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The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice Hardcover – July 7, 2011
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“If you want to deliver the right idea at the right moment, you must begin the process far upstream from when you need that idea,” entrepreneur Todd Henry tells us in his book The Accidental Creative. He then shows us how to make a habit out of focusing our creative energy -- something all of us can harness, no matter what our work. Knowing when to work alone and when not to, establishing a creative rhythm that recognizes long-term goals -- these are just two of the practices Todd details. Creativity, like music, has a rhythm, Todd tells us (he’s worked both in the music field and as a creative director). The Accidental Creative is filled with inspiring notes on how we can be consistently original and fresh in our thinking.
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A fair amount of the things in this book are things that probably should've been obvious to me but I was somehow missing. A lot of it also seems initially counterintuitive and/or countercultural. Actually, a lot of his points were all of the above. For example, the author strenuously argues that overbooking yourself dramatically interferes with our creativity. He especially focuses on tasks that give us a short-term gain or "win" at the expense of long-term productivity (e.g. checking email compulsively to respond slightly faster instead of focusing on an important project or squeezing in "just one more" meeting). Our culture has glorified that kind of behavior - the assumption seems to be that if you're not exhausted, you're probably not working hard enough (and whoever's the most exhausted and overscheduled wins). (Brene Brown talks about the same phenomenon in "The Gifts of Imperfection"). We're so busy frantically trying to keep our heads above water with the daily tasks that the bigger picture of excellence and innovation get lost in the shuffle.
He warns about sacrificing effectiveness on the alter of efficiency and short-term gains. Creativity often requires doing tasks that seem inefficient at first glance; for example, he advocates spending an hour a week just thinking, and spending time with play and developing relationships. (Not to give it away but he advocates spending time on a very specific kind of relationship, the kind that can challenge us to do our best work). It also requires us to manage our energy well; for example, can you REALLY manage on 5 - 6 hours of sleep?
In a way, I was initially disappointed that he didn't just give me the "quick techniques" that would help me start being more creative right now. Actually, he argues that that kind of instant gratification and quick fix thinking is part of the problem. Yes, you really do have to prune things from your life. He takes you through discovering what your goals really are and identifying activities that are no longer helping you. This was really helpful to me actually because I tend to start doing activities that are helpful and continue to do them long after they're not helping me move forward; I currently have 3 - 4 commitments in my life that aren't helping me move forward but I'm afraid to let go of. (In some cases, I've held on to things that were actively harming me simply because I was afraid to let them go). Or, in some cases, you may even end up abandoning things that really are good and helpful in favor of things that are even better for you.
My big takeaway is that creativity happens to the prepared. This isn't a book where you can implement a few quick tips and carry on with your life as you were living it. Odds are, you really will have to prune your schedule some and be more selective in what you take on. You might have to get more sleep and do a better job managing your energy. You'll probably have to examine what's really important to you in your job and in your life as a whole. But if you do what he suggests, you'll be prepared.
And now here is "why" of I love this book ....
I think this book is great if you are a creative in the commercial world (ie writer, artist, etc). I don't think it would be as helpful if you have what would be considered traditionally a non-creative job. It's really geared for those trying to avoid burn out and how to maintain the creative "flow" or always being on with some sort of consistency. These are pretty universal problems to most people in these types of jobs AND the book gives some practical everyday advice on how to manage/find creativity when you need to depend on it.
Read the book to see how it applies to you (but only if you are in a creative field.)
This book will help you bring a thoughtful structure to your every day creative work. It's work in the best way; Todd teaches you how to examine your life as a whole to make sure that you have the key elements necessary to support your creating over the long term.
So often I find myself exhausted from a long day at work, with little energy left to give to my own personal art. After reading the book I've made some small, intentional changes to my daily habits and I've been excited to find I have so much more left in the tank for my writing and creating sessions. I even find myself waking up early, filled with new ideas. That's in the short term; I'm excited for the long term change to my production.
This book stands on its own (no knowledge of the podcast necessary), but fans of the podcast will especially love this book! It's definitely money well spent and I even find that it is helping me to synthesize the ideas from other creative revolution books like Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind." The book has earned a spot on my desk, not on my bookshelf.
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Like all of Todd's work, he has a calm, simple way to help you tackle some of the most monumental issues in our lives. Check out his podcast too.