The Art of Noticing No. 15: More Searching, Less Scrollling; (Re)Framed; New Icebreaker; NYC Events

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. More Searching, Less Scrolling

I had already written a lot of The Art of Noticing before I believed it could be a book. But once I did believe that, I started calling up friends and acquaintances and strangers, to see if they had useful ideas I could steal. A notable and early example: Austin Kleon.

As many of you know, he’s a smart guy, and an inspirational thinker on creativity. He has a new book coming out right now: Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad. We had a great conversation, and there was one point in particular that, while I wasn’t able to use it in the book, stuck with me. So I’ll share it with you here now.

It started it with some commiseration. “So much of what we spend our time thinking about right now,” Austin observed, “is just stuff that's been pushed at us.” Agreed! This led to some back and forth about social media. I’m definitely a minimalist when it comes to, say, Twitter. But Austin made this observation:

“I've been thinking a lot about the search box versus the feed,” he said. “Let’s take Twitter. When I open it, everybody wants me to think about something.

“What I love to do is, whenever I find out about something that is new to me, like an author I’m not familiar with. I type her name in the search box and I limit the results to people I follow. It's almost like your own personal search engine filtered by people you respect.”

(This filtering isn’t complicated: Make a standard Twitter search, and to the left you’ll see a box that says “Search Filters.” Choosing to narrow to results from “People you follow” is one of your choices.)

This is a nice practical tip, but also a useful broader lesson: It’s easy to blame the digital world for our distractions, but in part it’s up to us to learn not only when to tune it out, but also how to use it wisely. “The internet it still is so valuable to me,” Austin told me. “But it has to be self-directed.”

Bottom line: Spend less time on the feed, more time on the search box. (And buy Austin's new book!)

2. Icebreaker of the Week

This week's icebreaker comes courtesy of Friend of AoN Erin M. Routson:

If you could only use three condiments for the rest of your life, what would they be?

"I love to ask people this, and then get yelled at because my definition of condiment includes guacamole," she adds. And while it may sound silly at first, it's actually a subtle test of creativity, among other things. "It's interesting to see what people think they can use across so many things, and where their preferences lie." I love it!
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or got it elsewhere) to

3. Random Endorsement: Framed

One Art of Noticing prompt on “reframing” involves literally using a small handheld frame of sorts. But Steve Portigal draws my attention to a charming essay by Bethany Crystal about using a rather large frame (which she found and wanted to keep even though that meant dragging it around all day) to do much the same thing. Very fun, read it here.

4. Reminder: 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 soon.

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!

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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