Fueling Creativity With Curiosity: Walking The Path Of The Cultural Observer With Rob Walker
There is no creativity without curiosity. Many of our greatest successes are borne of being curious and noticing things, and our guest this episode has used curiosity to create a career as a writer. Tony Martignetti enters into a discussion with writer and journalist Rob Walker about curiosity, creativity, and culture. Rob talks about getting into journalism and writing in general and his road to writing for The New York Times. Rob then discusses his decision to leave the hectic New York scene behind, freelancing for Slate and writing a book. Listen and be inspired by Rob's story today.
Listen to the podcast here:
Fueling Creativity With Curiosity: Walking The Path Of The Cultural Observer With Rob Walker
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Rob Walker. He is a writer. He has an amazing newsletter called The Art of Noticing. He's also the author of a book by the same name which I love and I know you'll pick up. It's fantastic. He's a longtime journalist and columnist contributing to The New York Times and many other publications. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and his dog, Russell. Rob, I want to welcome you to the show.
Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
We do around the campfires, we tell stories and we share from the heart. I love the ambiance of being around the fire. One of the things I'm looking forward to is digging into what got you into the world of noticing what shows up in the world.
The funny thing about this topic of noticing and me is that it took me so long to get through it. I've been doing this a long time. I've been a journalist for a long time. I've done a bunch of things. I was a business journalist. I was an editor at various magazines. I wrote a consumer culture column, then I wrote in a workplace advice column. All along, I've not thought about this before, but a part of being a journalist is that you have to be able to pick up on things that other people have overlooked so that you have an idea that when you bring it to an editor, they haven't already heard it.
You can say, "Here's this thing I noticed and it'd be good to write about." It's just part of the toolkit of being a journalist, but also what occurred to me was that being in other professions. What happened is that, to be pragmatic about it is that one of my topic area is a writer became design. I didn't intend for that to happen, but it did, and that led to me doing some teaching. I teach a short class every year at the School of Visual Arts called Point of View and helping designers because usually designers aren't encouraged to think that way to think about, "Why am I doing this?" It's helping designers talk about their work, why do they do the work they do.
One of the things that I picked up on was, and this is true with all kinds of students in all kinds of professions and all kinds of young people, is that there is a tendency, especially now, to feel like this thing that I'm interested in. It's not trending. It's not popular. No one else is talking about it. It's not important. Therefore, noticing things that other people missed, it gets devalued and I feel the opposite way and I feel pretty strongly about that.
The things that you notice that other people overlook are the most important things, and that's especially true when you're a young person starting your career. If you want to stand out, then just talking about the same thing everyone else is talking about is not a great strategy. You have to have something original to say. That set me on this path of let's value noticing and picking up on what other people missed. Let's not marginalize that. Let's elevate it. That's a little bit of a long stem-winding answer, but that's the truth.
There is no creativity without noticing and paying attention, and stepping outside the productivity treadmill.
There's something about that, that has me thinking about how, when you linger instead of rushing to the answer, instead of rushing where everyone wants to solve the problem. Stay in the unknown for a little bit and see what's showing up. That's something that when you stay in the noticing instead of the solving, it gives you more things to play with. That's what's coming up for me when I think of the work you do.
I've been thinking about an adjacent topic to this a lot, which is that there is a certain amount of courage almost involved in being true to yourself on this thing, because like the way you were just describing it, like spending time, it doesn't feel productive. We all venerate curiosity and theory, but if I'm just looking out the window for five minutes, it's hard to justify that like, “What's the ROI on looking out the window?”
It's tough. The flaw around that critique is that we measure what we can measure. That's where a lot of this productivity stuff comes from is like, "Let's spend a lot of time thinking about the things we can measure and not a lot of time thinking about the things that we can't measure." It's the things that we can't measure that lead to the unexpected breakthroughs. That's where the hidden value is, but there is no creativity without noticing, attention, and stepping outside the productivity treadmill.
