Book reviews

"The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice" (Todd Henry, 2011)

The Accidental Creative


This book is not a list of instant life-hacks but a more abstract compendium of advice on how to reorganise our lives in order to give room to our creative side. It has quite a few interesting ideas that I liked (noted down below). You probably won't make any sense of my notes only, it's best if you get the book :-)

(I "heard" about this book in Leigh Reyes' blog post: Coming up with great ideas).


  • Prolific + Brilliant + Healthy = producing great work consistently and in a sustainable way
  • Garbage in, garbage out
  • In effective creating there are peaks and troughs
  • If I hadn't been here, this wouldn't exist (← very rare)
  • Many ideas never get past the moment of conception because they aren't acted upon
  • The process often takes us to new and unexpected places in our work
  • The human mind craves resolution of unresolved patterns
  • Why you work must be aligned with what you work on
  • Strategies:
    • Project strategy: why? who? what? when? where?
    • Creative strategy: how?
  • A lifetime of mediocrity is a high price to pay for safety
  • We must practice taking risks / If we don't stretch ourselves, we don't grow
  • Be expectant, but without expectations
  • Project: 4-6 questions with problems to solve in order to complete the project successfully
  • Your mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master → PRIORITISE
  • The Big 3 -- list of 3 projects that are missing a creative breakthrough
  • Cluster similar/related tasks.
  • What is inspiring you?
  • Buffers--or quick energy-building activities. They are not slacking
  • Weekly / Monthly / Quarterly planning
  • Study plan - quarterly:
    • Where are we lacking information for the next three months? (25%)
    • What am I curious about right now? (50%)
    • What would be good for me? (25%)
  • Stimulus queue - list of items to experience/read/study
  • Surprise can be an indicator of an entrenched belief that needs to be challenged
  • Indexed notebook:
    • First page: two columns, headers = "stimuli queue" and "ideas"
    • Then under each column, title and page of the notebook item
    • Maybe items could be numbered too (just in case there's more than one item per page)
  • Take notes --but review them the next day (~10 minutes)
  • Play: take a walk, visit a museum, serve others, attend an uncomfortable event
  • My value is determined by what I create, not for how much time I spend creating it
  • Establish IDEA TIME - 1h/wk. Thinking about one item from the big 3. Focused. Ask questions--this puts the brain into solutions mode rather than "how" mode.
  • Establish UNNECESSARY CREATING TIME (eg. painting, landscaping, gardening, etc) ~ 1h
    • experience the FLOW ~~ getting lost in the work
  • Checkpoints: review/plan on
    • Focus (challenges, big 3, cluster)
    • Relationships
    • Energy
    • Stimuli (study times for each week/what to study for the next months, recorded stimuli, purposeful experiences...)
    • Hours (plan when and about what)
    • Weekly ~20 min
    • Monthly ~1 hour at the end of the month
    • Quarterly ~1 day or 1h/day in 1 week - Analyse the past-plan for the future
  • Dream a bit ~ 30 min in quarterly planning writing things that seem beyond my reach at the present. Things that would "blow my mind" if they happened.