The Accidental Creative

I have already made references to this book in my previous blog posts, but I wanted to type up some of the most profound points I found in Todd Henry’s “The Accidental Creative”. Reading this book was incredibly timely for me, and I learned so much about managing my energy, and not just my time. So, without further ado, please enjoy these quotes and notes!  (And perhaps check the book out for yourself!)

“When the pull between possibilities and pragmatics becomes too strong, the rope is taut, eliminating the peaks and troughs of productivity required to do our best creative work.”

Our best creative work (truly, sustainable creativity) is the result of creative rhythms. 5 elements of creative rhythms are:

  1. Focus – Less wasted time, clear and concrete objectives, and weeding our unimportant activities.
  2. Relationships – Systematically engage with other people to be reminded life is bigger than your immediate problems.
  3. Energy – Energy management, not time management.
  4. Stimuli – Creative nutrition, quality output depends on quality input.
  5. Hours – Ensure the practices that make you an effective creative actually make it onto the calendar.

Producing great work consistently and in a sustainable way is the sum of being prolific + brilliant + healthy.

You need relationships in your life where:

  1. You can be real.
  2. You can learn to risk.
  3. You learn to submit to the wisdom of others.

We think we can fill all available time and have energy for it all if we have the time for it all. But that’s not the case–time and energy are different resources. Each time you give energy to one project (professional or personal), that’s energy that you can’t give somewhere else.

Practice of pruning: “You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.”

“You cannot live with an ‘always on’ mindset.”

“How you define greatness ultimately will define your life.”

Take no unaccomplished projects, dreams, or ideas to the grave with you. Each and every day, get out of you whatever is of value to others. Die empty.

This is only skimming the surface of the brilliance, the pure gold of this book! I learned so much from reading it, even though I had honestly forgotten about most of the things that it said until re-reading my notes. And the book is full of practices to incorporate into your life to really maintain a healthy creative rhythm. But even if I just revisit these ideas every so often and work on one or two new things each time, I will be improving my creating abilities and endurance. I also just revisited Todd Henry’s website and found that he has written another book on that idea of dying empty, so I’m definitely adding that to my list of books to read! Maybe you’ll get some more Todd Henry in the future.

Monthly Review

One Month Review


One Month (and a half) Down! 

How do you feel about the project? 

In a word: overwhelmed! After about a week, I broke down the “requirements” into quarterly checkpoints, which is helpful. But I am feeling a bit bogged down even when trying to only focus on this quarter’s goals. I’m having to re-evaluate and realize this is a personal project, so I have to give myself the freedom to make it my own. There isn’t a right or wrong–any knowledge or experienced gained is an accomplishment. Period.

What have you learned? 

About myself, I’m totally an “achiever”! (See full explanation in this post.) I’ve also learned a ton of really helpful tips related to work and life in Todd Henry’s book The Accidental Creative, which I’m sure I can turn into a post all on their own. I’ve also learned why females love Jane Austen, that amazing honey wheat rolls can really be on your dinner table in 30 minutes, and other political tidbits from The Economist.

(Also, I’ve learned that those honey wheat rolls could benefit from a little more salt than the recipe calls for, if you decide to give them a try yourself!)

What do you like?

Even though I occasionally get stressed out about my reading requirements, I love that it gets me back into some good books. I forgot how great it feels to snuggle up under a blanket (or two… landlords: anytime you want to turn the heat on for our building, that would be wonderful!) with a great book and a cup of coffee. I also like that rather than just wondering about things I don’t know, I am starting to actually look up them up. I also like the idea of blogging, and when I find the time, I like the act of it, too!

What do you not like?

Feeling stressed out about an optional obligation.

What are you looking forward to? 

I’m looking forward to making good habits about managing my time and making independent learning a significant part of my life–for the rest of my life.


To Do Lists: My Frenemy

To Do Lists are my frenemy. Love them. Hate them. Love to hate them (not so often); hate that I love them (more frequently).

But the plain truth is I would be lost without them. Lately, it’s been seeming impossible to ever get ahead of my lists. (Hence the blogging hiatus.) There are consistently items that get transferred from last week’s list onto this week’s, contributing to an ever growing mountain of tasks to accomplish. This project is not helping. I feel buried under a mountain of things to be reading, not to mention everything else (French podcasts…please take a number, and wait in line). Books for my Islam class, books for work, for ESL tutoring, for the one-a-week quota for this project, and of course, The Economist is faithfully making a weekly appearance in my mailbox to remind me that it’s another obligation, another item for a list. (Although after this week’s issue, I think I actually understand Obamacare and the reasons for the  government shutdown, which I believe is an accomplishment worth celebrating.)

Also, I’m wondering at what point does “this is just a busy week” turn into “this is the norm”. Most Fridays around 5:30 p.m., I get home and am asked how my week was. The typical answer is “Good, but tiring. It’s just been a busy at work.” However, I don’t think we are necessarily busy. Or rather, we are not busy at an unusual pace. After all, it’s called work because it’s work. I think that this pace is the new normal, and I’m going to need to figure out how to cope rather than have run-on to do lists each week. Today (Saturday) I  decided I wanted to force myself to relax and not live by a list for a day… then remembered the projects that didn’t get done yesterday that have to be done before tomorrow. A bit of running around ensued and delivering an important project to Staples was bumped up to after my shower and before putting on my makeup (that’s why Staples has customer restrooms, right??).

On top of all of my lists, how am I supposed to have time (or energy) for baking bread, or going cycling, or redoing my metal trunk turned coffee table (before and after pictures will probably be posted soon), or having my neighbors over for dinner, or enjoying the crisp fall air and hiking? All of which are things I really, truly want to do. Then there are also the things I don’t really want to do, of course. They usually don’t even take that much time. Things like physical therapy exercises (feeling of obligation usually wins out on this one), doing my dishes (…they don’t sit in the sink that long), flossing my teeth (yea, dream on!). My current plan of action is to make a list. Write down everything I feel a desire or a compulsion to do, and then get to doing all those to do’s. Maybe it’s an obsession. I even keep pens and a pad of paper on my night stand to write things down as I’m drifting off to sleep.

If you’re a Pinterest post-er, you might have seen the motivational image of a runner with the saying “Someone busier than you is running right now.” Talk about a guilt trip! But it’s true–I am not the busiest person. Someone else is doing more and sleeping less. (That may or may not be healthy.) The point is: my to do lists are not extreme. I am not significantly more busy than other productive people. So as much as I do not like the feeling of my pace of life right now, I am satisfied with the actual amount of to do’ing that I’m doing. So I suppose I’ll add “find and practice better time management techniques” to my list for this week. Surely that’s something you would learn in an actual grad school!

(And if any of you out there have tips on time management–help a sister out! “Leave a Comment” link at the top left of this post.)