We started things off a little bit different than I normally do and I liked that I did that because it changes things up. I want you to share a bit of your story of what led you into journalism and to writing in general. Maybe start with some moments in your early childhood of what did you want to be when you grew up? Before you answer that question, you share it through what we call these flashpoints, these points in your story that have ignited your gifts into the world, so that gives you a little bit of a framework of what were the moments that revealed you as you tell your story.
I don't have a lot of great childhood moments because part of my story is that I was a very directionless person for a long time, throughout my teens. I was a terrible student. I was bored in all the worst ways. I grew up in a relatively small town in Texas and I was just disengaged. I didn't care about anything. I went to college because my parents said, “You have to go to college,” so I did. At that point, I had this vague idea that I thought writing was a cool thing. I was good at it. I had gotten good grades when I was asked to write things.
I had that vague idea and this is literally true, I liked reading Stephen King novels and I felt like that would be a good job. You make up stories. That's how dumb I was about what my possibilities were. I thought I would write fiction but I chose Journalism as my major for reasons that are too complicated to get into. There was a moment when I was trying to go pitch to give some short stories to the school magazine.
While I was standing there waiting around for the editor to come and talk to me, there was a flyer on the door saying, "The student newspaper needs people to review records." Music records, for your audience that doesn't remember what records are. The school newspaper was two floors down from where I was standing. I had my meeting with this guy and it didn't go anywhere, and I walked down the two floors to the basement of this building. I said, “I'm interested in writing about music.” Someone gave me a thing like, "You can try out. Write up your thoughts on this new Depeche Mode record.” Fast forward, the rest is history. I loved everything about it. I was relatively good at it or good enough to pass muster.
I quickly lost interest in writing record reviews, but I liked the people and the culture. Here's the last thing I'll say about it. What I discovered in journalism eventually, and it all stemmed from that moment, is that it gave me this framework. I was shy, but I was curious about the world. Journalism gives you a framework for dealing with people. The way that you're dealing with me now is that we're not just randomly having a conversation, we're doing this for your show.
Journalism gives you a way to say, "You know things I don't know. I want to know them. I want to ask you about them." I have this excuse because I write for this, in that case, it was The Daily Texan student newspaper. That was like a life-changing moment. I'm very lucky. I was eighteen years old when I figured that out. I was like, "This is it. This is what I want to do and I want to do it until I die."
There is this element of be feeling listless, not knowing the direction you're heading in, and then just stumbling into this, if you will. Feeling the breadcrumbs.
I'll never forget the moment of seeing that flyer. I wonder sometimes like, “What if I hadn't noticed it? Who knows?”
It probably would have found you somehow.
It's a vivid moment. You were looking for these flashpoint moments and that's real.
I almost said this feeling when you're talking about records, I was thinking you were talking about records as in record keeping. I was like, "That sounds boring. What are you going to write about records?"
It's the things that we can't measure that lead to unexpected breakthroughs.
There you are, you're in this field and you start to get that light bulb moment. You're connected to this field. What is it that starts to keep you moving forward and to see that there are other ways and other things to write about? What moved you from where you were to where you went from there?
There are two ways of answering it and the truth is they're intertwined. One is I alluded to the idea that I was a curious but shy person. I wanted to know how things worked. The second that's more practical is that I became ambitious at that point. I needed to figure out how to make a living pretty much right away. I was pragmatic in the sense of like, "I'm not going to be precious.” I never had the thing or maybe I did have the thing but I got over it quickly of certain kinds of journalism where that, that doesn't interest me. I don't want to do it.
I want to start writing for The New Yorker, which you see a lot with people at that age. The practical flashpoint thing or however you want to put it, is that I realized once I finished college, I needed to get to New York. I spent a year in doubt. I went to school at UT Austin, and then I spent a year in Dallas working for an alternative newspaper called the Dallas Observer.
Saving money with my girlfriend at the time so we could get to New York. My thinking was like I just need to get to New York. I had an openness, so the combination of these two things I was talking about, authentic curiosity and raw pragmatic, “I must get this done,” led me to take my first job in New York as an entry-level reporter at a trade publication called The American Lawyer.
