Book Review: Accidental Genius by Mark Levy

Imagine having to develop an innovative solution, generate a new idea, or write a creative short story – right now! How would you approach this challenge? Maybe you wouldn’t know where to begin.

In our daily lives, we are constantly asked to solve problems, come up with ideas, and find good solutions to difficult issues. That is where freewriting comes in.

The purpose of this book is to introduce you to freewriting. By freewriting, you can tackle problems, come up with ideas, organize your mind, and get creative. Freewriting is the art of getting your best ideas down on paper, and you will learn the golden rule of freewriting.

You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Lesson 1: Freewriting is a great method for organizing your thoughts and capturing your best ideas

No doubt, you have tons of great ideas floating around in your head; don’t feel alone if you cannot articulate them well.

The human mind can produce fantastic ideas and hypotheses, but directing or clarifying them can be challenging at times.

We all experience eureka moments – some are nonsensical, and others can transform our lives. Do you remember the story of the apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head? That was the moment when Newton understood gravity.

Incredibly creative leaps of imagination are possible with the human mind.

However, we sometimes have difficulty organizing and refining our thoughts into understandable forms.

This is because we have a propensity to be lazy or leave our ruminations vague. When we daydream, we lose focus, and the best ideas disappear just like that.

There’s a way to combat this: freewriting. By writing down our thoughts quickly on paper, we can arrange our minds, come up with ideas, or make decisions.

There is more to it than meaningless and unfocused scribbling. If you want to reap huge rewards from your initial thinking, you have to apply rules and techniques.

In freewriting, you honor everything in your mind. Your thoughts are recorded forever and permanently chronicled.

This is especially useful if you need to make a tough business decision. You can also use it to deal with challenges such as writing a book or a thesis or even to think about your personal life.

But don’t let the name fool you. Everyone can benefit from freewriting, not just authors, business consultants, or wordy professionals.

How does freewriting actually work once we understand the theory? Let’s begin by examining the basic principles.

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Lesson 2: You can start freewriting by relaxing, writing quickly, and giving yourself a deadline

Don’t rush into freewriting, despite its name. There are rules to follow, so don’t neglect them. Make sure you understand the following three basics.

The first thing you must do is temper your expectations. If you do this, you will have no problem getting started. I call it the “try easy” attitude.

Here’s an example from real life. Robert Kriegel, a business consultant, and mental coach, embodied this attitude. During the Olympic race for a spot, he managed to get athletes to break world records. How? They were told to relax and give 90 percent rather than 110 percent.

The same applies to freewriting as well. Don’t aim for flawless writing. Just get your thoughts down! You should begin by telling yourself to “try easy” and to just scribble something without stressing yourself out.

Second, write continuously and quickly. This will prevent you from judging yourself too soon. Concentrate on volume for now, and don’t worry about content.

Write or type as quickly as you can. Don’t give up if you hit a wall. Keep the momentum going by repeating the last thing you wrote, even if it doesn’t make grammatical sense! Making sure you don’t get stuck in a rut is key. Right now, quality isn’t as important. Once your work is on the page, you can always go back and tweak it.

Third, work within a time limit.

Maintaining focus on your freewriting will be easier if you set a time limit for your session. In this way, you know when to stop.

Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk writes like this. During a laundry cycle on his washing machine, he likes to write. By doing so, he can compartmentalize his writing and concentration according to the machine.

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Lesson 3: When freewriting, write how you think, follow your thoughts, and redirect your attention

Now you’ve got the basics, let’s look at three more golden rules for freewriting.

The first thing you need to do is write the way you think.

You should write for yourself, not for an imaginary audience. Neither over-explaining nor worrying about grammar is necessary. When you are not constrained by any style or grammar rules, you will feel the benefits. You can let your imagination run wild.

Consequently, don’t be afraid to explore anything you find. Feel free to browse around however you like.

In practice, what does this mean? Imagine you’re describing a product you’ve just heard about. You haven’t engaged your creative faculties if you only write a few paragraphs that are easy to understand. Give it another go!

Second, follow the thought. Don’t be bound by apparent detours. You don’t have to go back and fix your mistakes. Go forward.

