @enjoying_my_fucking_life, @carladiana

  • Welcome to new subscribers drawn here by the kind shout-out from Mark Frauenfelder’s new newsletter, The Magnet! For those unfamiliar: The Magnet is an eclectic collection of cool/useful finds. Check out a sample issue of here. (Naturally I subscribe.)

  • Artist and writer Kathleen Jennings has been publishing a very cool Observation Journal (explanatory intro here) that I suspect TAoN readers will enjoy.

  • MMUSEUMM is open again, with new digital access; more here. “Mmuseumm is a style of storytelling about the modern world. It is Object Journalism.” (My Organist piece on this here.)

Okay, that’s it! Next issue in two weeks.

As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: consumed@robwalker.net.

Thanks for reading!
rw

P.S. If you enjoyed this, share it and/or sign up here: robwalker.substack.com.

Twitter | Facebook | Medium | RobWalker.net NB: I use Amazon Affiliate links

All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032 

Unsubscribe Here if you wish.

TAoN No. 50: Against Habituation

PLUS: TAoN eBook for writers; notebook-diving; and a new icebreaker

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf. This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. ****Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.****

Breaking the Habituation Habit

I’ve been enjoying a newish podcast from the Freakonomics folks — No Stupid Questions, with Angela Duckworth and Stephen Dubner. It’s a half-hour show with a relaxed format: Duckworth and Dubner have very informed, but still casual, conversations about two ideas per episode, broadly drawn from behavioral psychology. It’s good listening for my pandeomic-era attention span: smart and provocative, but not exhausting or demanding.

A recent episode focused in part on habituation which as you may know basically refers to the human tendency to get used to things. A mentioned example: The Holland Tunnel is a miracle of engineering, but if you drive it regularly you take that for granted (and in fact maybe find it a little grubby). You stop noticing the familiar, and focus what’s different or new instead.

Clearly habituation is a practical adaptation. For evolutionary reasons, we are wired to clue in to the unusual in order to detect opportunities and threats. We can’t all go through life constantly agog at the marvels of indoor plumbing or refrigeration, etc.

But now might be a particularly good time to resist habituation. Many of us have been stuck in sharply limited routines for months. It’s numbing. Certainly in my case it’s made me absurdly tuned in to finding something, anything, new to appreciate. (Hence last issue’s soliloquy on, uh, garbage.)

Duckworth & Dubner chat about reasons to resist habituation and find time to appreciate the good things we’ve come to take for granted. (They reference the “three good things” exercise: “In this daily reflection, you list three things that went well for you, and why they went well.” ) In that spirit, I’ll suggest a few noticing and attention prompts, not for daily use, per se, but as one-off exercises in fending off habituation right now:

  • Identify a human-made miracle in your life you’ve come to take for granted.

  • Same for a feature of the natural world: pick out some miracle of nature you encounter so often you’ve stopped noticing it.

  • Consider a person in your life (IRL or digitally), whether close or a familiar stranger or anywhere in between, that you enjoy but have come to take for granted.

  • Now go the other way: What’s a problem or annoyance you’ve gotten habituated to — but that can be solved? How could you solve it?

  • Think of something you’ve never habituated to — a thing you love that everyone else takes for granted (or even dislikes). Duckworth mentions her love of wall-to-wall carpeting. Which I find crazy, but that’s the point: identify something unique to you.

  • Finally, identify some thing or activity that you now take for granted that you’d be sad to lose if it were abruptly taken away from you.

That last one is the big one, of course: Think of all things we took for granted just six months ago, that we would love to have back. Some day. I hope.

As always, love to hear any interesting results, consumed@robwalker.net. Listen to the No Stupid Questions segment on habituation here; it starts about halfway through the episode.

New Mini-Feature: Notebook-Mining

Recently I devoted some time to cleaning up the “notebook” where I pile up material for big writing projects — which is not a physical notebook, but rather Evernote. (I use physical notebooks for other things.)

Turns out there is a lot of material that I collected over the years leading up to the publication of The Art of Noticing that I didn’t use. It’s a random assortment, as you’d expect, and obviously some is “old.” But a lot of it is still fun and/or useful. So I’m going to start sharing the best of those items here —with minimal explanation, and when appropriate paired with a prompt. Here are a few to get it started.

  • Hers is an essay considering the time capsule as a form of art. Prompt: This is a great time to make a time capsule. Pick things you think will be of interest in five years, or fifty. A great attention exercise.

  • Take this color vision test. I’m a little disappointed with my performance. You’ll do better.

  • The Boring Room Challenge: Come up with an idea for an interesting film scene set in a single, totally un-inspiring room. (Non-porno/obscene, smarty pants.) This is a prompt from a filmmaker, and the resulting video is kinda technically focused, but its spirit can be adapted.

Art of Noticing For Writers: eBook short for 99 cents

I’m not sure I ever mentioned this, but if I did it’s been a long time and there are lots of new subscribers, so: For those of you who have never picked up The Art of Noticing, the book that inspired this newsletter, perhaps you’d be interested in this 99-cent eBook short: The Art of Noticing for Writers.

In the era of white noise, when the ability to be present is often lost, Rob Walker’s provocations and exercises will enchant and delight, and help writers of all stripes develop an original point of view.

Drawn from his gorgeous illustrated volume, The Art of Noticing, twenty selections ranging in scope from “Hunt for a feeling” to “Detect imaginary clues” make for an enjoyable cure for writer’s block, and a resource that writers of all walks of life will treasure and come to for inspiration again, and again. 

As indicated, this mini-eBook includes 20 of the book’s 131 provocations that my editor and I think will inspire and help writers. And it’s less than a buck! It’s part of a series of eBook shorts for writers, including selections from Anne Lamott and Toni Morrison, all 99 cents each. Buy the Kindle version on Amazon, or see other options here.

Icebreaker Of The Week

  • Reminder: There’s now a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here. || There’s also an Icebreaker Slack app, here. (Back story on that here.)

This week’s icebreaker comes from Yael, on Twitter (via swissmiss).

Without using the title of your job, tell me what you do.

As swissmiss notes, some of the responses are very fun. More about Yael (not someone I know) at Patreon and on Twitter. A great one! (And yes, it’s from 2019 — another product of my notebook dive.)

I’ll get back to the backlog next time I promise, please be patient if you sent one in that I haven’t used yet. That said, as always:

Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to consumed@robwalker.net

In Other News

@alexandrabemerfalk, @ivonneannajasmin, @pixelsplay_

  • Calendar Challenge Update next time, I swear.

  • When writer Amitava Kumar gets books signed by their authors, he asks them to include a piece of writing advice. Awesome idea & resulting collection.

  • “I think it’s more and more difficult to find silence. You go anyplace, restaurant, an airport, and people are all figuring out ways to fill up the silence with some kind of technology. They’re listening on earphones. They’re looking at smartphones. And I think this is a terrible thing. … I think we’ve become afraid of silence.” Marilyn Nelson, on On Being.

  • Latest Sound Shot:

  • TAoN TV: One exercise in the TAoN book: zoom in. Here’s where that can lead: “Guess these everyday objects in extreme closeup.”

Okay, that’s it! Next issue in two weeks.

As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: consumed@robwalker.net.

Thanks for reading!
rw

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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032 

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