Book Discussion: The Accidental Creative

Book Discussion: The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogThe Accidental Creative:
How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice
By Todd Henry

When I mentioned in three It’s Monday! What I’m Reading! posts that I was (slowly) reading a book about being accidentally creative, several commenters echoed my own thoughts when they said they would benefit from learning how to be creative at a moment’s notice. Todd Henry knew that, and wrote a good book to help everyone be as brilliant as possible. The book provides a lot of ideas and suggestions to maximize creativity. While I wish there could be a magic formula (a pinch of this and a dash of that), being creative takes effort. Some people can just ooze creativity (or an odd brand of weirdness), but for others it seems to be more of a struggle.

Henry’s approach to being spontaneously creative can be separated into three categories: Preparing for Creativity, Harnessing Creativity and Recognizing Threats to Your Creativity.

Preparing for Creativity

The most prominent way in which someone can learn to become accidentally creative is to prepare for brilliant moments of insight. This basic premise is born out of the idea that, “If you want to deliver the right idea at the right moment, you must begin the process far upstream from when you need that idea.” (p 9) Henry recommends that everyday includes quality stimuli. In my post on finding inspiration, I shared a similar concept. I try to regularly read websites, magazines and blogs that inspire and/or inform me. I may not always take away something that I believe is important from each article or post, but over time, I’ve come to realize that the information and ideas I’ve stored away (in the back of my mind, in my notebooks or on Pinterest) has come forward to benefit me when I’m trying to think of solutions or articulate ideas. This is really the Minute Maid of ideas to promote your creativity.

The Minute Maid of Recs | Put Good In, Get Good Out | Book Review of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogVia

The second way to prepare for creativity is to be purposeful about what you do and how you approach the creative process. Henry recommends planning out your life by considering the projects, plans and goals you have by focusing on the coming day, week, month, quarter and year. “Whole-life planning recognizes that your creative process is the result of the merging of all your experiences and passions.” (p 96) I think the idea of clustering, or intelligent adjacency, is also a way to be purposeful about your work. Basically, clustering is doing similar tasks next to each other without interruptions. Like most efficiency experts, Henry recommends limiting phone calls and e-mails to specific times of the day. The benefits of clustering include limiting focus shifts, experiencing unexpected breakthroughs and improving flow. 

Take Notes! | Book Review of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogFinally, Henry recommends note taking. Obviously, I’m a big fan of taking notes. I’m never quite sure what I’ll remember later or what will be important later. Throughout history, thought leaders, movers and shakers have taken voracious notes. In fact, John Adams, who was an especially prolific note taker, took many notes in his book. “[John] Adams was not taking notes the way that many of us have been taught…Rather, he was recording his own thoughts and reactions to the claims of the author. He treated books as a conversation rather than a monologue.” (p 112)

Harnessing Creativity

How do you harness those insights and all that creativity you’re supposed to glean from notes and the like? Henry recommends establishing a rhythm to your work that manages “the pressures and expectations you face each day.” (p 122) Henry continues that, “When you begin to treat idea generation as a rhythmic practice, you begin to experience growth in your ability to generate ideas when you need them.” (p 125)

Recognizing Threats to Your Creativity

Now that you’ve spent all of that time preparing for and harnessing your creativity, you need to learn to recognize threats to that creativity.

While it’s not a magic formula, Henry did share a formula to achieving creative brilliance:

Math Formula for Creativity | Book Review of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry | The 1000th Voice BlogTo maintain a certain level of work, you must remember to stay healthy. Do what you need to do to stay healthy–exercise, eat healthy, etc. Use routines to maintain your prolific nature.

Henry believes there are three assassins to the creative process: dissonance, fear and expectation escalation.

Dissonance is a disagreement or incongruity. The human mind craves resolution of unresolved things and patterns. One of the main functions of creative thought is the resolution of this dissonance; however, if out of control, it can be a threat to your creativity.

People fear plenty of things: success, failure, cats, dogs. As Henry states, “A lifetime of mediocrity is a high price to pay for safety. Paranoia undoes greatness.” (p47)

Finally, expectation escalation is a threat. Once you’ve done something great, the expectations continue to rise. Sometimes that escalation can lead to the inability to be creative.


