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The Intentional Creative

The Accidental Creative is a book written by Todd Henry to help creatives be more productive and for people who don’t consider themselves creative, to find their inner artist. The book is a mixture of self-help, inspiration, tips, and guidelines to become a better creative. I chose this book to read because I already considered myself a creative person. However, I often struggle to find my niche. I am a photographer, a reporter, a news writer, a fiction writer, a graphic designer, all of these things, while they may look good on a resume can be extremely overwhelming in all actuality. Whenever I have free time, there is something that I should be doing in my mind. There is always something that I should be creating. I can’t take a lazy day to read a novel, I have to write, or read complicated articles and learn something. I can’t just take photos because it is a passion of mine, my portfolio is always in the back of my mind. So, I read this book to try to help myself organize who I am as a creative and be more productive.

One of the biggest things that I learned in this book was to stop multitasking. When I did, I realized how much more productive I was. When I just focused on writing, instead of checking my email every five minutes, and trying to watch a documentary or listen to a podcast at the same time, I not only wrote more, but it was better content. In hindsight, this seems like an obvious solution, but in today’s busy world, taking a second without distraction is incredibly refreshing. In an article on health.com  the author discusses why multitasking doesn’t actually work at all. They describe the feeling of doing one thing at a time as luxurious, which is exactly how I felt when I tried it. In the article, they give twelve reasons that multitasking doesn’t actually work. One important reason is that it doesn’t actually work, is that our brain only have a finite amount of attention and productivity level at that level of activity according to Guy Winch, PhD. Another point that the list makes is one of the same as in The Accidental Creative. In this section, on page 69, Henry points out that,

“If you want to thrive in the create-on-demand world, you must develop the capacity to focus deeply.”

The article on health.com also pointed to how multitasking can dampen creativity,

“Multitasking requires a lot of what’s known as “working memory,” or temporary brain storage, in layman’s terms. And when working memory’s all used up, it can take away from our ability to think creatively, according to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago.”

All of these reasons, and more convinced me to try to multitask less, and barring a few sick days, I have been more productive.

The next important thing that I learned from this book was that isolating yourself is not helpful to the creative process. Now, I will admit that I have not put this particular tip to the test yet, except for maybe asking for help or insight a few times when I usually wouldn’t, but Henry argues that by isolating ourselves by working, we are cutting ourselves off from a lot of helpful brain power. On page 95, he writes,

“the slippery slope of introversion for the creative is that we may isolate ourselves more than we should. We sometimes begin to see the act of maintaining a relationship as an obligation that pulls us away from our important work, rather than an opportunity to stretch ourselves, explore new possibilities and take advantage of collaborative opportunities within our team.”

I do not often work with a team, however, most of my friends and collegues have similar interests or professions to me. I tend to isolate when I work. I don’t want distractions of other people. If I am in starbucks, even with my boyfriend, I will put headphones in so that he knows I am focused in. Now, on one hand, this relates to the previous point; not multitasking, and I still believe in that method in many ways. But, Henry argues that if and when you are stuck on something, or even if you aren’t, carve time out of your schedule to discuss your current projects with family, friends, or collegues and inspiration may come from the most unexpected of places. My headphones in starbucks thing is just stupid though since the only difference between my boyfriend and I’s professions is that he works on the advertising side and I work on the journalistic side. So, I’ve opened myself up to allowing him to help on projects because I am very controlling about my work. However, Henry has an answer to this too. On page 97, he writes,

“When we obsess over getting our own buckets filled, we not only find ourselves disappointed with the results, we also regularly disappoint everyone around us.”

So, when I isolate myself, I am not only missing out on opportunities for myself, I am taking away insight that I could give to others on their creative projects. In addition to this, people who are introverts can miss out on opportunities simply because they didn’t ask for them. In an article on Business Insider this concept is discussed; that not only do introverts miss out on personal relationships, but opportunities in work life as well. The article sites that people who are introverted (to a certain degree) could be overlooked for promotions. According to the article, this is because they have a harder time playing up their good deads.

The last broad concept in the book, and the title of the final chapter is “Cover Bands Don’t Change the World.” This phrase is very important to Todd Henry. He not only titles the chapter with it, but writes that he surrounds himself with it, in his office, in his home, etc. Henry is constantly reminded to be original, motivated and challenged. He writes,

“Comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness. When you choose to default to comfort, you are choosing to be less effective in your life.”

Through this quote, Henry is telling the reader that putting yourself out into uncomfortable situations or challenges, is the only way to improve. So, creative people cannot be introverted to such a degree that they are mindfully crippled by unforseen circumstances. But, even if you are an extrovert or somewhere in between, allowing yourself to become comfortable making the same things, doing the same things, and working on the same projects, which create the same content is the worst thing that a creative person can do to his or herself. We must be open to opportunities given to us, to gather inspiration to create new things. The way that all of the information is laid out in The Accidental Creative as well as the corresponding steps to improve your creative output really resonated with me. The book taught me much more than is mentioned here, but these are the three main points that I think will really stand out to me months down the line. They are already helping me create better content, from a better perspective, more efficiently.