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Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content

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When it comes to creating ideas, we hold ourselves back. That’s because inside each of us is an internal editor whose job is to forever polish our thoughts, so we sound smart and in control, and so that we fit into society. But what happens when we encounter problems where such conventional thinking fails us? How to get unstuck?   For Mark Levy, the answer is freewriting, a When it comes to creating ideas, we hold ourselves back. That’s because inside each of us is an internal editor whose job is to forever polish our thoughts, so we sound smart and in control, and so that we fit into society. But what happens when we encounter problems where such conventional thinking fails us? How to get unstuck?   For Mark Levy, the answer is freewriting, a technique he’s used for years to solve all types of business problems, and generate ideas for books, articles and blog posts.   Freewriting is deceptively simple: Start writing as fast as you can, for as long as you can, about a subject you care deeply about, while ignoring the standard rules of grammar and spelling. Your internal editor won’t be able to keep up with your output, and will be temporarily shunted into the background. You’ll now be able to think more honestly and resourcefully than before, and will generate breakthrough ideas and solutions that you couldn’t have created any other way.   Levy shares six freewriting secrets designed to knock out your editor and let your genius run free. He also includes fifteen problem-solving and creativity-stimulating principles you can use if you need more firepower—seven of which are new to this edition—and stories of problems he and others have solved through freewriting.   Also new to this edition: an extensive section on how to refine your freewriting into something you can share with the world. Although Levy originally taught freewriting as a private brainstorming technique, over the years he and his clients have found that, with some tweaking, it’s a great way to generate content for books, articles, and other thought leadership pieces.


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When it comes to creating ideas, we hold ourselves back. That’s because inside each of us is an internal editor whose job is to forever polish our thoughts, so we sound smart and in control, and so that we fit into society. But what happens when we encounter problems where such conventional thinking fails us? How to get unstuck?   For Mark Levy, the answer is freewriting, a When it comes to creating ideas, we hold ourselves back. That’s because inside each of us is an internal editor whose job is to forever polish our thoughts, so we sound smart and in control, and so that we fit into society. But what happens when we encounter problems where such conventional thinking fails us? How to get unstuck?   For Mark Levy, the answer is freewriting, a technique he’s used for years to solve all types of business problems, and generate ideas for books, articles and blog posts.   Freewriting is deceptively simple: Start writing as fast as you can, for as long as you can, about a subject you care deeply about, while ignoring the standard rules of grammar and spelling. Your internal editor won’t be able to keep up with your output, and will be temporarily shunted into the background. You’ll now be able to think more honestly and resourcefully than before, and will generate breakthrough ideas and solutions that you couldn’t have created any other way.   Levy shares six freewriting secrets designed to knock out your editor and let your genius run free. He also includes fifteen problem-solving and creativity-stimulating principles you can use if you need more firepower—seven of which are new to this edition—and stories of problems he and others have solved through freewriting.   Also new to this edition: an extensive section on how to refine your freewriting into something you can share with the world. Although Levy originally taught freewriting as a private brainstorming technique, over the years he and his clients have found that, with some tweaking, it’s a great way to generate content for books, articles, and other thought leadership pieces.

30 review for Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content

  1. 4 out of 5

    Payam

    Here is the core of the idea: free-writing is good. That's really it. With no Science to back it up, it just turns into a book of anecdotes and techniques on more free-writing. Do not get me wrong. Free-writing makes sense. I simply do not understand the purpose of publishing a book when it could be summarized in a blog post. Here is the core of the idea: free-writing is good. That's really it. With no Science to back it up, it just turns into a book of anecdotes and techniques on more free-writing. Do not get me wrong. Free-writing makes sense. I simply do not understand the purpose of publishing a book when it could be summarized in a blog post.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adaset

    Free writing is a valuable exercise. Particularly for combating writers block or unlocking new solutions to an old problem. There--you've read the book. Free writing is a valuable exercise. Particularly for combating writers block or unlocking new solutions to an old problem. There--you've read the book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    J.F. Penn

    Freewriting as a way to tap into your creativity. Writing fast as a way to get around the internal editor. Your inappropriate thoughts are where the action is, where the originality resides. Using time limits to encourage the creative process, and lots more.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joyce Morin