I wasn't interested in the law. I didn't know anything about law. I took a pay cut to take that job, to move from Dallas to New York and take a pay cut, but I threw myself into it and this ended up shaping. That moment of starting The American Lawyer, which was a tough transition for a lot of reasons, but that was a turning point moment. It opened me up to the idea that like, "Do you want to know how the world works or not?" That should be an important part of being a journalist. To this day, I still see the names of these law firms. I have opinions about big law firms.
It opened me up to the idea that the privilege of what I was doing for a living was that I was being paid to learn things. I spent most of the '90s working in business journalism which was nothing I had ever been interested in. I had not grown up looking to get into business. Understanding the difference between revenue and profit earnings. There are two kinds of that. You’re either like, "That sounds so boring," or you're like, "I want to know that so I know how the world works. That's what I'm interested in.” I'm not sure if I went a little off the rails on that answer but you tell me.
Honestly, it's totally right on track for me because this is the world I came from. A lot of people who have been in the business world, they understand that there's the fundamentals of business that we need to understand. It's interesting when I hear you talk about this, because there are a bit of people getting attracted to the sexy part of the business. “I want to be writing pieces that are going to be controversial, maybe something that's flashy.” You step into a role, took a pay cut, and going to a city that is expensive, mind you. The cost of living in New York compared to Dallas, I'm sure it was a step up.
Sometimes those pivots we take, those changes in our role where you're doing the same work, but you're also doing it in a different setting with different people, different subject matter. You had to step back to grow and that is what you're exhibiting in that step and it's powerful to see that happen. Seeing that there are interesting stories to uncover in each and every field. Even though on the surface, it might seem like super boring, there's always something to be learned, and then you can take that and apply that in other fields.
To understory what you're saying, we're talking about a period of about five years from me looking at a flyer and wanting to write about the new Depeche Mode album to being in New York writing about profits per partner had scanned or whatever. Which even most of your readers won't have any idea what that means, but that was a big thing and part of it was opportunistic and pragmatic.
Part of it was leaning into it. I have this conversation with young people sometimes that doing that and going in that direction, I don't want to work for a legal trade magazine, but you never know, and some of the most talented people I ever worked with were at that, and they've spread out to be pragmatic. Those people are spread out all over the profession and I've continued to work with.
It's hard to think this way when you're 22, but these people are going to do other things as your career unfolds. It will be good for you to know them when you're 32 and they're not at The American Lawyer anymore. They're at The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal or one of my colleagues became an editor. There are tons of things, they spread out all over the place and it's hard to see that coming when you're young, but there's a payoff to being open that way that unfolds over time.
It's a great thing to say here because there's so many things about that I learned in my path that I know a lot of people hear is that you need to look at every person, every connection you have as a potential long-term part of your network that could open up opportunities. I had this conversation, it was Dorie Clark. We were talking about how preparation and connections meets opportunities, that's where you have success.
I know that's an old saying, but when you add connections into the mix, it makes a huge difference. You have to be prepared, but you also have to think about who's in your network, how the connections that you have can unlock that chance for your success, because we don't navigate alone. It works with having people in your sphere of influence that help you to move forward.
I couldn't agree more. The only thing I would add to it, not that you don't already know this, but just to reiterate that you never know who those people are going to be. It may be that the person who's the intern or whatever. That's why you should always be kind to the intern and take the intern seriously, because you don't know.
Just be kind to people around you. Take everyone seriously.
I don't mean that in a cold calculated like that person could destroy it. That person may just be smart. I've certainly had bosses who were ten years or twenty years younger than me at this point in my life, and it's just a better way to live. Be kind to people around and take everyone seriously. I certainly witnessed a lot of, in those days, fairly cruel behavior. People with power behaving in cruel ways to work people without power.
