The Art of Noticing No. 18: Look for Ghosts and Ruins; HIdden Books; New Icebreaker

Hello again,
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 that have come along since I finished the book.

The Book Is Out!

The launch event was delightful, and I've gotten lots of lovely feedback. Here are a few podcast appearances: The Productivityist Podcast, Curious Minds, and Famous Failures. I'll have more to say about those and others in future newsletters; the conversations have all been really enjoyable. I'll also plug this terrific Quartz piece about the book.

Meanwhile, a request:

If YOU have enjoyed the book, please consider reviewing or even just rating it on Amazon or Goodreads. It would be really helpful! Thanks!

More next time on upcoming events in New Orleans, Dallas, and elsewhere.

1. Look for Ghosts and Ruins

In connection with the book's release, I wrote a piece for The Guardian about "five ways to experience a city differently." It's a short essay, followed by five (condensed) exercises from the book. One of these is "look for ghosts and ruins." Here's a bit of it:

"Ghost landscapes," according to How to Read a Landscape, "are clues left behind from the past that show what a previous landscape may have looked like and how it was altered to achieve its present state. They can be as noticeable as the remnants of an abandoned highway ... or as unnoticeable as varied growth patterns in trees... ."

Ruins are similar: “the faded records of the past still apparent on the landscape”. An old out-of-service payphone, for instance, is a ruin. It says something about its own environment and surroundings. The persistence of a ruin can also be instructive. Why hasn’t someone torn that old payphone down and hauled it away? Because of its historic significance? Or simply as a function of neglect?

Nobody is making an effort to direct your attention to the ghosts or ruins in any given landscape. But if you want to understand a place more deeply, these are exactly the things you should look for.

More here (and, of course, much more in the actual book.)

2. (Not So) Random Endorsement:
Book Fairies

I had never heard of The Book Fairies, evidently a global participatory exercise in which people leave books for others to discover, in public places. But my British publisher did this for the UK edition, and I find it all very charming. Seems very appropriate for a book about noticing, right?

I've really enjoyed following the effort on social media. Like seeing the book (it has a different cover in the UK) left in the paw of this big grass bear in Newcastle, or this person who has been hunting for Book Fairies books for years finally finding one. (Also this, which I guess is a promotional print piece? Looks cool.)

More about The Book Fairies in general, here. Fun idea.

3. Icebreaker of the Week

Okay, I'm really focused on the book this week — forgive me, I'm excited. I'll get back to more diverse offerings soon, but let me have my moment! What I'm saying is, this week's icebreaker is pinched from The Art of Noticing, part of an exercise on interviewing a friend (or loved one or stranger or even an enemy).

What is your earliest memory?

This is one of many questions cooked up by the amazing StoryCorps project, cited in the book. I chose this one because it's so simple, yet I think it can work with not only with someone you just met, but someone you've known for ages. Check out more great StoryCorps questions here — a really nice resource for those of you who have been enthusiastic about the icebreaker series and have asked about whether I'll compile them. I might! Meanwhile: There's a whole section of the The Art of Noticing with exercises designed to help you converse with, listen to, and connect with others.

And meanwhile I'm still collecting new icebreakers and have plenty to share. Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or got it elsewhere) to

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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