    I love this book because it connects the dots for me with what I have been learning in my training in the Professional Coach Training of Wellcoaches. That is, there are different ways to gets things done, and when we do something physical, like the act of writing by hand or even typing, we are accessing a different part of our brain than when we just "think". I learned that if you get up off the chair and walk to a different space, such as a huge ruler/scale of 1-10 on the ground and pace off th I love this book because it connects the dots for me with what I have been learning in my training in the Professional Coach Training of Wellcoaches. That is, there are different ways to gets things done, and when we do something physical, like the act of writing by hand or even typing, we are accessing a different part of our brain than when we just "think". I learned that if you get up off the chair and walk to a different space, such as a huge ruler/scale of 1-10 on the ground and pace off the steps to indicate how you feel about something it will make a difference in how you report. On a scale of 1-10 how satisfied are you with your finances. Imagine being in a big parking lot and walking the lines on the ground to indicate where you are on such a scale. The range of 1-10 feels a lot different from just "thinking" when you see the scale stretched out on the ground and take the actual steps and move yourself along the scale to feel just what number best represents your "place". So this book, Accidental Genius, just gets you to move your fingers and write... and if you can't think of anything to write you can... make dots or repeat keystrokes or just go on and on about whatever or nothing that comes into your head. And pretty soon you are accessing ideas you didn't even realize were in your head. Yes, that's it. I get it. You are in a state of flow. Good book. Good energy. Good science. It will turn you in to a writer if you are not already writing, and it will unblock you if you are jammed up and need your battery charged.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Hurst

    I normally shy away from books, blogs or even conversations about writing, as I'm not exactly educated in the ways of writing. I've never taken a creative writing, english or even journalism class, though I've written blogs, one book and tons of journalistic articles. Perhaps I'm worried that books like this will use grammar and writing terms that I won't understand, which will make me feel stupid, which makes me want to make fun of the book. But Mark Levy didn't do that hear. The book wasn't a qu I normally shy away from books, blogs or even conversations about writing, as I'm not exactly educated in the ways of writing. I've never taken a creative writing, english or even journalism class, though I've written blogs, one book and tons of journalistic articles. Perhaps I'm worried that books like this will use grammar and writing terms that I won't understand, which will make me feel stupid, which makes me want to make fun of the book. But Mark Levy didn't do that hear. The book wasn't a quick read, nor do I think he meant it to be. It functions as more of a workbook-type piece, that's easily referred to when you're stuck. I also realized that most of what I do is very close to free writing (Twitter, mostly), but actually setting some time aside to write unencumbered is always a good idea. Oh, and the author gave me this book for free, but it was on my wish list anyway, so I'm not writing this review out of any obligation. I did pass this on to D. Patrick Lewis, as a book like this does very little good sitting on my shelf.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tom Powers

    What a good read!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana Kim

    Honestly i expected much more, so many recommendations but i am a bit disappointed. Free writing is a strong tool but book is messy and not clear

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rochdi Rais

    i had to skim through the book as it was boring , takes toooo long to get to the point you can read the summary of each chapter and you'll gain as much informations as someone who completed the book. plus the examples given aren't backed with any scientific researches and are daily life situations with a basic analysis that anyone can make, other than that I left 1 star because it reminded me of how important free writing is, not worth buying anyways i had to skim through the book as it was boring , takes toooo long to get to the point you can read the summary of each chapter and you'll gain as much informations as someone who completed the book. plus the examples given aren't backed with any scientific researches and are daily life situations with a basic analysis that anyone can make, other than that I left 1 star because it reminded me of how important free writing is, not worth buying anyways