It's strategically dumb, but it's also obviously bad for your soul. It's good to go the other direction. You can think of it as a network. You never know. You might say like, "I'm not going to network with that person. They're the first level assistant," but you never know. What does it hurt you to take them seriously?
I want to see what happens next in your story because now you are in New York, you're doing things. I'm intrigued to see what led you down this path of going out on your own because there's a lot of ground to cover, but tell me what you'd like to talk to next.
I moved to New York in the early '90s. I ended up being a journalist in the business. I was a business journalist. I was an editor at SmartMoney and Fortune and Money. Because I had this business understanding that was surprisingly rare among editors in mainstream press, that led to me getting a job as a features editor, they're called story editor at The New York Times Magazine. There were six features at any given time. I was the business guy. I was the one who understood how stock options worked, which at that time was a big deal, nobody else had the slightest. They were all smart people, and they're smarter than me.
The turning point moment is that I was so tired of New York, and I wanted to get back to writing. I had been editing at that point for six years or so. My then girlfriend, now wife, she had a good job too at a museum design or an exhibition design firm. We had good jobs but we were tired of New York and we were tired of living in this tiny apartment. To make the long story short is we decided to leave and that led us moving to New Orleans for the first time. This was in 2000 and it was literally January 1st, 2000 is when I arrived in New Orleans. She moved down a little bit earlier. I quit the Times and started freelancing.
It's funny because we're in this big debate about remote work. A generation ago, I had this thing of the internet made it possible for me to do that. You did have to give up some things and you make some career trade-offs, but it worked out great. I started writing for Slate. I'm searching for a billboard moment in that transition. That was a big pivot point. It was an enormous risk. I was about 30. It was a crazy decision. I was a staff editor at The New York Times and at the magazine, which in some ways from my point of view, was the peak of the profession.
It was 1 of the 2 or 3 places I wanted to end up. It was a decision to walk away from that and see what would happen if I tried to do my own thing. Obviously also, the cultural shift of the move from Manhattan, we live in the West Village to New Orleans was significant, but I was young enough to take that kind of risk. Here's the truth, is that it seemed like I was on a path at the Times Magazine where I was set in some ways. Nothing's taken for granted, but I was on a path that I could have theoretically if I didn't screw it up, pursued for the rest of my life. I could have been there and done that. I decided that I wanted to try something else.
It reminds me of this feeling that people often face is this element of when you have a path that's set, it makes it so comfortable to stay on that path. Sometimes you're going to question ourselves like, "Are we on the path that's right for us?" That's good to occasionally ask that question and see what's right. What I am dying to find out is when you went and worked for yourself, here you are being a known commodity in writing about, initially, law and then business, how did you get yourself out of writing business pieces to writing more eclectic pieces? I assume you did.
James Surowiecki had left Slate to start writing, but he was writing a column called Moneybox, which was Slate’s, at that time, market column. They were writing intentionally with a pop audience in mind. They weren't writing for a business audience. They're writing for a popular audience. Culturally, at that time, there was a lot of interest and people wanted to understand stocks, why things were happening. He left. I had written a piece that Mike Kinsley had seen that he had liked and had been in touch with me. I got very lucky and the timing of all this lining up and it was Kinsley who offered me like, "Do you want to do this?" It was a part-time thing but it was a base for starting a freelance career but it was incredibly fortunate.
Kinsley's idea was that one of the things I should do should be to cover advertising. Advertising became a bridge for me to write because once you're writing about advertising and then branding, you're essentially writing about culture. You're almost write about anything, and that's what I mentioned that the inclusion of design in my portfolio of things. I became someone who had a business background. I had always been a cultural observer. It was blending those things and that led to the consumed column in the Times Magazine, and some stories I was doing for the Times Magazine.
Obviously, I had connections there because I had worked there, so I had done a story about PBR and its rise at the time. It was a big deal, and then I did a story about the iPod, which obviously turned out to be a big deal. This consumer culture beat became my bridge to getting out of writing for an interested business audience. I had the credibility to write for that audience because I understood the basics, but I could also translate to write for a mainstream audience that did not know the difference between revenue and profit.
