Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Accidental Genius: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing

Accidental Genius: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing

4.6 3
by Mark Levy, Tom Peters (Foreword by)

See All Formats & Editions

Private writing enables businesspeople to get at their best, most creative, and most practical thinking. Mark Levy advocates writing without concern for grammar, punctuation, or style to achieve expressions of pure thought. He urges readers to write quickly on the theory that fast is honest. He also encourages writers to identify energy sources, follow digressions


Private writing enables businesspeople to get at their best, most creative, and most practical thinking. Mark Levy advocates writing without concern for grammar, punctuation, or style to achieve expressions of pure thought. He urges readers to write quickly on the theory that fast is honest. He also encourages writers to identify energy sources, follow digressions in thinking, investigate multiple perspectives, and translate written wisdom into real action.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like any coach worth his salt, Levy aims to train, equip and motivate readers to extend their success in business and life. But the technique he espouses is unusual: private writing. A director of special projects at book distributor Bookazine, Levy provides examples of how he has used the practice of nonjudgmental, quick, exploratory writing to supercharge his own sales and management achievements. His clear, concise directions on honing one's critical thinking, changing focus and quieting one's internal editor will encourage readers to start exploring his method immediately. Levy's advanced exercises--involving thought-sparking phrases, precise details and personal interpretations of buzzwords--should expand the ways in which practitioners can observe their own thinking process and tap into previously inaccessible creative resources. Levy also includes the instructive tale of Tom Wolfe, who was badly blocked and adrift while trying to conceptualize an article on a custom-car designer for Esquire. Wolfe's astute editor told him to stop worrying the project to death and just write him a memo that got all of his notes down. The result of that simple-sounding but perspective-changing instruction was Wolfe's famously innovative article, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." With an enthusiastic foreword from Tom Peters that will help draw business readers, Levy's canny guidebook could garner the kind of steady sales of such writing books as Henriette Anne Klauser's Put Your Heart on Paper. Author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.01(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.41(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Thoughts as Currency

In addition to my work in business and as a writer, I also perform magic tricks.

    In fact, I perform a particular trick that bewilders people; some audiences even get the idea that they're witnessing "the real thing." Here's what happens:

    I ask a gentleman volunteer to think of a single playing card, while a lady volunteer stands opposite him, doodling on a pad. "Draw whatever you like," I tell her, "a scene from a dream, a word, a detail from your day."

    I then tell the audience the following:

    "Tonight, I'm going to show you how easy it is to read minds.

    "Reading the mind of another person is no big deal. There's nothing mystical or metaphysical about it. All you have to do is exploit certain scientific principles that operate with everyone.

    "First, you need to exploit the principle that thoughts have an actual weight and spatial dimension to them."

    I offer proof for my claim by citing an old Scientific American article about brainwave-measuring machines. "So if you can measure a thought," I reason, "it obviously has mass to it." I continue:

    "Second, you need to exploit the principle that thoughts actually jump from our minds all the time, like electricity does when it completes a circuit. That explains why, at times, a strange thought will suddenly appear in your head for no apparent reason. Chances are, you got in the way of someone else'scircuit-jumpingthought, only you didn't realize it."

    At this point, I dramatically stop the doodling lady, and ask her to hold the pad up high for all to see.

    There—impossibly—hidden among the rough imagery of her doodle, is the very name of the gentleman's imagined card! The lady, it seems, has read the gentleman's mind.

    Amid the audience's gasps, I say, "Amazing, isn't it? Science at work."

    Of course, the magician's code forbids me from divulging how the trick's done, but that's not the point. The point is this: I've presented this trick to shrewd corporate vice-presidents and street-savvy entrepreneurs who bought its pseudo-scientific premise because it seemed so plausible, they said, given the times we're living in. Here's what they mean:

     We're living in a time where companies are making Godzilla-sized fortunes without inventories, buildings, or even workers. Hard assets are out, invisible assets are in. Ideas rule the business day.

    Companies worth millions—Millions? Hell, billions!—are somehow leveraging their smarts, their imaginations, and are ringing registers worldwide by bringing their head-built products to market.

    Take Microsoft, for instance. Here's a company with $1.5 billion in hard assets, yet it has a market value of over $318 billion. That means the "invisibles" of the company—"goodwill," perceived brand value, and the thoughts percolating in Bill Gates' noggin—are worth three hundred times the company's "touchables."

    No wonder my stories about weighty, jumping thoughts have a ring of truth to them.

    We live in a world where thoughts are a potent, industry-driving currency, where major corporations set up complex systems for managing "Intellectual Capital" and "Information Technology" just so they can mine and protect the valuable thoughts of their workers.

    This is dizzying, large-scale stuff—and it's hard to appreciate on a personal level, even if we're involved with one of these fast-moving, knowledge-worker companies ourselves. But whether we can fully comprehend this grand revolution or not, we can draw a helpful, human-sized conclusion from it, and that conclusion is this:

    The ideas and observations careening around like lottery balls inside your mind have a real-world value to them—if you can get to them, develop them, create with them, make them practical.

    That, then, is what this book is about: it teaches you how to get at what you're thinking, so you can convert the raw material of your thoughts into something useable, even extraordinary.

    How do I propose to help you get to these extraordinary ideas of yours? Through writing. Or, more specifically, through something called private writing.

    Private writing—a phrase coined by two brilliant writing teachers, Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff—is a fast, for-your-eyes-only 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. By exploiting a few secrets, you'll delight yourself by happening upon ideas and know-how you may not have realized you possess.

    And what are these secrets? Here they are, in bare bones form:

• Don't show your private writing to anyone (this essential secret powers all the others in Accidental Genius. I'll explain why throughout the book.)

• Allow yourself to think badly and write poorly (chapter 3)

• Write as quickly and continuously as your hand can move (chapter 4)

• Attack a situation for a prescribed period, and then move on to other things (chapter 5)

• Tap your most honest ideas by using "kitchen language" and jumps in logic (chapter 6)

• Extend your thoughts beyond their normal bounds (chapter 7)

• Redirect your focus, often (chapter 8).

    Hanging out there like salami on hooks, these secrets might not seem the most nutritious food to feed your revolutionary mind ... but wait. As I make my case for these "salami," and as you put them into practice through your writing, you'll wow yourself with what you discover—and apply to your life.

Points to Remember

• Every recognized innovation has, in some way, been a product of human thought. It stands to reason, then, that the thoughts appearing in your mind have an enormous potential value to you and the world.

• Sometimes your best thoughts must be coaxed out, and played with, before they reach their fullest potential.

• The world's most progressive companies have sophisticated infrastructures just to develop, and protect, the kinds of thoughts that you've already had or are capable of having.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed 'listening' to Mark Levy as I read his book. I felt as though I was attending a personal seminar on private writing. Mark says that you can 'lead a better life through writing' and then he shows you how to do it. His style is breezy and engaging. His examples are contemporary and interesting - I even laughed out loud a few times. I didn't realize how much I learned until after I put the book away and found myself writing to think and thinking about writing. Try it - you'll be surprised by your own 'genius moments'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a teacher of graduate students, I believe that the book will be an extremely useful tool for the people taking my classes. The book teaches 'private writing,' which is a technique that's helped me, in the short time that I've been employing it, examine ideas in a comprehensive, unique manner. I am itching to advise my students to buy the book and use the methods therein. I firmly believe that it will help them understand new material in a very personal way that will be advantageous to their studies of science methods. The book is written in an entertaining and accessible manner that makes it a pleasurable read.