I love the idea of writing, but up until recently I hated the process. Producing an article, college paper, or even a blog post would take me a very long time, much longer than it should. So instead of writing as a way to communicate my ideas, I avoided it like the plague.
I want to introduce you to a book – and a technique – that has helped me write 3x faster. The book is Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content by Mark Levy.
So what is this book about? It teaches you one very simple method – how to get out of your own way via a technique called freewriting. In a nutshell, freewriting allows you to access the most raw and creative parts of your mind by silencing your internal editor. Everyone has an internal editor – sorry, a very good looking internal editor (see folks – that was mine!). The editor plays the important role of taking your raw thoughts and turning them into something polished for the public to see. The problem – like most things in life – is balance. If the internal editor plays his role too quickly, he can stifle your best thoughts. Imagine a newspaper editor, standing over your shoulder, critiquing and reworking each paragraph as you write it – you probably won’t create your best work, and the entire process will be unbearable. Seems obvious, but believe it or not during the writing process most people edit their thoughts in the same way before committing them to paper.
How does freewriting work?
The rules behind freewriting are simple:
- Set an alarm for 10 minutes.
- Write as fast as you can without stopping. If you can’t think of anything to write, write nonsense.
- After 10 minutes, stop. Do not edit your material until the next day.
The trick here is to separate the art of writing – that is, coming up with interesting things to say – from the discipline of editing. By writing without stopping, your mind has to eventually stop filtering its thoughts in order to keep up – and that’s when you get to the good stuff. It’s almost like this scene from Old School. Almost. And let me tell you – I was amazed at how fast & well I wrote once I gave myself permission to think without expectations.
For your reading pleasure, here is the raw, unedited freewrite of my very first blog post. If you compare my freewrite below with my final blog post, you’ll see that aside from some minor editing for grammar and content, I pretty much had my first post written within 10 minutes. I’m ashamed to say it, but in the past writing a post like this would literally take me days – and it probably wouldn’t have been as good in the end.
I will continue writing stuff even if I can’t think of anything to write, because writing stimulates ideas.
I am writing about why I made this blog. There are plenty of blogs out there – why another one? I have certainly attempted to write blogs before, only to have them languish in blog hell (i.e. a “Coming Soon!” post that garners all the SEO value the blog will ever see). So why another blog? Well, I’ve always wanted to start my own business. Or at least I think I want to start my own business – I suspect the real reason behind my push to be my own boss is to have a creative outlet. So for years (and I mean years and years) I came up with brilliant idea after brilliant idea, hoping each one would spur me to action and I would see it through to the inevitable end (picture me sipping maitais on a Carribean beach wiping my mouth with money and using 24-karat gold coasters to prevent water rings on the $2 side table). Problem was – I would get really excited when I came up with the next big thing, but I could never bring an idea all the way to fruition.
Fast forward to today – I was watching a video by Ed Dale, who is an SEO guru I follow who offers a great course for those interested in starting an online business (famously known as the 30-Day Challenge). In one of his recent videos, he talks about SEO being dead – and that the only true way to stand out in the world is to have a voice. I wracked my brain trying to think of which idea I was most passionate about – was it MarketToMe? Was it WineByExample? And then it hit me – what I loved doing, and what I could truly see myself having a strong voice and opinion about, were ideas themselves. I loved thinking about, discussing, and collecting ideas. So why not talk and write about what I love? Thus, IdeasByTheDozen was born.
Consider this a grand experiment. So many people come up with grand ideas, but so few execute. But at the same time, those same people are paranoid about their ideas getting out, lest someone steal that idea and make the bajillions of dollars that were to fuel the beach-side mai tais in the fantasy. So it occurred to me – what happens if I make my ideas public? What happens if I get over my fear of giving away my golden eggs, and revel in the fact that I might be the golden goose? The thing is, I have to weigh the potential of striking it rich with an idea I hold closely (and thus far has never found its way to reality) vs. the immediate satisfaction of talking about my idea, developing it as much as I want to, and then moving on to the next project. Indeed, I think about the analogy from a book I read called “Refuse to Choose”. The analogy is that of a honey bee – no one chastises the bee when he moves from one flower to the next. No one calls the bee “a quitter”, and a bee who “just can’t commit”. Rather, they say the bee moved to the next flower because it got what it needed from the first flower. It’s time I start acting more like the bee, and recognize that my “nectar” is discussing creative ideas and not executing them. After all, if you set an idea free and it comes back to you – well, it probably wasn’t a very good idea to begin with.
So thank you for reading this blog – yet another blog in the blogshpere. I realize people have a lot of choose on what to read, and I need to provide you something valuable in return for your time. I hope by sharing my ideas with you, by opening up my closely guarded ideas (good and bad) you find something interesting and engaging, and at the very least you enjoy the conversation about ideas and being creative. And we’ll see where it goes from there. They say ideas are a dime a dozen – well, here’s to having dozens of ideas!
Who should read this book
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to unleash their inner writer. Unlike most business books – where they draw out the main idea over 300 pages – you learn everything you need to know within the first 6 chapters (50 pages). The rest of the book is centered on a twist to freewriting – that is, using freewriting not just to improve your writing, but to also improve the way you approach and solve business problems. The rest of the book is worth the read and provides some extra tips & tricks to make your freewriting more effective, but I see the first 6 chapters as crucial.Go to “Accidental Genius” on Amazon