One of the things I wanted to highlight about this and it's something that I'm picking up and that it will be important to note is that it's so great when you can bring together a craft that you've been practicing for a while. Because of the hard work and the training that you've gone through, you finally are able to bring it together with other passions of yours which is a love of design and culture.
Now the writing, which you've been passionate about, is connected to something else that you are passionate about. It starts to see that there's a way to bring those two worlds together. A lot of people missed that point that they get stuck in these patterns of their jobs and they say, "I like what I do but I don't love the industry I'm in. I don't love the way that I'm bringing it to the world.”
That's a good point. A lot of what I'm saying is incremental, which is important. We are talking about specific moments, but a lot of this is incremental and it wasn't planned, and that's the second part that I want to say is that a lot of it is opportunistic. I've said several times about how lucky I've been and I have been very lucky.
There's no point in obsessing about regrets and making your life defined by them.
One of the things that factor into that is being opportunistic and willing to lean into it if someone gives you a chance. I'm describing some things as luck that was a risk, and they proved to be lucky. I'm sure there were other things that I've leaned into that I thought didn't work out, and so now I can't remember them because that's how the brain works.
Those get photoshopped out of the story, but it's like when you are given an opportunity, recognizing that it's an opportunity even if it's recognizing that taking a job at The American Lawyer for less money than you were making at Dallas Observer doesn't sound like a great opportunity, but in retrospect, it was.
It's amazing when I hear those moments. It's something about luck and risk that they come in different clothing, and they might be the same thing, but it's all how you tell the story at the end.
It's true. Let's caveat this. There could be some revisionist history going on here where it all sounds like it makes perfect sense, but in fact, it was a bunch of random decisions. I got a lot of lucky opportunities and one of the ways I was lucky is that I made some good decisions. I made bad decisions, too, but I made some good decisions.
Before we get to getting into the meat of The Art of Noticing, and maybe you can share some thoughts about the newsletter and all, I wanted to pause and say, what is it that you've noticed about yourself that you've learned about yourself as you look back on your past? Maybe 1 or 2 things that you've learned that you want to share with people.
For everything I was saying about making sure that you're kind and take people seriously, there were people that I underestimated over the years that I have regrets about. Not that I did anything super mean. I've been doing this a while, and I've had the experience of people that I was nice to them, but I didn't take them seriously, and they have just blown past me on the career track and have gone on to have spectacular, number one on the charts type success.
My wife and I talk a lot about the way people use the word humble. Usually, when someone says they're humble, they're boasting. They're not just humble bragging like they say like, "I'm so humbled that I won this prize." It's like, "No, you're not humble. You're proud," but I have been humbled by seeing the success of other people and not just the success but the town.
I'm not sure if this answers your question, but I'm fascinated by people who claim to have no regrets because I have regrets and they almost always have to do with, "I wish I'd taken that person more serious. I wish I had learned from that person." Learn from is maybe the most selfish, but the most honest way of saying it. I did try to help people along the way when I could but I don't want to make myself sound like I was a monster but I got it wrong sometimes and I do have regrets about that. I have no idea if that answers your question.
This point you're bringing up is cool because it makes me think of something that people say like, "No regrets," and regrets, I agree. You can have regrets but don't live in them. Recognize them and it's okay and say, "I wish I had done things a little different here, but ultimately, I'm not going to live in that place where I'm sitting there and stewing in it.”
There's no point in obsessing about regrets and making your life defined by regrets. There's something to be learned by it. It doesn't mean that I'm happy with how things turned out. I'm not saying, "I wish that I had made some," but still I regret certain moves in the past, for sure.
I want to shift into something that is around The Art of Noticing. What prompted you to write the book? Obviously, now you're into the newsletter. Tell me about what's exciting you about this newsletter that you've amped it up to a new level.
