Looking Out, and Looking In
TAoN No. 79: McKinley Valentine on connecting the internal to the external, and vice versa. PLUS: Event reminder, a new icebreaker, and more.
I wish I could remember how I first came across The Whippet, the terrific newsletter from McKinley Valentine. But I suppose what’s more relevant is that it’s one of my favorites, and has been for a while.
I also wish I could come up with a pithy description. Basically, it’s eclectic and personal in a way that kind of reminds me of the glory days of blogging — a delightful cabinet of curiosities. Subjects covered include “science, history, weirdness,” and the ethos is an embrace of “genuinely exciting and magical” news that, yeah, is still out there even when “the news” as an idea seems close to unbearable.
In short, McKinley is an interesting thinker who spots interesting facts and occurrences, and says interesting things about them. A perfect read for the terminally curious!
And so, as I’ve been known to do, I decided to reach out to her to ask if she had an idea or a prompt or tip to offer TAoN readers on the subject of noticing and attention. Naturally, she had a great insight! Here it is:
“Weirdly, paying closer attention to my internal reactions has helped me pay closer attention to the external world. I originally started doing it for Therapy Reasons but it’s been much more broadly beneficial.
“You are observing things pretty much constantly, but most of it doesn’t register at the conscious level, your brain being excellent at tuning out ‘irrelevant’ data. I suppose that’s what noticing means, getting more of what you observe through to your conscious brain.
“The process typically goes Observation --> Emotional/Physical Reaction --> Conscious Thought. This is very, very obvious when you become suddenly scared at night, and then have to look around to figure out what freaked you out. But it also happens with small and delightful observations, which are accompanied by much more subtle reactions, a tiny spark of curiosity maybe.
“You might miss the initial Observation, but you get a second chance to catch it if you can notice your micro-emotion and trace it back to the source.”
Devoted TAoN readers will guess that I find this a rather thrilling line of thought. While the exercises and prompts in the book basically travel from outward- to inward-focused, I’ve become increasingly interested in how those dots connect. And here I think McKinley is offering a new (and I think more considered) variation on the idea of paying attention to what you pay attention to.
So I’ve been making an effort to put this into practice lately. You should, too! Thanks so much, McKinley.
And obviously you should subscribe to The Whippet; more on that here.
See previous ideas for TAoN readers from Mason Currey, Miranda Mellis, Tom Vanderbilt, Ron Lieber, and Rebekah Modrak.
Noticing is about other people, too. The Icebreaker series aims to help with that. There’s a central collection spot for all the icebreakers to date, here.
This week’s icebreaker is from this post on conversation starters that I came across somehow.
“If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?”
This has been in my backlog for a while, but it seems like a good one right now.
As usual, I’m still working through the backlog of icebreaker submissions. (It’s, uh, not well organized.) But as always, I want more:
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to email@example.com
In Other News
Reminder: This ^^^ is tommorrow. "The Art of Noticing: How To Be More Curious and the Payoffs of Paying Attention" Curiosity is widely recognized as a bedrock of creativity, not to mention a trait that all sorts of businesses seem to value. And yet there’s little effort to cultivate and encourage curiosity, or make the most of it. This talk will remedy that, with concrete prompts and exercises, along with inspiring examples of the creative payoffs to noticing what others overlooked. Tuesday August 3, 2021, 1 to 2 pm eastern
Good one for Dictionary of Missing Words fans: “Tsundoku, the Japanese concept of buying books and never reading them.“
On creative people-watching: “I study the people around me and think, ‘Someone, somewhere, was once in love with you.’ Then, based on anything I can assess about their appearance, what they’re carrying, the expression on their face, the way they respond to nearly getting kicked during ‘Showtime’ performances on the Q train, I create a backstory for them.” (Related: this subscriber-only post on “Noti-fiction.”)
Find the furthest city on earth from yours. Why? Well, why not? (The answer for me was Perth.) Via swissmiss.
Detachable finger magic. Frivolous, but I have a soft spot.
Okay that’s it!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or use the comments!
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And thanks for reading …
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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032
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