- Title: The Accidental Genius (Amazon) (Goodreads)
- Author: Mark Levy
- Publication: Berrett-Koehler Publishers *second edition* (Aug 9, 2010)
- Genre: Writing, Non-Fiction, General
- Pages: 192
- Format: Paperback
- Source: Library
- Rating: 4/5
If you’re a struggling writer searching for new ideas or you can’t seem to write at all, you might want to pick up your own copy of The Accidental Genius.
My views on this book has changed since I’ve read it a few years ago. I clearly didn’t have any takeaways from this book the first time.
Mark Levy sums up simple ways to accomplish writing projects without facing the pain and suffering of writer’s block.
The tips are quite surprising; they’re all about freewriting. I was expecting something more complex.
What is Freewriting?
Freewriting is writing anything without stopping yourself. You’re good as long there’s something written on paper.
According to Levy, freewriting increases clarity and clears “mind fog”. You don’t want to get lost in writer’s mind fog.
When you write whatever what’s on your mind, it can go on forever. You realize you have more inside you than you know.
You know that incessant internal chatter you have whenever you’re out in a public space surrounded by people? Put those observations into writing.
You know the angry couple arguing with each other? Come up with ideas of what they’re fighting about.
Did one cheat on the other or they’re on the run like Bonnie and Clyde? Write it down.
Write your own story behind the sad clown who plays the violin at your local park.
That creepy guy you met at the subway with the pet rat? He might end up in your next horror story.
The key to freewriting: letting your imagination flourish.
Freewriting Exercises & The Pomodoro Method
I used to do a freewriting exercise at the beginning of a playwriting class in grad school. These exercises have certainly worked my writing muscles, but it was complicated sometimes. My instructor had the session under a strict time limit. I used to freeze up whenever I couldn’t think of the next action or dialogue to write down.
Eventually, I did better in the exercises. I let it flow.
I wrote whatever came to mind even if it sounded like pure crap. Many interesting stories came out of those sessions.
You can do the same! Give yourself a minute or two to spill out everything that’s on your mind, whether it’s about your day or a glimpse of a short story itching to be written down.
Levy approves of the Pomodoro Method for your writing sessions. Get a Pomodoro timer (shaped like a little tomato), set it to twenty-five minutes, and write until the time stops. Do this repeatedly and you’ll have plenty of content under your belt.
Journaling is a creative expression of freewriting. As a serial journalist, I highly recommend it. Ideas conveniently pop up as I write my daily journal entries.
One idea always leads to the next.
According to one Huffington Post article, journaling increases memory and communication skills. If you have never journaled before, begin writing entries (no matter how small) at least three times a week.
Now, I see why my literature teachers in the past always started the class with journaling. It’s an excellent way to give your brain a good warm up before writing more serious assignments.
Pick up a journal (or buy one) today and start writing!
The Perfect Draft Doesn’t Exist
Striving for perfection in writing can stop you from any progress. Greatly written content is an event. To reach that goal, you must go through a series of rewrites.
Honestly, revisions are the best parts of writing. Through crappy writing, you’ll eventually reach the golden nugget.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” It’s best to go through the “shitty” phases and explore what’s right for your written piece.
The Page Conversation
Levy suggests writing like you’re talking to your best friend. You know you can talk to them for hours!
One moment you’re drinking wine with your pal in the living room at eight at night talking about what’s happening in your daily lives. Next, you’re on the balcony with them at three in the morning talking about extraterrestrials and astral projection.
If that entire conversation was recorded on paper and formed into an interesting blog post, you would have content longer than a thousand words guaranteed!
For more professional writing, imagine you’re holding a conference meeting or having a one-on-one session with an influential figure.
Nothing will appear on paper until you start talking.
Write How You Talk
Write exactly how you normally talk. That may include slang terms and relevant anecdotes.
Write what truly interests you and what you can’t stand.
You’re not in college anymore. You don’t have to write like a prestigious student working on their PhD thesis (unless you’re writing for some scholarly sources).
Notice the writing styles between The Economic Journal and Vogue magazine? Completely different voices.
Just be you. Edit out the areas your readers may not understand later.
Stories Are Infinite
They are countless stories of all genres (mystery, fantasy, etc.) in the world. The best part: they never stop.
Think about all the prolific writers like Danielle Steel, James Patterson, and Anne Rice. I’ve been seeing their titles wherever books are purchased and loaned since…forever! These consistent writers don’t seem to be resting from their craft anytime soon.
Writing opportunities are infinite. When you think you’re out of ideas, you’re not. Take a deep breath, relax, and your idea will show up soon enough.
Better yet, it’ll show up when you’re busy writing.
I seriously consider writers and the curious to The Accidental Genius. This book shows readers how writing is truly accomplished in its rawest form before the editing process. It includes many helpful writing tips you can apply.
Plus, it’s a quick read: only 192 pages. This book can be done in two days.
Read this book now and you’ll never be left with writer’s block ever again!
Have you read this book? Comment below to share your story or any recommended books on writing.