These things tie together. It's pretty linear. The book project started as something totally different, which was this now familiar idea of the attention economy crisis. I'm like, "How we're all distracted all the time?" I don't even have to explain this to you. You know what I'm talking about. We're put on the FOMO of the whole thing.
I thought that was a good subject. The consume column was over, I was writing with colleges, which is a work advice column, but this was just a side passion project that I felt like this would be a good book to write about that. I envisioned this book that was 290 pages of like, "Here's the problem. The attention economy and all of that."
Ten pages of, "Here's what you can do in your life to fight back." I spent about a year not writing that, thinking about it and telling my agent that I was writing a proposal and not doing anything because I had done some other books, but then I finally realized I only cared about those last ten pages and that should be the book.
The way culture gets made is through bending the rules and boundaries and seeing possibilities that everyone else missed.
It should be a ten-page introduction of here's the problem because we all know what the problem is. It should be 290 pages or whatever it ultimately is of here are ideas, prompts, and things. The book is set up, as you know, but just for readers, it has a set of 131 prompts, provocations, and games. It's meant to be flipped through or read linearly, but it's, "Here's stuff you can add to your life,” because that's what interested me.
I had become bored with the idea of people telling me that there was a battle for my attention. I knew that and everybody knows that, but it's like, "What can I do?" I wrote about 1/3 of the book and that became the proposal. Once I had that realization, it flowed quickly and that became the book. I had an email list and I turned it into The Art of Noticing newsletter “to promote the book." Straightforward, but it was like, “Here's more stuff along the same lines. Here are more inspirational stories and more ideas that I couldn't fit in the book.” It took on its own life in a way that I wasn't expecting.
The quick version is that I was using TinyLetter. I had reached the limit. There's a 5,000 limit on TinyLetter, so I had to switch to a different service. I picked Substack with no intention of monetizing. That was years ago. Since then, Substack has become a hot thing and now people say like, "You have a Substack." I thought I had a newsletter that I would just use Substack, but it built its own audience and now I am actively trying to see if I can make that a self-sustaining thing. I added a page and we're finding out. That's the new experiment. I feel lucky that it feels good to be still experimenting and not just ticking boxes and doing the same thing that I know.
There's something beautiful about the newsletter, and I'll just share this one thought about newsletters in general. You start with this idea that it's a follow on to share your book and all that, but as you start writing, sharing, and creating, it starts to become this muscle you build, and then it becomes something that's like an ongoing new thing. It's a new project that truly takes on a life of its own, but also, you're getting to unlock new levels well beyond the book. It's a dialogue that opens up.
I'm serious that it's fun. It's a different writing both because of the distribution format of the newsletter. Also, it's a different writing for me because I'm still writing in this way that's like the most recent one is about curiosity and acts of curiosity. It's an essayistic approach. It's different and when I sit down to do it every time, it's fun because I'm doing something that I haven't done before.
I'll be blunt that I don't know. You've probably read things about Substack contributors who are well-known brand names who go to Substack and now they're making $1 million a year or something. I don't know how that works. I'm not in that category. I'm scrapping my way up from the bottom, but I am enjoying the creative side of it. We'll see how it plays out. It could be determined.
I have one last question for you as we come to the end here. I'm going to ask the question that I ask everybody comes in the show because I love books. Everyone who comes on usually does. What are 1 or 2 books that have had an impact on you and why?
This is obviously a hard question, and you can see me looking at my bookshelf to this side, because there are a lot more than two, but one that I would mention to start is a book called Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde, which is a book about anthropology but about trickster traditions that across cultures of figures who are like mythological figures who perform pranks. I'll give you an example. He extends it to examples that include more commonplace stuff that we're more familiar with like Duchamp, and the famous signing a urinal, converting a urinal into a work of art. That's a trickster move that changes the boundary in the culture.
That very much speaks to the stuff that we were talking about earlier of the overlooked and noticing the overlooked and what can you do about it and what moves can you make and why? This goes back to the teaching stuff that I have done. I always assign that book, although I don't think anyone ever reads it. It's a little bit of a tricky book, but it's fascinating and inspirational in realizing that the way culture gets made is through bending the rules, bending boundaries, and seeing possibilities that everyone else missed. It's so hard to choose. I'm going to pick Austin Kleon's book, which is called Keep Going.
