Summary of Accidental Genius by Mark Levy

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Accidental Genius by Mark Levy

Every day we encounter problems that require solutions. Sometimes, it’s a quick fix but at other times, you might need to get creative. However, are you good are you at thinking on your feet? Some people are able to quickly come up with creative ideas but they have difficulty explaining them to others. Luckily, there are techniques you can learn to find ideas and develop innovative solutions. 

This book summary will introduce you to one such technique called freewriting. Freewriting allows you to face problems head-on, come up with creative solutions and organize your mind in a way that serves you. 

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • The method of freewriting
  • How to start freewriting
  • How to get your freewriting to the next level
  • Feedback can help too
  • Learn to archive your freewriting ideas for later use

Key lesson one: The method of freewriting

The whole concept of freewriting is possible because of the hundreds of ideas going through our minds each day. Everyone has those moments when an idea of sheer brilliance comes to them. However, we often forget these ideas as we continue our day or we find difficulty in clarifying them further. And because we don’t take the time to develop them further, we lose them just as fast as they appeared. 

This is where freewriting comes in. It provides a solution by getting us to put our thoughts down rapidly on paper. By practising freewriting you will find it become easier to develop ideas and make decisions. Freewriting is not brainstorming, it has direction and allows you to keep track of your ideas and opinions as they appear in your mind. 

The best part about freewriting is that absolutely anyone can utilise this technique. Whether you want to make sound business decisions, set goals in your personal life or contemplate the challenges you are faced with, freewriting can help you organize your thoughts and clarify your path forward.

Key lesson two: How to start freewriting

So, now that you know how freewriting can help you, let’s look at the rules you need to follow. There are six that you will need to come to terms with. 

The first rule is that you should always temper your expectations when freewriting. You cannot expect perfection every time you put pen to paper. You need to have what is called a try easy attitude. This means that you should not put pressure on yourself to produce flawless thoughts. Just keep reminding yourself to try easy and you will be able to write down some pretty decent thoughts and ideas. 

The second rule is to write quickly and consistently. By doing this you will not give yourself time to judge what you have been writing down unnecessarily. You need to aim for quantity and not quality at this stage. So, write or type as fast as you can and try not to stop. If you hit a brick wall, keep writing the last word or phrase you wrote down in an effort to keep your momentum. Just remember, at this stage, it does not have to make perfect sense. 

The third rule is that you should limit your freewriting to a certain amount of time. This will ensure that you remain focused on your freewriting in that time. You will be less likely to be distracted if you know you only have a limited amount of time to complete it. 

The fourth rule states that you should always write the way you think. This just means that you are writing for yourself and not in a way that makes it user friendly for everyone else. You don’t need detailed explanations and you definitely should not care about your grammar. At the end of the day, the only person who needs to understand your freewriting is you. Therefore there is no need to limit your ideas. 

This brings us to the fifth rule which is to go with the thought. If you feel like you made a mistake, there is no need to go back and make it right. Just continue with the process. The same goes for if you see multiple options or solutions to a particular problem. Go with each option one at a time, explore them fully. If you focus on all of them at the same time, your mind will switch from one to the other constantly. 

The sixth and final rule is to redirect your attention. This is a way to avoid getting stuck in a rut so to speak. When you feel that your mind is stuck and can no longer move forward, you should use focus changers. Focus changers are set questions that will help you determine should continue with a particular path whilst freewriting or whether you should change directions altogether. Your focus changers should be uncomplicated questions that can be easily thought of and answered.

Following the rules of freewriting, you might wonder what can this jumble of thoughts and ideas might achieve. Well, for starters, you won’t forget all the random thoughts you have because it has now been recorded. You will also be able to track your ideas to figure out how you arrived at that thought. If we just kept these thoughts in our minds, we would lose them as we let our minds get distracted by something else. Freewriting prevents this from happening. You should also prepare prompts to start your freewriting sessions. A prompt is a baseline to begin your thinking and should be a simple start of a sentence. Consider it a warm-up tool to get you ready for your session.

Key lesson three: How to get your freewriting to the next level

Once you get the hand of freewriting, it is time to start implementing things that will take it to the next level. Firstly, avoid complexity and aim to keep things as simple as possible. You will find that complexity means that you are overthinking things. Often solutions can be missed because we mistake complexity as the way forward. To escape this pitfall try dealing with facts as they are a solid start and will not lead you astray. 

The next step to refining your freewriting skills is to disconnect or leave old ideas when new ideas come up. It will be difficult at first but with more practice, it will become easier. When you reject an idea, you can also write down why it won’t work or find the lesson in that train of thought without ceasing to write. This is when your freewriting really begins to take shape.

Surprisingly, for freewriting exploring ideas can be enhanced by lying. Yes, lying. In this case, lying opens up new possibilities in your freewriting allowing you to think outside the confines of reality. This frees you of any limitations in a freewriting session, making you think outside the box per se. You can even try imagining fictitious conversations. The person you are having this conversation with can be real or fictitious themselves. Either way, they will motivate you to respond in ways you would not usually think of. By employing this method you will be motivated and stimulated, testing your thought processes completely in your freewriting sessions. 

Key lesson four: Feedback can help too

As much as freewriting is something you do on your own to clarify your own thoughts, you can share your results with others. The feedback you receive can be valuable when you go through your next freewriting session. It will give you an idea of how to organize your thoughts better and what you need to simplify to make them easy to understand. 

It is best to approach a close friend or colleague to give you feedback but you can also let them know what feedback you are looking for. Do you want to know what’s wrong with it or what’s right about it? If it is too complex or is there something missing? By doing this, you will hone your skills and strengthen your freewriting abilities. 

Once you get used to the process and honed your skills, you can try longer freewriting sessions, especially for complex problems. When you start out, five to twenty-minute sessions work well but when you get better at freewriting, you can spend hours freewriting. You can figure out what works best for you. You can split long sessions up into small parts or try a freewriting marathon spanning hours. It is all up to you and how comfortable you are with the entire process. Just remember to always keep your momentum and try not to get stuck in thought.

Key lesson five: Learn to archive for later use

Freewriting will lead to a massive collection of great thoughts; not all of which will be useful to you currently. That is why it is necessary to archive your freewriting material. You can use those thoughts later. You never quite know when they might come in handy. 

In order to do this, you need to have a solid filing technique. You should try to file your thoughts away into categories. Think about things like business, love and writing ideas. These can be used later either as the basis for your work or the start of a new freewriting session. You may even find you have an entire book filed away just waiting to be written!

The key takeaway from accidental Genius is:

Freewriting is an excellent technique that allows you to clear your mind and organize your thoughts. It takes a bit of time to get used to the technique but if you follow the six simple rules, you will get there with a bit of practice. You have to aim to keep things simple and not overthink your ideas. This is when you will get your best results. The more you do it, the better you will become and the more ideas and thoughts you will have filed away for when you need them. 

How can I implement the lessons learned in Accidental Genius:

Don’t stop writing! Freewriting only works when you allow your thoughts to flow without hesitation and without second-guessing them. Try to keep the momentum going in the session and don’t stop writing until your session is over. You can reflect on the result and refine them later. Just stay in the moment and let the thoughts flow through you and onto the page.

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