It is possible that you are facing a complex problem that can be solved in many ways. Don’t get distracted by it. Make sure you follow one path and stick to it, so you won’t get stuck if your mind keeps wandering.

Think of this analogy: imagine that you and a colleague discover that a computer at work is malfunctioning. Your colleague wants to fix the technical problem immediately, but you want to find the person who damaged the machine.

They are both valid routes, but you can’t do both in freewriting. Pick one and stick to it.

Last but not least, redirect your attention. Are you familiar with that feeling of being stuck and unsure what to do? Focus changers can help you redirect your attention.

Questions you should have on hand are focus changers. You can use them to decide whether you should continue down a particular freewriting path or change direction.

Make them as simple as possible. Questions like “why?”, “what am I doing wrong?” and “how do I improve this?” will do.

Lesson 4: It’s better to write than just think, and writing prompts will help you get started

What exactly is the point of freewriting? How does it work? Clearly, there are a few advantages to thinking things over rather than simply contemplating them.

Our minds wander when we think. We get lost in our thoughts. Thus, great ideas are likely to get lost in the shuffle and forgotten. You can always trace your logic back if you write things down and keep a record of what you thought.

Consider going to a supermarket. There is a high probability that you will forget something if you shop with only a mental list. When you write your list down, the chances of forgetting things like milk or eggs are considerably reduced.

Your thoughts are preserved when you freewrite. You don’t lose them in the ether when you do this.

Prepare the ground by giving yourself a few prompts before you start freewriting. You will then be more open to exploring unexpected paths.

Your writing and thinking are based on a prompt. You can use a prompt to start a session, or even to set off on a new path.

Robyn Steely, executive director of Write Around Portland, a nonprofit organization that promotes writing workshops, offers some useful tips. He suggests the best prompts are short and open-ended. Something like “After the storm . . .” or “I can still remember . . .”.

Other examples of open phrases might include “If I didn’t have to work I’d . . . ” or “The best part of my workday is . . .”. It’s your job to complete the sentence as you see fit!

A prompt is an excellent warm-up tool. In addition, a good prompt can easily lead to new and unexpected insights.

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Lesson 5: Simplify your writing by reducing complexity, disconnecting yourself, and producing quality content

It is best to avoid unnecessary complexity when freewriting. Instead of thinking in terms of symphonies, consider melodies. Keep it simple.

Freewriting can be troublesome if you add too much complexity.

Often, when it seems impossible to solve a problem, it’s because you’re overthinking or prioritizing complexity over simplicity.

It is possible to escape this trap by working with facts. Facts are concrete and simple. Moreover, they often set off a chain of thoughts as you follow one fact after another.

For example, a decrease in company sales is verifiable. Ultimately, this discovery reveals that low productivity is affecting numbers, and that low salary isn’t motivating staff to work hard. There’s an obvious chain of reasoning that begins with a simple fact.

You can also practice freewriting by distancing yourself from old ideas and abandoning them when new ones come up.

It’s easy to disconnect in theory, but it’s better to engage in it. Try to find a lesson before moving on after you reject a hypothesis or trash a thought, but never stop writing. Document your reasons for abandoning the hypothesis or thought.

Freewriting starts to pay off when you discard ideas that don’t advance.

Now we are ready to produce all of this material. Having many ideas is better than having a single idea. You can actually hinder your progress by demanding too much of yourself too early by focusing on finding the perfect idea.

This is something you can do. Think of 100 possible solutions to a problem through freewriting sessions. Do it over several days, and don’t do it all at once. You can come up with mundane, fanciful or even silly ideas – it’s a numbers game that will relieve you of the frustration of not having an idea right away.

Lesson 6: You can improve your freewriting by lying a little bit

Freewriting is not about lying, as you have been taught all your life. You can explore ideas by lying. You can play make-believe on a piece of paper.

Lying in freewriting is breaking with reality. You can explore situations that initially seem absurd or silly. By doing so, you can actively direct your freewriting sessions in new, fecund directions, resulting in unexpected results.

Your responses are limited when you are trapped in reality. Lying can boost your freewriting efforts.

Let’s come up with an easy way to start lying.

