The #1 Skill to Help You Generate Great Ideas

Krasi Shapkarova

Krasi is Carey the Torch's Editor-in-Chief and also represents the Career Development Office in Washington, D.C., working with students on career exploration and development. Krasi holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a Master of Arts in International Human Rights from the University of Denver.

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I love writing. And I often use it to reflect on, think about, and deconstruct an issue or a problem I am facing.

In Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content, Mark Levy introduces just that—freewriting as a way to unveil solutions and resolutions to issues of any nature, although in the book he chooses to focus on business problems. As he points out, “freewriting is a fast method of thinking onto paper that enables you to reach a level of thinking that’s often difficult to attain during the course of a normal business day.” It opens the gates to a flood of ideas that are waiting for you to have them.

My favorite part of the book is when Levy talks about our internal editor. We all have it. The voice that tells us to be nice and take a step back before writing down something we might regret. I know I used to do that, and sometimes, I still do! The best part of freewriting however, is you do it for yourself, not for others. So there is no need to edit when you first pour ideas on the page. Among the many benefits, freewriting “enables you to write with honesty,” “cuts resistance to thinking and writing,” and most importantly, it “pushes you creatively.”

How do you do it? Levy highlights 6 Secrets of Freewriting:

  1. Try Easy: You are not going to have a thought-provoking masterpiece in one sitting. Start by writing whatever is on your mind in that moment of time.
  2. Write Fast and Continuously: Once you start, keep going. Literally, when you run out of things to write, write ‘I have no idea what to write.’
  3. Work against a Limit: Time yourself to motivate and energize yourself. 10 to 20-minute intervals work best.
  4. Write the Way You Think: What you freewrite doesn’t have to make sense to everyone else; just you.
  5. Go with the Thought: Do improv. Work with what you are given—in this case, work with what you just wrote. Take the last sentence and expand on it.
  6. Redirect Your Attention: Use focus-changers to redirect your writing to an unexplored aspect of the situation/issue you are writing about. Examples: What am I missing here? How can I describe the situation to the CEO? What is the worst-case scenario?

So what are you waiting for? Grab a notebook, a pen (or a laptop if you are a Millennial!) and start writing. The ideas are there and you just need to give them the opportunity to flow and grow.

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