How to be brilliant at a moment's notice

How to be brilliant at a moment's notice

Anyone who has to start with a blank page and fill it up with something useful, day after day after day to make a living will tell you that it’s one of the scariest things in the world.

Creativity can be a magical process and wildly fulfilling, but most of the time it’s bloody terrifying. To be both brilliant and prolific while not developing a heroin addiction or dying is challenging.

The reason many creatives do wind up down the drug path is because they fail to realise how important it is to proactively fuel your creative spirit (healthily!). It doesn’t just happen on its own, you have find ways to get inspiration, energy, and positive relationships, encircling these things with a good sense of time management and focus.

(A tall order for the kind of people who see beauty in a puddle.) 

At least that’s what Todd Henry recommends in his book, the Accidental Creative - how to be brilliant at a moment’s notice.

Because it’s that kind of book, Henry outlines a nice acronym to help us disorganised creatives remember how to be brilliant at a moment’s notice. (I know I sound snarky, but this process has actually really helped me in real life.) It goes like this:


F - Focus

If you keep the problem you’re trying to solve at the forefront of your focus, you’ll wind up thinking about it even when you’re doing other things. This is good because it gives you a wide array of inspiration for potential solutions. Henry suggests writing out 3 main focus problems per month somewhere you’ll see them every day.

R - Relationships

It may not seem like a necessary part of your creative process but other people can have a huge impact on your brilliance. Finding a mentor is one powerful way to get better at what you do, but you can also get together with one or more creative friends and bounce ideas off each other in a kind of ballistic brainstorm. The more diverse your fields, the better.

E - Energy

It may seem very rock n roll to do creative work on little to no sleep, but you won’t be able to keep that up for long (plus it literally makes your brain shrink). All people, even creatives, produce better work when we get enough sleep, enough exercise and eat their vegetables. Pay attention to your introversion/extraversion leaning as well - spend time with people if they give you energy, and don’t if they don’t.

S - Stimulation

You get out what you put in. This is a law of creativity that many people overlook. To produce great work, you need to be consuming great work. Read extensively, watch fascinating videos, visit art galleries, take courses, experience something you’ve never experienced before. Henry’s method for managing this is to have a “stimulation queue” where you list all the things you want to read/watch/experience etc, and go through it systematically. He also recommends 30 minutes a day of “study time” because we should all always be learning, ahem...

H - Hours

Time management and creativity go together like oil and water, but the good news is that this is more about cleverly chunking similar activities and tasks together, than rigidly sticking to a timetable. Focus, and quality of thinking time is more important than a schedule, but you do have to make time for those sessions.

Whether you choose to implement some, all, or none of these practises is up to you, but if your livelihood depends on your ingenuity, I hope you make the cultivation of your creativity a priority in your life.

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