Think of something “small” as something “tiny” or “giant.” If it’s “important,” make it “crucial” or “ordinary.” If it’s “boring,” rebrand it as “pathetic” or “super exciting.” Repeat as often as necessary.

Imagine fictitious conversations as another way to boost freewriting.

Create a list of real or fictitious characters who will ask you simple questions. This will motivate you to respond. Characters with different viewpoints are particularly useful. That will really challenge you.

Perhaps you could imagine a “future you” and ask how that person will be different. That’s an excellent way to stimulate your imagination.

It’s best not to create characters like God or Buddha that are too abstract. Too successful or wise characters, such as Steve Jobs or Abraham Lincoln, aren’t great either. It might feel awkward expressing yourself to them.

Rather than being historical or too abstract, your character should be clear and vivid. You can choose your best friend or a teacher you admired in school.

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Lesson 7: Share your writing, collect stories, and write for longer periods of time

A freewriting session is a personal experience. You should use it to explore your thoughts and process. This helps you come up with fresh solutions and ideas.

However, sharing the results is also a good thing.

You can benefit from feedback if you circulate your writing. This will enable you to organize your ideas more effectively.

It is probably best to get constructive feedback from a close friend or colleague.

Your writing should be read by someone who has the time and is willing to read it. Be clear about what kind of feedback you are expecting from her, as well.

Ask her questions like “what works?”, “what doesn’t?”, “is it too much?” or “is something missing?”

In freewriting, you can also find inspiration and motivation by collecting stories from your everyday life.

Especially when you don’t have much material to work with, daily experiences can become rich prose. Pay attention to what you see and start writing.

Don’t do it for more than a day at first. You can work up a short episode in a few minutes. Make these stories the subject of an entire session. There are lessons in almost every event.

Here’s how you can look at it. A story that captures your interest will likely engage other audiences as well.

Last but not least, if you are having trouble solving complex problems, you may want to consider longer freewriting sessions.

Short sessions of five to twenty minutes can work well. You could use freewriting marathons if you need to think deeply, or if you’re gathering material for a book.

A little bit of strategy can help you collect a great deal of excellent material over several hours.

It is possible to divide a long freewriting session into smaller ones. After freewriting for 20 minutes, instead of taking a break, reread your notes and mark what interests you. Keep going for another 20 minutes. Repeat. Your freewriting marathon will be over before you know it.

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Lesson 8: You should archive your freewriting. It can be transformed into finished prose later

Have you ever considered writing a book?

Freewriting techniques and rules can be very helpful. As a result, you’ll be able to hold great brainstorming sessions and solve whatever problems you’re facing, but you’ll also accumulate a huge amount of publishable material that contains all your best ideas.

Archiving your freewriting will help you with this. Keep an inventory of your gold!

You can also use the results of freewriting as a basis for further research. That is why it is crucial to record your freewriting sessions. If they are revised, you never know when you can use them as a solution in the future.

For this exercise, a good filing technique is essential. Based on what you enjoy writing, you should have themes such as “business,” “writing techniques,” “sales,” or “love stories.”

If you want, you can use these tidbits as a starting point for more work or to inspire new freewriting sessions. You can even recycle them by adding them to subsequent drafts.

At its best, freewriting produces a fertile soil for finished prose, whether it is for a novel, a master’s thesis, or a dissertation.

If you are aiming for polished prose, start with some warm-up freewriting sessions. It doesn’t matter what the topic is.

After you’ve warmed up, freewrite more focused. Marathons may be more effective than sessions.

Attempt to build up your archive at the same time. Make sure the material is cut, rephrased, and tweaked. Keep your body and mind relaxed, then begin connecting ideas with transitions and new passages. You will be finished with the manuscript before too long if you edit again and again!

There’s no question that freewriting can solve simple day-to-day problems. It is possible to adapt the method to more complex materials with a little bit of work. You may even get a book out of it. Isn’t that what matters? Write on.

About The Author

Entrepreneur Mark Levy is the founder and CEO of Levy Innovation, a marketing strategy firm.

His publications include the New York Times, five books, and teaching research writing at Rutgers University. Magic is also a passion of his.

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