Review: “Accidental Genius” by Mark Levy

I thought about this book often. Even before I read it.

Two years ago I started journaling and it remains a daily discipline for me. It’s my time to mull over my thoughts and explore ideas. Some are dumb and some are frivolous. But every once in awhile, I’ll have an insight that helps me breakthrough a logjam in my thinking. That’s priceless. And it’s what keeps me returning to my journal the way the feel of a well struck golf ball beckons a golfer to return to the tee.

Accidental Genius


During my writing sessions, I’ve often pondered if the approaches I’ve used in my journaling might be helpful for others to unleash their creative ideas. Then I read Mark Levy’s book, Accidental Genius (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010) and discovered the answer. This is the book I’ve thought about, and even journaled about, with one exception. Levy has covered far more ground than I have applying the principle of freewriting, as he calls it, to any number of endeavors.

Levy, like myself, is a marketing strategy consultant, and I enjoyed reading how he applied freewriting to help tackle some of the same problems with his clients as I do with mine. Naturally, I was hooked. But you don’t have to be a marketing strategist to find value in Levy’s revised edition. And you don’t have to be a seasoned journaler either to profit from it. Some of his suggestions to unlock insights can be done in as little as 10 minutes.

Here’s some of what you’ll learn by reading Accidental Genius:

You’ll get more insight by “trying easy” as he puts it. Don’t mess with worrying about whether what you’re writing is good. Just write and let your thoughts flow naturally, easily.

Write the way you think. Levy calls that “kitchen language.” The more authentic you are, the more likely you’ll free yourself to explore those things that are really important to you. As Levy puts it, freewriting is a “means of watching yourself think.”

Think of your idea as a product. It takes time to create a product. So, too, it takes time to cultivate an idea. Write it. Run with it. Refine and explore it.

Use prompts to get started. And to unlock your creative juices, get a little wild. You might start with one of the prompts Levy offers: “If I woke up to find myself 10 feet tall, the first thing I’d do is…” or “If I were giving a commencement speech, I’d tell the graduates that…” Or make up one of your own.

This book is packed with a whole lot more. This is a must-read book if you are serious about cultivating your thinking. At the very least, you’ll improve your odds of becoming an accidental genius.

How have you found freewriting or journaling to be helpful in unlocking your genius?

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