Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Focusing Your Creative Process: A Review of THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE by Todd Henry

For years I’ve wanted to write, which means that a significant part of my life is dependent upon generating new and important ideas on a consistent basis.  But anyone who is a creative knows how difficult it is sometimes to come up with good ideas at a moment’s notice.  And for many, the ability to come up with ideas at a moment’s notice is vitally important to the success of their professional work.

Into the midst of this tension comes a phenomenal new book about the creative process by Todd Henry—THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE.  The book focuses on developing a creative rhythm, centered around the following five practices and represented by the acronym FRESH:
  • Focus
  • Relationships
  • Energy
  • Stimuli
  • Hours
There is a lot to love about this book and a lot of helpful insights to put into practice.  In the chapter on Focus, Henry recommends that creatives work through challenges, or “positioning project objectives in the form of questions designed to surround the problem.”  These help you to be “focused on specifics rather than generalities.”  I love this approach.  It’s exactly the approach I took last summer when I began writing my first novel.  I approached the story problems by asking and answering focused questions.  To consistently generate the most relevant ideas for the project we’re working on, we need the kind of focus this practice provides.

Another thing I loved about the book was that each of the practices are really about focusing our creative process and eliminating the things that keep us from being the most creative on a consistent basis.  Creatives don’t often consider how their energy level affects their ability to generate ideas.  Henry points out that without monitoring our energy, we’re eventually going to hit a wall that will force us to stop our creative rhythm.  This can be very costly when your energy level is depleted at the moment when you need to generate ideas the most.

The chapter on stimuli may be the most important for developing a rhythm that generates the kind of ideas we really want.  We want to control the kind of stimuli we’re exposed to and focus in on the stimuli that are most helpful to producing the kind of results we’re looking for.  Henry’s advice on how to keep a notebook to take notes and record ideas in was something I put into practice immediately after I read the book, and it has been immediately helpful to my creative rhythm.

There are books that promise to be helpful, and then there are books that are so insightful that you can’t wait to start putting the book’s ideas into practice.  THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE is an immediately helpful book for developing a healthy, results-oriented rhythm to creativity.

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