Writing 4 out of 5 stars
The writing in this book was strong. Henry clearly made his points and backed them up with knowledge gained as a consultant.

Topic Knowledge 4 out of 5 stars
As I mentioned, Henry is a creativity consultant, so he does have a lot of knowledge on this topic, including an understanding of how to teach people to be creative.

Research 3.5 out of 5 stars
This book didn’t really require formal research because of Henry’s vast knowledge on the topic.

Cultural/Personal Impact 3.5 out of 5 stars
I didn’t read a lot of new information, so the personal impact is a bit limited for me. Affirming my understanding, though, does count for something for me and validates the time I spend reading a LOT of books and articles online. If this doesn’t validate your blog/Twitter/Digg/Stumple Upon/Whatever content habit you have, then I don’t know what will.

Organization/Presentation of Information 5 out of 5 stars
The information is presented in an organized, easy-to-follow fashion. I hate when a nonfiction book jumps around and doesn’t present the information is a logical way. Flashbacks and flashforwards are for fiction; they have NO place in nonfiction. (I have to emphasize this because I don’t think some people understand.)

Total 4 out of 5 stars

Overall, I found this book helpful, but mostly as an affirmation of what I already believed about being creative. 

What do you think about the suggestions Henry made? Do you have a content reading habit like mine? 

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. And of course, If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

Book Discussion: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Part 2

read Part 1 here
Book Cover

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
by Jen Hatmaker

Last week I waded casually into the deep pool of thoughts I had about the FoodClothesPossessions and Media sections of this book. I could have (and probably should have) created an entire post about each section of the book. I might still do that someday, but for now, I’m just going to wade in the shallow end by lightly discussing Jen’s WasteSpending and Stress challenges.


During month five, Jen’s challenge was to successfully adopt seven habits for a greener life. It was “a fast from assuming I am not part of an integrated earth,” as Jen put it (page 119). Specifically, Jen was going to begin gardening and composting; conserve energy and water; recycle everything possible; drive only one car; shop thrift, second hand and locally. This challenge really spoke to me, or maybe it was Jen when she wrote,
Waste: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen HatmakerThis comes at a time when I was pondering a similar thought. God made the world for us; isn’t it our responsibility to lovingly maintain and care for it? Aren’t we doing the exact opposite? Nature has always been a place where I’ve felt most connected to God. After all, it was His creation. I’ve become much more focused on the earth, and I’m doing my best, little by little, to be a better steward of the environment. I’ve spent time thinking about some of the areas where I can become greener, including household cleaning and maintenance products. I’ve put countless chemicals into the local water because I’ve used commercial cleaning products, but not anymore. As I use up these products, I’m researching green (and often homemade) alternatives, and I’m switching to them.

One other interesting aspect of Jen’s waste month was the introduction (to me) of the Karpophoreō Project, whose mission is “To bear good fruit in every good deed.” The KP is an organization that teaches homeless people how to tend a garden and pairs them up with homeowners who have space for a backyard garden. The homeowner gets a portion of the harvest, with the remaining harvest being sold at the local farmers’ market by the formerly homeless person. It sounds like such an amazing project.

(If you get a hold of this book, check out Jen’s list on pages 130 to 132 of reasons to buy local.)


As the Hatmaker family’s fortune increased (both literally and figuratively), so did their spending. They were a normal, growing American family. Jen challenged her family to only spend money at seven places: Sunset Valley Farmer’s market, HEB gas station, online bill pay (various vendors, such as utility providers still need to be paid), kids’ school, limited travel fund (Jen travels for work), emergency medical and Target.

This was an interesting challenge. It runs so counter to our consumerist society. I don’t think it would be hard for my family to only spend money at seven places for one month if we don’t count Nick’s business visits for work. (He often buys things when he’s visiting the businesses. It’s a sign of goodwill.)


Don’t we all have too much stress? To work on handling her stress. Jen decided to follow the The Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr. This was an interesting challenge in which Jen paused seven times throughout the day (including at midnight!) to pray. The book guided her through the appropriate prayers and intentions at each hour. The most profound statement in this section was

Stress: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen HatmakersSeriously, this was such a lovely and inspiring book. “Challenge” books are so popular these days: from spending a year trying to find happiness to traveling the world to “find” oneself (Where did your inner self go if you have to travel the world to find it?). I’ve never been interested in reading the others, but the premise of this book sounded so intriguing that I had to pick it up, and I’m very glad I did. All of the challenges really inspired me to live with more intention, which is always a good thing in my opinion.