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Simmering

    Was required to read the book for a seminar course and, while the book is far outside of what I would normally read, I approached it with as open a mind as possible. I was disappointed. The book is at least 2-5 times as long as it needs to be. Often entire chapters are accurately and completely recapped, without loss of information, in the last paragraph despite the 10+ pages that the chapter occupied. Reading the same idea over and over again was frustrating, to say the least. Surprisingly, for Was required to read the book for a seminar course and, while the book is far outside of what I would normally read, I approached it with as open a mind as possible. I was disappointed. The book is at least 2-5 times as long as it needs to be. Often entire chapters are accurately and completely recapped, without loss of information, in the last paragraph despite the 10+ pages that the chapter occupied. Reading the same idea over and over again was frustrating, to say the least. Surprisingly, for a book about writing, the writing was terrible. Often times the author would repeat himself (and make a note that he was repeating himself) or say something was important but he wasn't going to discuss it. Rarely was the writing particularly focused. This might be okay in "free writing" but it is not acceptable in published materials (that, in theory, have been edited and revised). The author presupposes that "writing" is the way you solve problems. If you don't solve problems by writing (e.g., your thought process works best when sketching/coding/mowing the lawn), well, you must be mistaken because "free writing" is the best way. Finally, this I found most troubling, the author assumes that the answer to any given question is "in your head" already. You already know the answer --- you just don't know that you do. This might be the case in marketing or some areas of business, but it is definitely not the case in most of life. If I want the answers to many of the questions I deal with on a day-to-day basis, I'm far better served to go find someone (or a reference) that knows more about the problem than I do. I don't know the answers already and in many cases the answers are impractical (if not impossible) to self-"discover." I might recommend this book to anyone who writes (and the truthfulness and rigor of their writing is secondary, such as fiction but not scientific writing), enjoys writing and thinks "free-writing" might be helpful to them. For anyone else, I suggest they avoid this book. Life is short, read something better.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jie-Yun Ling

    Accidental Genius is a gift from a friend. This book talks about making writing a daily enjoyment and getting as many ideas as possible from it. Before I read this book, I have been ‘trying writing’ for two years or three. The impulse can date back to the first time I finished my very first romantic fiction in the fifth year in elementary school. I still remembered the book: 涼夏校園紀事by 席娟 (Xí Juān), which has led me since then to many years non-stop marathon of reading. I took to writing a few year Accidental Genius is a gift from a friend. This book talks about making writing a daily enjoyment and getting as many ideas as possible from it. Before I read this book, I have been ‘trying writing’ for two years or three. The impulse can date back to the first time I finished my very first romantic fiction in the fifth year in elementary school. I still remembered the book: 涼夏校園紀事by 席娟 (Xí Juān), which has led me since then to many years non-stop marathon of reading. I took to writing a few years ago, and it was when I found that writing was nearly everything in our life. It is presented in books or by words. It is about sharing information. Not that it has to be some kind of knowledge; it is something people know and learn about, new ideas transforming from known facts, or notions with certain purpose such as convincing others whom it is exposed to. Among all the writings, signs, ads, journals, reports, studies, and so on, some are regarded logical, persuasive, interesting, and even sensational, and some others might be considered boring, worthless. Living in Taiwan, it is obvious that many students (or adults) have been through some sort of ‘writing-phobia.’ For some of them, they refuse this activity because they often find themselves sitting on pins and needles in total blankness when given a topic. It is ironic that everyone can just hold up a pen and start writing, but somehow it becomes as frightening as hell itself and drives most people away. Accidental Genius greatly eases the pain for these victims as for me. This book came to me just in time when I was searching ways to improve my writing. When speaking of improving it, many will suggest keeping a diary, or just continue to write until the end of the world. However, most of the challengers have to face the same blankness as those poor kids when staring at their white piece of paper. This book also says those things as ‘ideas come from everyday life,’ but it also shows you steps one by one. Among those skills, the very basic one is to write down whatever comes to you. That is to say if you cannot think of anything to write, record down current status: Oh, my god, I don’t know what to write. I feel stupid doing this and not turn to something more urgent. What does the book trying to sell me anyway? I feel frustrated when being told just to write. Those who knows how to write are gifted by God. How lucky they are. If I just need to nag my heart out, I guess that doesn’t sound so challenging. The second important thing is not trying to correct your grammar or rephrase your sentence and article structure. Leave this work to the very last step. Thinking how to make your words beautiful and interesting easily interrupts the flow of thinking. When one stops half way, choosing which adjective to use, some thought may lose its way to the tip of the pen. There are some other techniques whose titles are presented in the subheadings: the value in disconnecting, using assumptions to get unstuck, learn to love lying, the writing marathon, the magic of exact writing, and build an inventory of thoughts or so. The author tells you there is no restriction on writing and writing will not just be writing. This activity helps creativity, bring up solutions, clear up anxious thoughts, and enrich one’s life. This book is for those who are still suffering from writing-phobia, for those who are just getting to know writing recently as well as those who have been dedicating themselves to writing for long.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shhhhh Ahhhhh

