What Makes You Lean Forward?

By: Jen Shoop

A week or so ago, I listened to a fascinating interview with esteemed music producer Rick Rubin in which he spoke evocatively about the creative process. He observed that you can’t manufacture the conditions for inspiration, but you can consciously, routinely practice receptivity and reflection that orient you in that direction. He commented that his ability to find new voices and produce new sounds that would eventually become chart-topping, known-in-every-household names (from Adele to Jay-Z) had nothing to do with analyzing numbers or following a formula. Rather, he asked (and continues to ask) himself: “What are the things that make me lean forward? What are the things I find beautiful today that I didn’t notice yesterday?”

This is not, really, a conversation about producing music. It is about self-awareness, self-nurture, tapping into the creative impulse, whether your medium is baking or rock tumbling or, honestly, any of the modes of “deep play” we talked about recently, many of which are not overtly artistic. The question “What are the things that are making me lean forward today?” is a permutation of the prompt we’ve discussed elsewhere: “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” These inquiries nudge us to spill out our core values in interesting ways. The things you devote your attention to — the things you lean in to study — invite us to reflect on what matters most to us. Sometimes those things will feel out of wack, or out of left field, and that asymmetry is worth reflection (and, sometimes, adjustment). Other times, that awareness will invite us to double down on something we are passionate about but that we have never quite afforded surface level space. I am thinking specifically of friends who have pursued certifications or highly technical gear in obscure fields and pursuits. I have one girlfriend who owns multiple ice cream makers and has perfected the art of making ice cream. I have another who has been talking about buying a 3D printer to explore her interest and expertise in furniture design. Our basement includes a shelving system jerry-rigged with grow lights chained to various rungs and rows and rows of tiny seedlings in sprout. Mr. Magpie spent weeks finding seed purveyors, reading about different heirloom varieties of fruit and vegetable, deciding what he’d try to grow based on our geography and space configurations, timelining germination and planting, looking at weather conditions and frost dates. At a dinner party a few weeks ago, someone asked him about growing lettuce and I could not believe how much he knew about it — I think he even surprised himself.

In short, these are people listening to what makes them lean forward.

What makes you lean in today?


+This prompt would make an excellent daily journal prompt. My other favorite daily prompt is: “what is the most important thing?” Of course, you are inclined to say “my children!” or “my spouse!” or “my family!” or “my health!” but really getting granular about the most important thing on your mind in a given day is helpful. Is it making it to drop off? Is it finally finishing a project? Is it making it through that public speaking event you’ve been worrying about? Whatever it is, naming the objective can help you design your day around accomplishing it.

+Nothing changes if nothing changes.

+On making everything important.

+Shaking hands with a blank page, or figuring out how to write every single day of my life.

Shopping Break.

+I wore this hot pink top in NYC in this week, and it truly sparked joy. It’s actually a great layering top — it was freezing (!) up there, and I layered beneath this wool cardigan, which is super warm but still boasts a spring-friendly pattern/palette. (You can see me in the look here, with these Agolde jeans.) But the pink top will be equally cute with white jeans and a lighter-weight top layer/jacket (looks REALLY cute with the one I’m wearing here), or tucked into shorts, or/or/or.

+My daughter has been asking to get her ears pierced and we’re planning on letting her do it just before she starts first grade (!) this upcoming fall, bundled in with “you’re a big girl now, in grade school, this requires responsibility, etc” conversation. I just came across the cutest brand, Pip Pop, that offers adorable studs for little girls. Their tagline is “for girls that live loud + play hard!” I LOVE that energy. So my daughter! I am drawn to these simple gold hearts, but the rainbows are pretty cute.

+This dress is divine — as if Zimmermann and Sue Sartor dresses had a baby, but under $275.

+Speaking of Zimmermann, I love this one at The Outnet.

+This is my absolute favorite new bedtime book for my son. It has the most gorgeous illustrations and its entire message is oriented around getting your little one to get in bed, “even if they aren’t tired.” (Who has heard that one?) More favorite bedtime stories here, and more recent additions to our at-home library here.

+How chic is this open-weave sweater?! Had to do a double take. Love the collar, length, colors, everything. Nailing the crochet/woven trend at a great price.

+A sweet addition to your little one’s Easter basket. Too precious!

+My favorite outfit I’ve seen in NYC this week: a gal wearing trousers like these with Sambas. She looked SO stylish, but it felt effortless?

+Have loved this three-piece swim outfit since I first saw it on Clary Bosybshell a summer or two ago. Would the cardigan be impractical??

+I had my hair blown out in NYC and it was one of the best blow-outs I’ve ever had. The stylist used only Oribe products, including this “royal blowout primer.” I have been really impressed with the Olaplex bond smoother I’ve been using per my personal hair stylist’s rec — it REALLY does cut drying time by at least 1/3 — but I now have Oribe in my cart to try.

+These shoes want to PARTY.

+My favorite everyday placemats for busy (messy) families are now available in the cutest scalloped variation. Use code PROPERFAVES for 20% off any order of four placemats.

+I love the extended smocking on this Doen dress (under $200!).

+OO this skirt is good. Reminds me of Cara Cara in the blue pattern. Pair with a white tee and leather sldies.

+Primary always has happy but not too-fussy patterns and colors for children’s basics. I love these striped golf polos in fun colors — “just like Dad” but for less.

+Wow this embroidered mini leapt off the page at me. So fabulous. Kind of love it with the matching top.

+The perfect mid-weight sweater.

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3 thoughts on “What Makes You Lean Forward?

  1. mentally fried from a few *very* full weeks & catching up on a dozen posts here BUT – thinking about this “leaning forward” concept in terms of proclivities towards checking blogs (hand raised!). what does it say about us? is it a desire to connect with others? a break from the day? thought provoking prompts (like this!)? inspiration for style, home, etc.? i have a roster of about 10 blogs i faithfully click through each day (time willing) and have loyally followed for years – some, over a decade. i don’t classify it as a hobby, per se, like my passions for running, tennis, reading, etc. but it equally, though differently, fulfills. me. however, i don’t find myself sharing that, necessarily, with others, the way i would offer up my affinity for other hobbies or things i lean in on. but it certainly fits within this sentiment, at least, for me! hmmm. too meta? ha

    1. I love this! I do the same. I think, for me, it’s hunger for inspiration. I love to collect little writings and musings and prompts and style vignettes throughout my week. It’s sustenance for me!


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