Book Review: Accidental Genius, by Mark Levy

When I first received an email from Beth Harte, asking if I’d be interested in checking out a book on writing, I have to say I hesitated. However, having now finished Mark Levy‘s Accidental Genius, I have to say it’s proven to be one of the most compelling reads so far this year.

Accidental Genius focuses on the art of free-writing – freeing your writing by letting your mind run rampant while you’re writing whatever it is you’re working on. Free-writing is effectively focused around removing the roadblocks you have to your writing by forcing you to write continuously, wherever your mind takes you.
I’m actually using a lot of the lessons from reading Levy’s book while writing this review – as I write, I’m letting my mind wander over the book, what I learned from it and the reasons you might want to check it out (of course, I’m also going back over it later – now – and editing). So, as I write this my fingers can barely keep up with my thoughts and I’m going all over the place, while Toronto’s municipal election results blare on in the background.

Levy’s book walks the reader through a series of incremental steps as it introduces you to the concept of freewriting. Each chapter is relatively short – just a few pages, and the book itself is only just over 160 pages, so it’s a relatively quick read.

The book is divided roughly into thirds in terms of content focus – the first third introduces you to the basic concept of freewriting – how to go about it, why it’s useful and what you may be able to get out of it. The middle portion of the book focuses on additional tools to help you make use of the skill – things like prompts, games to play to free your mind from barriers and so on. The final section looks more at putting the skills into practice, and helping others to benefit from them.

To my surprise, Levy’s focus isn’t just on improving your writing, although that’s certainly a large part of it. Accidental Genius also shows how you can apply this skill to reveal more creative solutions to problems, and how businesses may take advantage of freewriting exercises to reveal creative ideas.

I mentioned that this is one of the more compelling reads I’ve had recently, and it’s frankly the only one I already find myself putting into practice. Instead of censoring myself as I write, I now allow my thoughts to wander a bit and then go back and edit later. It’s made writing much less stressful for me, and has resulted in blog posts and presentations taking far less time to prepare.

I find myself consciously turning to the lessons I’ve learned from the book, and that’s something that I can’t say about many other books I’ve read this year.

(Thanks to Beth Harte for the connection, and to Mark for providing the review copy)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.