I'm endorsing his work in general because it did have a big influence on me. This is an example, and it's good to still be discovering. I don't want to name books that I read when I was eighteen. When I was doing the noticing book and I was looking for a language of communicating, the way I was talking about of this is a little different than a journalistic voice. It's a prescriptive voice in some ways, like giving people advice almost like borderline.
Keep Going and his other books, most notably Steal Like an Artist. He hit on a tone that had a big influence on me when I discovered it. It was a tone that at first made me uncomfortable because it was so different than what I was doing as a straight journalist, but it nagged at me in a weird way. My stuff is very different from what he's doing, but there was something about what he was doing that was fresh to me and that influenced how I thought about approaching what I was doing and how could I do what I was doing in a way that would connect with the reader in a different way than I had been. That's another stem winder answer.
I'm just so thrilled you brought Austin's books. He's someone who made us notice him because his style was so different than everyone else who was out there writing books at a time when he started writing his books. I was like, "Who is this guy?" I enjoyed his fresh perspective.
At first, I didn't get it. It took me a while. Not that I had a problem with it, but I was like, "This isn't for me." I felt like, "This is for somebody, but not me." I realized, "Maybe it is for me, and maybe I have something to learn from it." This is his message that you don't emulate it, but there was something going on there that was resonating, and it was worth trying to figure out why.
There was something freeing and it had a direct influence on the epiphany that I was describing that I wasn't interested in the 290 pages of the problem. I was interested in looking the reader in the eye and saying, "Here are some ideas about that you can use, that you can apply to your life," and then it's different writing from anything I had done to that point, and so I should give him some credit for the influence he had there.
I think about your book as now being a blueprint for future writers to think a different way of approaching things, because we need some fresh approaches to looking at problems. If we keep on writing in the same way, then it gets stale. I love the way you approached your book, and kudos to you. I'm so thrilled and honored to have had you on the show. Your stories and insights are truly amazing. I want to thank you for coming on the show.
Thank you so much for having me. It was a lot of fun and I hope that I didn't ramble too much, but I had a good time. Great questions.
Thank you. Before I let you go, I want to ask, what's the best place for people to find you if they want to learn more about your world?
There's RobWalker.net which is my site and the address for the newsletter, if you want to go check it out and look at back issues, it's RobWalker.Substack.com. Those are probably the two places to go.
Thank you so much and thanks to the readers for coming on the journey. I know you're leaving with the great insights. Grab the book, get signed up for the newsletter. Thanks again, Rob.
Thanks for having me.
- Rob Walker
- School of Visual Arts
- The Art of Noticing
- Trickster Makes This World
- Keep Going
- Steal Like an Artist
About Rob Walker
Rob Walker is a journalist covering design, technology, business, the arts, and other subjects. He has contributed to The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, NewYorker.Com, Design Observer, The Organist, and many others. His latest book is The Art of Noticing (Knopf). He is on the faculty of the Products of Design MFA program at the School of Visual Arts.
Rob also does some speaking. He wrote The Workologist column for The New York Times from 2013 to 2018. He wrote the Consumed column for The New York Times Magazine, where he was a contributing writer from 2004-2012. Before that, Rob created and wrote the Ad Report Card column for Slate. His book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are was published in 2008, and Letters From New Orleans was published in 2005.
Speaking of which, Rob has also been involved in various side projects, such as Significant Objects (with Joshua Glenn), The Hypothetical Development Organization (with Ellen Susan and GK Darby), and Unconsumption (with many collaborators). More about those and other side enterprises elsewhere on this site. Just go here and look around.
To keep an eye on what’s next, subscribe to The Art of Noticing newsletter: https://robwalker.substack.com/.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share! https://www.inspiredpurposecoach.com/virtualcampfire