Episode: 176 |
Will Bachman:
The Art of Noticing:


Will Bachman

The Art of Noticing

Show Notes

Today’s episode is a new feature here on Unleashed – a book recommendation.

I really loved the recently published book: The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discovery Joy in the Everyday, by Rob Walker.

Here is a link to Rob Walker’s website page on the book:  http://robwalker.net/noticing/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hey, welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman. Today I wanted to share a book recommendation, the art of noticing 131 ways to spark creativity, find inspiration and discover joy in the everyday by Rob Walker. Rob Walker teaches a class at the New York School of Visual Arts in the product of design graduate program, and many of the exercises in this book are drawn from that. So it’s like you’re getting that course, which normally costs most guys what several $1,000 for the cost of the book, and it is well well worth it. There’s not a book to zip through and be done. But it’s rather a guidebook that will reward repeated visits over years. Noticing well, truly paying attention is a superpower. And it’s a skill that can be sharpened with practice. And for a consultant, few skills are more important than being able to notice what others Miss. This book provides 131 exercises to practice paying attention. Each exercise takes only a page or two in the book, but it could be worked on for a lifetime. And I’ll just give about 15 examples from the book to give you a flavor of it. Number one, spot something new every day. Look for something you haven’t noticed before. Perhaps it’s security cameras, or graffiti, or water towers, or how the overhead power lines are connected. Number two, count with the numbers you find. Take photos of numbers and see if you can collect one through 100. Or if you’re really bold one through 1000. Number three, look slowly. The reference here is to slow art day, you can Google that. It’s a movement that encourages us to visit museums, and look at five works of art for 10 minutes each. I’ve done this myself, it’s a powerful exercise. The average museum visitor, according to the book, looks at a painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 17 seconds, in my experience is actually far longer than most people look at a work of art. So if you pick a painting, and you really start to look at it, details emerge, relationships clarify themselves and structure becomes visible, that you missed at first. So this book suggests to give it 10 minutes look at the person worked for for 10 minutes. And after 10 minutes you start, you know, insights emerge, like how could I have been so blind to miss that. And if you’ve tried 10 minutes, consider going even longer. Professor Jennifer Roberts makes her art history students look at a single painting for three hours. Number four in a museum, pay attention to the names of the donors, ignore the art and check out who donated it. Google their names to see how they made their money. You could also do this on a college campus. So walk around Harvard and see who gave Harvard its money. What did their and Wigglesworth actually do and law and Adams? Okay, number five, look like a vandal. Imagine that you were going to do some street art. As you walk around the city, look for places that you would create street art if you were the law breaking type. Number six. As you walk around the street, pick up any handwritten notes that you find on the street and read them. Sometimes you’ll find a grocery list, or a love letter that gives a window into another life that you could use as the core of a short story or even a novel. Number seven, make an auditory inventory. So document the sounds that you hear. Number eight, take a cent walk, document every cent that you detect. Number nine, imbue your world with God spirits take an ordinary object and imagine that it is imbued with a god spirit. As the ancients imagine that every tree broke and heart and hearth had its spirit. How does your relationship to the post box or the utility pole change when you imagine that it carries a spark of the Divine? Number 10. Look for ghosts and ruins. What places in your neighborhood might be haunted by ghosts? Number 11. detect imaginary clues. Let’s say you’re investigating an imaginary crime and on your walk on your drive, look for clues to determine who might have done it. Number 12. Change your route, walk or drive a block out of your normal way and see how that changes your experience. What else do you notice? Number 13 make a personal map of your your neighborhood not to scale, but giving space to how you interact with your space. Number 14. Talk to a stranger. Number 15. Review the every day. Imagine that you’re writing a review of everyday sounds as if they were commercial releases on iTunes. Or imagine that you’re writing a Yelp review of your bus stop. This is just a selection of the ideas in this wonderful slim volume, which I highly recommend. I personally have been doing something similar to some of these exercises for about 30 years. Ever since I had the privilege of taking john still goes class at Harvard College. The official name of still goes class was v s are visual and environmental studies 107, the built environment of North America. But I always thought that a decent name for the course could have been how to take an intelligent walk, you can get some slight flavor of still goes approach in his book. Outside lies magic, regaining history and awareness in everyday places, which is a sort of cousin to the art of noticing and is also recommended. Consider keeping a journal of the observations you make as you do these exercises. And if you gain some insights from the book, I’d love to hear about it. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. And if you sign up for the Unleashed email at ask unleashed.com each week, I will let you know about the latest episodes of this podcast. I’ll send you a book recommendation and periodically some amazing bonus materials. If you’d like to review Unleashed, and give it five stars on iTunes, that would be awesome. If you were gonna give it maybe four stars or less than just don’t bother. Thanks for listening

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