    Fantastic book. I see a lot of tie in for the methods in the book for a variety of other existing frameworks. I think this ties strongly into Tiago Forte's work, especially when it comes to collecting the nuggets of quality writing and filing them under different headings. I think there's a place for this work in Goldratt's Theory of Constraint process, specifically in step 2 where you elucidate the story of the problem. I think there's strong resonance between this and Back of the Napkin. I als Fantastic book. I see a lot of tie in for the methods in the book for a variety of other existing frameworks. I think this ties strongly into Tiago Forte's work, especially when it comes to collecting the nuggets of quality writing and filing them under different headings. I think there's a place for this work in Goldratt's Theory of Constraint process, specifically in step 2 where you elucidate the story of the problem. I think there's strong resonance between this and Back of the Napkin. I also think there's a strong resonance between the technique of writing a conversation with another person in order to gain perspective and holding a meeting of the inner council from King, Warrior, Magician, Lover (/Jung's work in general). All in all, great resource. I wish there was a workbook to accompany it, and I think the methods are so useful that I may go ahead and design one. Definitely worth a read or two.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eric Beaty

    Get past your biggest blocks with this amazing technique This book is a total game changer for business owners, freelancers, and creatives everywhere. So many amazing, yet simple ideas for easily solving problems in just about every area of life. I bought the Kindle version after renewing it twice on Overdrive. I couldn’t bear waiting to finish the book while on hold for renewal, so I bought it outright. I’m happy to have this in my collection of life-changing books. This book has so many great Get past your biggest blocks with this amazing technique This book is a total game changer for business owners, freelancers, and creatives everywhere. So many amazing, yet simple ideas for easily solving problems in just about every area of life. I bought the Kindle version after renewing it twice on Overdrive. I couldn’t bear waiting to finish the book while on hold for renewal, so I bought it outright. I’m happy to have this in my collection of life-changing books. This book has so many great ideas that you’ll get loads of use—and reuse— out of it for years to come (dare I say a lifetime?). Highly recommended. If you’re struggling with problems of any kind in your business, art, personal life, or otherwise, DON’T pass this book up.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Debashri

    An insightful book that is great for anyone struggling with writer's block. The author has taken freewriting to the next step which is to apply freewriting to solving business and personal problems. I liked the book because it came to me at the right time and helped me get over my writing blocks. I have been unconsciously using freewriting to resolve personal issues. This is the first time I have realised freewriting is a 'thing' and the book gave several directions and tips to taking it to the An insightful book that is great for anyone struggling with writer's block. The author has taken freewriting to the next step which is to apply freewriting to solving business and personal problems. I liked the book because it came to me at the right time and helped me get over my writing blocks. I have been unconsciously using freewriting to resolve personal issues. This is the first time I have realised freewriting is a 'thing' and the book gave several directions and tips to taking it to the next level. I absolutely love it. It has helped me become less afraid of writing and I have more confidence creating content.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Raviteja Vangara

    "The reason why you should create a written record of your thinking is that it leaves you with a bread crumb path down which you can retrace your steps". I loved this book. This book is useful to the students who could cultivate a habit of writing.The techniques presented in this book are not some thing new, we might have tried and observed in our own professional life, however, this book brings a feel and structure to it. "The reason why you should create a written record of your thinking is that it leaves you with a bread crumb path down which you can retrace your steps". I loved this book. This book is useful to the students who could cultivate a habit of writing.The techniques presented in this book are not some thing new, we might have tried and observed in our own professional life, however, this book brings a feel and structure to it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ra