Have you read Jen Hatmaker’s book or anything similar? What do you think? Would living with less be good for you?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. And of course, don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins. If you like what I have to say, like or follow my blog through e-mail. Sign up is on the right!

(Quotes from pages 118 and 189)

Book Discussion (Part I): 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Book Cover

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
by Jen Hatmaker

I picked up this lovely book hoping it would help guide and inspire me as I try to live my life intentionally. To say it was helpful would be quite the understatement. Jen’s book is full of brilliant insights into living without all the excess and living life full of Christian intention. (If you aren’t Christian, this book definitely isn’t for you. The concepts of simplifying and reducing waste transcend any religion, but part of Jen’s purpose in the book is to show us that this is what God calls us to do.)

In the book Jen undertook a challenge so unusual that she often found herself awkwardly trying to explain why she was wearing the same shirt or only eating sweet potatoes. No, folks, she’s not weird. She’s just on a mission! Her challenge was to focus on seven areas of life (food, clothes, possessions, media, shopping, waste and stress) to learn to live with less and reduce her impact on the Earth.

Jen HatmakerJen Hatmaker: smiling and happy

I could extensively discuss this book over the course of many posts and words, but I’m just going to focus on how this book is helping me live intentionally. I will be splitting it into two parts. Part two will appear next week.


In her first challenge, Jen resolves to eat only seven foods for one month. In her ruminations before starting the challenge, Jen spends a lot of time discussing how much she loves food. Like, seriously, LOVES food. It’s quite clear that she’s a foodie, and her love of food surpasses mine. (I almost always plan my day around food and think about my next meal or snack while eating the current one.)

What does a self proclaimed foodie learn from a challenge like this? Well there’s this:

FoodBy simplifying the food I purchase and eat, I can be more intentional and less wasteful. I don’t see simplifying only in terms of eating a certain number of foods like Jen did. I see it more in cooking from scratch and decreasing the waste prepackaged meals create. Also, learning to focus on the food I‘m currently eating will make it a more enjoyable experience for me.


In month two, Jen challenged herself to only wear seven items of clothing. Within a week she acknowledged that she had spent far more than was necessary on clothing. After 30 days and seven clothing items, Jen concluded:


Wow! She really has me pegged. I’m always so worried that someone will notice if I’ve worn an item or outfit too often. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, but I still have items that I rarely wear. And I sometimes fall in to the trap of buying something so trendy that I quickly grow bored with it. I need to stop doing that. I need to really consider my clothing purchases. How often will I wear it? Does it fit with my overall style, wardrobe or ideal wardrobe? I’m also going to challenge myself to buy more thrifted and consigned clothing than I currently do (which I’d estimate at around 20% of my current wardrobe).


Jen’s challenge during possessions month was to get rid of seven items every day. And she didn’t just take it to Goodwill. She found people who truly needed the items, like refugee families who had just stepped off the plane in America.

Hatmaker FamilyThe lovely Hatmaker family: as she undertook this
challenge, Jen and her husband were working on
adopting their two youngest children from Ethiopia.

This chapter was probably the least influential for me because I embarked on the journey to somewhat minimalism almost three years ago. When I think about all the stuff we used to have and all the stuff we still have, I get a little nauseous. It seems really obscene to me now.


For media month, Jen and her family cut out TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, radio, texting and internet. In the silence, she realized:

MediaAs you know, I cut out THE online forum where I spent a large portion of my free time. It’s been freeing so far. I’ve checked a few long-standing to dos off my list just in the first two weeks (see the header above). As a commenter on that post mentioned, some form of distraction or entertainment is a good thing, but between TV, books and my family, I already have plenty of entertainment. Will I return? I don’t know, but if I do, I hope I can learn to better manage my time there and still focus my attention where it really needs to be.

Looking at these four areas of excess in my life has been pretty eye opening, and I really think it has and will continue to have a big impact as I try to live my life more intentionally. The next three areas of excess will also be high impact, so stick around!

Have you read Jen Hatmaker’s book or anything similar? What do you think so far? Would living with less be good for you?

