TAoN #31: How Mundane Can You Get?
PLUS: A new icebreaker, and some fresh endorsements
|Rob Walker||Oct 31, 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. Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.
How Mundane Can You Get?
Halloween is a creative holiday: You can decorate your house, you can dream up an elaborate costume. But if you want to do something really fun, maybe you should try to get totally mundane.
I have just recently learned about an annual Halloween event in Japan that involves “mundane” (or “plain” or “subdued”) costumes. Such as: “a girl who just gave blood and now can’t do anything for a few minutes.” (See above.) Or “guy who grabbed a cart but didn’t buy much.” Or “The Lady Who Was Lined Up for the Autograph Session But People Cut Ahead of Her Anyway.”
I love the combination of observation and creativity here: Thinking up something that involves minimal props, and is somehow weirdly specific and grounded. It’s like a costume as a short story. Ever since I read about this I’ve been scanning the world for mundane costume ideas. (It’s not clear from anything I’ve read, but I think at these parties, everyone wears a lanyard that explains their costume. If you know whether or not I’m right about that, let me know.)
If you’re going to a party tonight and still haven’t settled on a costume, don’t just buy a Nixon mask or whatever. Look around, and come up with something mundane!
Icebreaker Of The Week
This week’s icebreaker is stolen from the smart and talented writer Matt Klam. (I don’t think he’ll mind; we’ve always gotten along.) Here it is:
If you could do something that you don’t do because it’s bad for you, but you could do it without any repercussions — what would you do?
As it happens, this thought exercise led to some trouble, which you can read about here if you wish. I don’t want to wade into that, beyond saying that I like Matt, and I like this question. As always:
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or got it elsewhere) to firstname.lastname@example.org
Douglas Rushkoff’s book Team Human is being serialized on Medium, at http://medium.com/team-human. It’s a really good book, made up of “100 aphoristic statements” relating to tech culture and staying human; these will be published every week for 100 weeks. Subscribe to Rushkoff’s newsletter here. (And if you don’t want to spend almost two years reading Team Human, just buy it!)
Here’s a series of paintings by Cathy Lomax of everything Mia Farrow wore in Rosemary’s Baby. Via a great blog I just discovered at called Clothes On Film. When I say “discovered,” I mean I heard about it on the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast.
In Other News:
Had a ball with Austin Kleon — and delightful moderator Danielle McGhee — at the Texas Book Fair. Great audience, thanks to all who attended. And here’s some post-talk silliness that Austin started — and turned into a thoughtful post.
Related: My apologies to those who were unable to buy The Art of Noticing at the Texas Book Fair, as we sold out. If you showed up at the talk and really wanted a signed book, please get in touch and (within reason) I’ll try to work something out. email@example.com. Apologies also to anybody who came to the Story Bar event hoping to see me; a power failure at the New Orleans airport delayed my arrival, the event was over by the time I got to Austin. Again, if I can make it up to you let me know!
“This compelling new book offers an array of techniques and exercises to sharpen and deepen your curiosity. The activities are useful for entrepreneurs, artists, and business professionals.” — Madanmohan Rao, YourStory.
“Let me show you how to museum today….” — Lonny Cain, MyWebTimes.
Check out the latest entries in the Project:Object series that Joshua Glenn and I curate: Currently running essays & original art about “lost objects,” from Ben Katchor, Debbie Millman, Miranda Mellis, Neil LaBute, and more. Here.
Latest ‘Off Brand’ column for Marker: “What Nike’s CEO shift says about corporate creativity.”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. If you enjoyed this, share it and/or sign up here: robwalker.substack.com.