TAoN #26: Walk Where You Drove
Guest prompt from artist "Miguel Marquez Outside." PLUS: Excerpt in Newsweek!; new icebreaker; more
|Rob Walker||Aug 12, 2019|
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 | All purpose link for readers in UK/Europe or US
This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. Reminder: I’ve switched from Tinyletter to Substack for sending out these newsletters. Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com. Concerns? Reach me at email@example.com.
Progress requires attention. And that means giving yourself permission to tune out everybody's takes on the news of the moment and attend to inspiration hiding in plain sight.
Walk A Route You Usually Drive
In Art of Noticing talks, I almost always mention the artist Michael Pederson, who works under the name Miguel Marquez Outside (also on Instagram @miguelmarquezoutside). He’s a true hero of noticing, and one specific example I often mention is his “Urban Weed Awards” public pieces, which I hope the picture above explains with no need for further verbiage from me. This is a terrific instance of zeroing in on something overlooked, or even scorned, as a delightful creative inspiration — “seemingly banal scenarios are reimagined in surprising ways,” as Colossal puts it.
I wrote to Pederson recently, to tell him how much I admire and enjoy his work, and that I was going to be mentioning him here. I asked a couple of questions, basically to see if he had any attention advice. Here’s part of what he wrote back — including a useful prompt:
In terms of practices that help me come up with ideas, I find that going on a long aimless walk and letting my mind wander works the best (driving works too, but I prefer walking). Sometimes I go out with a half-formed idea and something I see in the environment completes it. At other times, I might pass by an object/ thing/ place, a few times during my travels, and something about it starts to get my imagination going. I know that sounds vague, but that’s the closest that I can pin it down.
As a simple prompt, I might ask someone to consider walking between two places that they typically drive between, and ask them to consciously note anything in the environment they hadn’t seen before.
This is smart. I even notice different things when I walk where I normally bike. It’s a change of pace, quite literally. Try it out! And thanks, Michael Pederson.
Are You Sensitive?
Hannah Jane Walker argues that sensitivity is overlooked, dismissed and under-utilised, and she argues that our society would be much better off if we embraced it instead.
Walker (no relation) opens with a definition of sensitivity: The ability to read your environment and usefully respond to it.
Sounds to me like a quality to strive for! But Walker — who self-identifies as being in the 20% of the population that is “highly sensitive” — suggests that it’s more complicated: Being highly sensitive can be stressful, not everybody appreciates a highly sensitive colleague, etc.
Maybe this simply repackages familiar issues — are we really talking about empathy? Or, less generously, being touchy? — but maybe it does so in a useful way. I certainly keep thinking about it. Listen here.
Icebreaker Of The Week
Today’s icebreaker comes from Jason, from New York (childhood home Knoxville, TN):
Of the places you have lived or spent significant time, which one had the most pleasing view out the front door/main window/etc for you and why?
Jason explains that he “thought of it on a recent trip back to my hometown, where I stayed in an Airbnb instead of my childhood home. If felt very interesting to see the sunset that felt mostly familial but yet a little odd.” I like this a lot. It makes me remember a lot of views, and makes me want to make sure I appreciate the one I have now.
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or got it elsewhere) to firstname.lastname@example.org
In Other News:
Obviously, I love this. From TinkerLab.
Some other quick book-related notes:
I previously missed this writeup from Rachelle Doorley of TinkerLab and it’s so great! Please check it out to see stuff she actually did with the book’s ideas. “A creativity book that’s jam-packed with inspiring activities that help us look at the world differently, move out of our comfort zones, and get creative juices flowing. I don’t often share books here, and when I do it’s because they are GOOD! This is one of those books.”
In connection with the Newsweek excerpt, I did a fun interview with Meredith Wolf Schizer. Sample quote: “Really, nobody needs to be told about the attention dilemma. What people want is a little help doing something about it.” Plus I had to pick my preferred font. Read it here.
“My brand-new copy of Rob Walker's book, The Art of Noticing, is already heavily dogeared and I've only had it for a month. … The book is unlike any other I've read. It's a delightful guide to seeing the world differently, to training oneself to notice the curious little things about ordinary life.” That’s Katherine Martinko, read the rest at Treehugger.
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, and your icebreakers, and links to (no attachments please) pictures of your pet curled up next to a copy of The Art of Noticing : email@example.com.