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

Accidental_Geniusby Mark Levy, BK Publishing, San Francisco, 2010 (Second Edition)

This was the book I discovered when I was recovering from surgery. It had been on my shelf for a few months. It claimed that I could get my best ideas from writing quickly in 15 minute spurts. It was just what I needed because I couldn’t work for more than 15 minutes every few hours. But I was amazed and have blogged about “running on empty” when I found my best ideas came after I had run out of ideas. This is when I discovered the infinite Self that spiritual teachers have written about. Deep inside, I had an infinite number of ideas.

This, of course, if how I can now write poetry. In high school, I used to dash off poetry—much of it quite good, and it took about 15 minutes for the first draft. In college, I wrote the papers typing as fast as I could which was close to 200 words per minutes.

I now type more slowly—but I can still do 1,000 words in 15 minutes. That’s about 80 wpm I think. What I realized is I can write a poem every couple of days by writing 15 minutes day. And at 1000 words a day, I can write a novel and several drafts in the space of a year. That solves the “when am I going to write the novel” if I can’t work full-time?

The book, by a marketing consultant, is also good for writers. The same techniques apply. Some of the book—sharing your ideas with others, helping others to do their best thinking aren’t directly helpful. But others—finding stories everywhere, keeping a file of ideas—is directly applicable to writing fiction and poetry.

Guidelines— Try easy—write at 90% capacity not 100%. A “good enough” poem, not the best poem. Actually the “good enough poem” is usually better than the “go for broke” poem.

  • Write fast and continuous—easy like Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages—just write as quickly as you can.
  • Set a deadline—like 15 minutes with a silent timer.
  • Write the way you think—not the way you talk. A completely new concept and one he makes a compelling case for. For that, you have to buy the book.
  • Finally—when you get a thought, ask yourself, “What might happen next?” That’s the person question for fiction.

The book is definitely worth buying, reading and re-reading. It will improve your writing and take most of the stress away. I recommend it.

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