    Good advice that I would like to try. The author uses anecdotes to demonstrate the power of free-writing as a problem-solving tool, and also a technique to kickstart actual writing. It should be viewed as a general advice and how-to for free-writing, and it is not a scientific or evidence-based exploration of its effects, and work. It contains various exercises to help you along, and is good by way of introduction to the subject.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    This book is a must-read for all writers as well as creators who struggle with coming up with ideas. Mark Levy has mastered the art of freewriting, and he does a great job explaining why it works and why it helps. For anyone who is a perfectionist or gets stuck, I highly recommend this book. The chapters are short, and there are dozens of free-writing practices for you to try to get your wheels in motion so you can start creating.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Birsilah Bakar

    This guy must be good at small talk because that was what the book felt like. It should have been titled "Freewriting" and that was it. A good example will clear up the little doubts that the readers had. He has plenty of ideas but managed them in the most boring way possible. I wonder if he was a really good comedian or magician. Maybe he was made for consulting but not writing. Definitely not writing. Lucky I had this book for free. LAWD, that was excruciating. This guy must be good at small talk because that was what the book felt like. It should have been titled "Freewriting" and that was it. A good example will clear up the little doubts that the readers had. He has plenty of ideas but managed them in the most boring way possible. I wonder if he was a really good comedian or magician. Maybe he was made for consulting but not writing. Definitely not writing. Lucky I had this book for free. LAWD, that was excruciating.

  18. 4 out of 5

    L.A. Jacob

    It was a quick read, and very interesting. Free-writing is like stretching before a big writing project, it's a spewing out of ideas onto paper so you can see how your mind works. But as another reviewer said, it's short enough that it could just as well be a blog post. I would definitely give some of the exercises in this book a try. It was a quick read, and very interesting. Free-writing is like stretching before a big writing project, it's a spewing out of ideas onto paper so you can see how your mind works. But as another reviewer said, it's short enough that it could just as well be a blog post. I would definitely give some of the exercises in this book a try.

  19. 4 out of 5

    brenda

    In the past I used freewriting as a way to sort out my thoughts when I was blocked. After reading Accidental Genius, I see that the technique can work better if used before a project even begins. Using Levy's method of looking at "chunks" I have been able to rein in my thoughts and get traction and clarity. Now what I start, I finish. In the past I used freewriting as a way to sort out my thoughts when I was blocked. After reading Accidental Genius, I see that the technique can work better if used before a project even begins. Using Levy's method of looking at "chunks" I have been able to rein in my thoughts and get traction and clarity. Now what I start, I finish.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cyndie Courtney

    Fun introduction to free writing including is applications beyond writing itself including how to think creatively and ways to get yourself "unstuck" including the use of prompts, paradoxes, and other tricks. In particular have started using the idea of trying to keep writing consistently for a set period of time rather than trying to fit in a specific word count per day. Fun introduction to free writing including is applications beyond writing itself including how to think creatively and ways to get yourself "unstuck" including the use of prompts, paradoxes, and other tricks. In particular have started using the idea of trying to keep writing consistently for a set period of time rather than trying to fit in a specific word count per day.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vlad GURDIGA

    A huge list of useful ideas and approaches to get your thoughts on paper, make sense of them, and put them to use. It even has a chapter on how to read in a highly productive way. I recommend it to anyone that already does some writing, as to those that only want to give it a try.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Garette Johnson

    A good, short read that will prime the brain and get you writing again. A decent reminder that writing is sloppy business with encouraging points/habits to embrace the process.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Brady

    A very dated book by modern standards on free-writing, creativity and problem-solving.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Al Macy

    Fiction writers need only read the first 46 pages.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    Brilliant book. Highly recommend. I've used these concepts to great benefit in the banking industry. Brilliant book. Highly recommend. I've used these concepts to great benefit in the banking industry.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Helfren Filex

    Interesting read of the unique use of writing in business and life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gacoca

    This book is very wonderful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Darren Sapp

    A handy primer for writers new or old to fight writer’s block and jump start their writing.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sajad Torkamani

    Presents a compelling case for how exploratory writing can help us think more clearly and creatively. I'll definitely be applying the techniques from this book! Presents a compelling case for how exploratory writing can help us think more clearly and creatively. I'll definitely be applying the techniques from this book!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Orlopp

    Fabulous---chock full of practical tips.

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