To read more of my thoughts, follow me on Twitter. For more book reviews, books I’ve read and books I want to read, find me on Goodreads. And of course, don’t forget to check out my Pinterest to see all the craft and home decor projects I’ll probably never do and some cool book and social media pins.

Book Chat: 1.2.2013

Welcome to 2013 on The 1000th Voice! It should go without saying that we made it through 2012, but I’m going to say it anyway: We made it!

I’m really excited about all the possibilities 2013 holds for this lovely little blog of mine, my personal life, and my career. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the book-related things I’m planning for this year. My official 2013 book challenge will be posted on the 11th.

Book Reviews and Ratings

I want to work on my reviews to make them better and more relevant to the philosophy of my blog and my readers. I’m going to add a section to my reviews about why the book is relevant and how it applies to me, potentially to my readers or its cultural impact.

I’ve always struggled with rating a book on Goodreads. Despite my commentary on some things on here, I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but at the same time, I want to provide an accurate review for potential readers. To do this, I’ll create a few categories in which I can rate the books, and then I can calculate an average to determine my overall rating. My rating will still be based on five stars. I don’t need to recreate the wheel here; I just want to make the wheel work better for me.

Some Exciting Things

The fourth Wednesday of the month will be designated as book discussion day, when I will take more time to thoroughly discuss a book and its implications or applications in real life. It’s my goal to also encourage more discussion in the comments.

In preparation for my summer visit to DeSmet, SD and watching the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant there, I’m going to reread all eight of her Little House books. I’m very excited to reread these books and talk about them.

Do you have any thoughts on my plan to improve my ratings and reviews? Anyone else planning to reread a childhood favorite?

Book Discussion: Secrets of Six-Figure Women

As women we often discount ourselves. Most of us know is bad for us mentally and physically, but it’s also bad for our careers. As modern women, careers are a large part of our lives if not ourselves. It’s time we start to refocus on ourselves. Reading this book is a step in the right direction.

Secrets of Six-Figure Women is a quick, engaging read chock full of excellent advice. Stanny, whose father was a successful and recognized businessman, was a chronic underearner who set out to learn the secrets of successful women. What she learned was both surprising and expected.

For example, I was surprised to learn that many of the six-figure women didn’t work unGodly hours. Many have taught themselves to focus and work as little as four hours a day, and they’re even more successful than when they’d worked four hours by 8:00 a.m.

While surprising, I’m fully in support of this. What’s the point of making six-figures if you can’t enjoy it? (This is a rhetorical question. Life is meant to be lived; not worked.)

It wasn’t surprising at all that Stanny found belief in oneself, hard work, education, and talent to be the most important factors to her interviewees success. These are four marked characteristics that I would list for successful women.

Stanny also found that six-figure women have a profit motive (they expect to be well compensated), audacity (they often step outside their comfort zones), resilience, and encouragement. She also learned that the women were self aware, were non-attached, and had financial know how.

Stanny is quite quotable in this book. Her writing is strong and her insight deep. Her quotes are the type I’d want to embroider on a pillow, if I had the patience to embroider. Some of her most quotable lines include the following:

“[T]he moment we stop waiting and start acting, we have the opportunity to walk through a doorway to a richer, fuller, more abundant life.” (page 73)

“Our state of mind shapes our way of life.” (page 74)

“To really change your financial situation, you have to let go of that part of yourself that stands in the way of greater abundance.” (page 117)

Of course you can’t write a book about women succeeding in the workplace without addressing sexism. According to the women interviewed, there are two ways to handle sexism: 1) shake it off or 2) leave the organization.

Shaking it off would be a good idea for minor instances of sexism, the cases in which proving oneself will help eradicate a sexist culture or superior. But sometimes the culture is so bad that you just need to leave. I know it’s sometimes hard to leave when we want to change the culture, but it’s not always possible, especially when the culprit is an older man. Some people need to age out of the workforce before we can change negative corporate cultures.

Success sometimes requires adequately handling sexism.

This only addresses the cases when women have a choice to stay or leave. When a woman is forced out due to sexism, she has to do something about it.

Stanny ends with a little last minute advice:

“Claim your power. Value yourself, honor yourself, take all your desires to heart.”

What do you think? Do you have any tips to help women achieve six-figure success? Do you agree with the two ways to handle sexism? I’d love to hear your thoughts.