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The Art of Noticing – Two Projects and a Book Review

The Art of Noticing, hot off the press, is a creativity book that’s jam-packed with inspiring activities that help us look at the world differently, move out of our comfort zones, and get creative juices flowing. I don’t often share books here, and when I do it’s because they are GOOD! This is one of those books.

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In The Art of Noticing, author and educator Rob Walker shares 131 ways to spark creativity, find inspiration, and discover joy in the everyday. It’s available as a book, kindle, and audible. The girls and I bought it for Scott for father’s day and we’ve been stealing it from each other ever since. He left the room when I popped in to grab it, but it was under a watchful eye. So appropriate.

To give you a taste of what’s inside, I’ll share a couple projects that we’ve enjoyed from the book.

1. Reframe the Familiar

Walker pays homage to one of my creativity heroes, Sister Corita Kent, in this prompt, and I like this fresh twist on her viewfinder activity, borrowed from one of Walker’s student Lucy Knops.

Make a viewfinder from an old slide or simply cut a frame from heavy paper. Look for a view to frame up and then summarize what you see in one or two words. Then, move the viewfinder to frame up something else. How does the word influence what you’re looking at? For example…

This one is pretty simple and I encourage you to give it a try. The next one is more involved, but doesn’t require anything more than time.

2. Look for Ghosts and Ruins

For this act of noticing, you get to venture out into the world and hunt for visible remnants that give clues into the past. We heard about an old series of steam tunnels on the Stanford campus and decided to go in search of them.

If you want to try this, keep your eyes peeled for evidence of unused architectural features such as phone booths, sealed off underpasses, or the foundation remains of a building. What clues do they offer into their original purpose? What questions remain?

My daughter and I ventured out at night, which added to the mystery and intrigue. Many of the tunnel entrances can be found around the main quad, so we started there…

We read online that the entrances are locked (makes sense!). While we knew we couldn’t go inside, we hoped to get a glimpse into these secret spaces and dreamed up stories about them along the way. Here’s a peek at what we found…

You can see a bit of a descending ladder in this one.

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but we were able to see 15 feet underground into some of these holes, and ladders down the side were clues that these were in fact entrances!

The Art of Noticing

Back to The Art of Noticing: This book full of so many rich and novel ideas for experiencing life, and most don’t require fancy tools to pull off.

Some of the other interventions, at a glance:

  • Take a photo walk, with no camera
  • Keep a nature log
  • Get there the hard way
  • Count with the numbers you find
  • Detect imaginary clues
  • Meet a friend half way
  • Look like a child
  • Track the moon

Don’t these ideas make you want to dive in a play? At the end of the day, the activities will make your life richer and full of more possibilities than you had previously imagined.

Order a copy of The The Art of Noticing or Take a Look Inside the Book

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