The Art of Noticing is a newsletter about creativity, work, and staying human. It’s written by me, journalist and author Rob Walker. I share useful ideas, practical prompts, and unexpected inspiration that will help you pay attention to what you care about, and care about what you pay attention to. It’s for people who want to stay interested in life.
I started the newsletter as an addendum to my 2019 bookThe Art of Noticing, conceiving of it as a way to continue the book’s mission: exploring what we can actually do to build attention muscles, spot what others overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. I also saw it as a way to build and maintain a connection with readers.
To my delight, the newsletter has since taken on a life of its own, with reader-driven features like Icebreaker of the Week, Something To Notice and The Dictionary of Missing Words.
And thus over time The Art of Noticing expanded. Every other Monday, I publish a free issue that features a new prompt or idea — sometimes from me, sometimes from an artist, writer, educator, or other source.
Paid subscribers also get another substantial post every Thursday — a new prompt, ideas drawn from books I think you should know about, creative projects I admire, newsletters I love, or other insights. Paid subscribers also get occasional discussion-thread posts on the weekend, and other surprises.
In addition to those additional posts, subscribers will also receive access to discussions and virtual events and other fun stuff to come. (If you are an educator or otherwise have a case to make for a discounted or free subscription, drop me a line at email@example.com.)
For now I’m sticking with the low rate of $5 a month or $50 annually. A founding subscriber option helps me subsidize others (and gets you special access — I’ll pay a virtual visit to your classroom or book club, etc.).
Paid subscriptions make this newsletter possible. Thank you.
Here’s more on what TAoN is all about:
Being creative — whether you are an artist, designer, writer, entrepreneur, or engaged in work or play that falls anywhere on the spectrum between those ideas — begins with noticing what others have overlooked. Whether that entails spotting problems that need to be fixed, underrated phenomena that should be celebrated, or hidden-in-plain-sight mysteries that demand explanation, it means tuning out distraction and engaging with the world.
The Art of Noticing helps readers do just that by offering prompts, ideas, games, challenges, and assignments that you (or your students, your kids, your work team) can actually do.
My devotion to the importance of paying attention evolved from teaching. In my class “Point of View,” part of the Products of Design Program at the School of Visual Arts, I require my students to devise projects that draw attention to the overlooked and underrated. The real lesson is that, in a culture fixated on what’s hot and what’s trending, noticing what everyone else missed is exactly what sets you apart — and makes you who you are.
Before I wrote The Art of Noticing (book), I wrote The Workologist column for The New York Times, advising readers on how to improve their work lives. Lately the pandemic has changed attitudes toward work, whether that means professional work, creative work, or any of the numerous combinations thereof. A lot of us are rethinking goals and ambitions, me included.
So the expanded version of the newsletter regularly illuminates the opportunities of applying the TAoN mindset in the work world – for example, exploring how downtime is good for work. The curiosity that is at the heart of TAoN is a valuable skill in all kinds of jobs; companies don’t always know how to encourage it, but this newsletter will.
Surely I don’t need to tell you that there are many demands for your attention and that modern technology makes that problem more acute every day? You know about this problem already — and TAoN is meant to be a never-ending series of solutions. In other words, I’m not here to tell you to turn off your phone; I’m here to tell you what you can do that is so much more interesting that your phone will recede to its proper place in your life.
The Art of Noticing is about engaging in the world and connecting with others, but it is also, about being in touch with yourself and what really matters to you. It’s about using your five senses—and all the other senses you have that nobody talks about.
The goal of TAoN is to help you notice what you care about, and care about what you notice.
The Art of Noticing is written by me, Rob Walker. I’m a journalist and columnist covering creativity, business, design, technology, work, the arts, and other subjects. A longtime contributor to The New York Times, I’ve also written for Bloomberg Businessweek,The Atlantic, NewYorker.Com, Wired, Fortune, GQ, Fast Company, Design Observer, Marketplace, The Organist, and many other venues. My latest book is The Art of Noticing (Knopf, 2019). I’m on the faculty of the Products of Design MFA program and the Design Research Summer Intensive program, both at the School of Visual Arts.
From 2013 to 2018, I wrote The Workologist advice column for The New York Times Sunday Business section. Previously, I wrote the Consumed column for The New York Times Magazine, where I was a contributing writer from 2004-2012. I co-edited, with Joshua Glenn, the 2012 book Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things. My bookBuying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Arewas published in 2008. Letters From New Orleans, a collection of essays, was published in 2005. My books have been translated into nine languages, and I have contributed to many collections, anthologies, and other books.
Notable side projects include my collaboration with Ellen Susan and GK Darby, The Hypothetical Development Organization, which was part of the official U.S. presentation at the Venice Architecture Biennale; conceiving and coordinating the illustration project Spawn of Gerrymander, which received a grant from The Awesome Foundation; and curating the exhibition “As Real As It Gets” at the Apexart gallery in New York City. I’ve hosted events at MoMA and other museums, been a repeat guest on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast, and appeared in the documentaries Objectified and The New Radical. I live in New Orleans with my wife, E, and our dog Russell.
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