Out Now: ‘The Art of Noticing’ by Rob Walker

It’s been a few months since I first wrote about journalist Rob Walker’s (then-upcoming) book, The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday. If you didn’t pre-order it at the time, you should know that the book has been out for about a week now, so get on it!

For those of you who need a recap, The Art of Noticing aims to build your attention muscles so you can enjoy…well, noticing things in the world around you. The “131” in the title refers to the number of exercises within the book that are designed to get you thinking about your environment, wherever you are. Prompts include things like:

  • Challenge yourself to notice one new thing on your commute every day.
  • Look around for the weirdest thing in the room when you’re in someone else’s home or office, and make a point of asking about it.
  • Pick one specific thing to look for wherever you go, like a single-object scavenger hunt.

In an interview with his publisher, Walker talks a bit more in-depth about how the book is helpful:

There are 131 exercises in this book. Which are your personal favorites? Are there any that you practice regularly, or are go-tos at particular moments or times of stress?

I most frequently use the ones that somehow convert everyday life into a game. So, for instance, if I have to go to Walmart or something, there’s a prompt I always use, borrowed from the game designer Ian Bogost, to treat a routine retail trip like I’m an anthropologist. I make it a point to keep an eye out for thing like: What’s the most totally absurd thing for sale here? And how would I explain it to an alien?

But another one I use a lot is totally different: sitting in silence for four minutes and 33 seconds. That time limit is a reference to the composer John Cage and his most famous piece, but what it boils down to is just listening for a set amount of time. I do this in my home office a lot, and I’ve become so tuned in to the neighborhood sounds. It’s mind expanding, and I think it’s improved my awareness of sound in general. It’s also incredibly calming; it becomes a moment of focus.

The Art of Noticing is a welcome tonic in an age of constant distraction from all directions, including our pockets.

Get the book in these formats: