The Art of Noticing No. 14: The Upside of Your Fears; Art of Noticing events in NYC!; Icebreaker of the Week

Hello again,
The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday (coming in May: Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Knopf) offers exercises and prompts and 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. You should pre-order now! Note to readers outside the U.S.: I'm told that this link will work for you.

This newsletter offers related news and ideas that have come along since I finished the book. (See below for news of upcoming public events.)

1. List Your Fears

The Art of Noticing starts with a focus on the visual, because that’s the context most of us think of when we think of “noticing.”

But as the book moves along, it addresses the other senses, the way we move through the world, how we interact with other people. It concludes with ideas about noticing that are more interior — the way my editor put it was, “First you look around, then inside.”

With that in mind: A while back I endorsed the podcast 10 Things That Scare Me, in which people concisely list … 10 things that scare them. I’ve continued to enjoy it. And I thought about it again when I read this Lifehacker piece by Alicia Adamczyk on creating an “intimidation list.”

What good is it to think about what scares or intimidates you? For starters, these are subjects we instinctively avoid — and it’s often the case that those are the subjects we really need to focus on. Adamczyk quotes from a related post on a site called Career Contessa:

“Maybe you’ll learn that you’re not actually afraid of what you thought you were. Maybe you’ll find that what you think you’re afraid of, you’re really one step away from conquering.”

I would add to this: What are some things that used to intimidate you, but don’t anymore? What changed? And: What scares other people that doesn’t scare you? Why is that?

2. Icebreaker of the Week

I am pleased to report that y'all have sent in a bunch of icebreakers, so I'm a bit behind — but keep them coming! This week's short & sweet icebreaker comes from my pal Adam Harrison Levy, a writer/interviewer/educator who has used this one in classes:

What is your secret skill?

He adds: "Standouts: an amateur contortionist (she bent her legs behind her head to demonstrate to the class), a kid who learned how to handle poisonous snakes while an intern at a zoo, and a guy who could ride a unicycle." Delightful.
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or got it elsewhere) to

4. Well Noticed! Subway Bathrooms

The New York Times' Andy Newman and Ana Fota have a very fun story about exploring the public bathrooms in NYC's subway system. "In 25 combined years in the city, these two reporters had never summoned the courage to enter one." My favorite detail is from a station on 125th:

Maximum-security steampunk: In the men’s room, toilet paper rolls hung from a metal handrail in the stall by a heavy chain and padlock.

I frankly don't want to reproduce the pictures. Check it out here.

4. Random Endorsement: Reading the Pictures

This site critiques news photos. It can be very partisan, so proceed with care if you're looking to avoid politics. But the observations are often so smart and provocative, I think it transcends that, even when an entry is about the president and the press.

5. NYC Events!

A personal note: Very excited to announce a coupla AoN things coming up in New York:

  • Tuesday April 9, 2019 I'm honored to give the annual Phil Patton Lecture, hosted by the School of Visual Arts Design Research program. I'll be talking, not surprisingly, about the art of noticing. A Q&A and reception follow. (N.B.: We won't actually have books yet at this event.) This is free, but I'm told you need to register, here. Get on it! 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM. 136 W 21 Street, 2nd fl. NYC

  • Tuesday May 7, 2019 is the official book launch event. It will be in Brooklyn, and I'm thrilled to say that I will be in conversation with the highly wonderful Melissa Kirsch, who among other things is editor-in-chief of Lifehacker. More details in a week or so.

These two events will be completely different — and yet equally pleasing! Pick & choose, or go to both! But please please please share this news and tell your NYC friends. I'd love to meet them, and see or meet you!

Additional book events will be announced in future issues. If you'd like me to visit wherever you are, and especially if you have any thoughts about making that happen, please get in touch:

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). Reply to this email or use

Thanks for reading!


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