How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

Who doesn’t want to be brilliant? When I first came across Todd Henry’s book, THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIVE: How to Be Brilliant At A Moment’s Notice, the title immediately caught my attention. I am working really hard at the creative process. How, I wondered do you become a Creative accidentally? Henry’s description of a Creative encompasses anyone who uses his mind to solve problems and come up with innovative solutions. You can be a Creative, for example, in the real world, solving real world problems, coming up with creative solutions that will actually be implemented. Unlike author Lois, for example, who has created fictional characters, solving fictional problems in a fictional world. Still, there is much to learn from Todd Henry’s work that applies to those of us who have chosen to make creativity our life’s work. Sometimes, we are probably not as intentional about our creativity as we should be.

Todd Henry’s program for brilliance includes the following five strands:





H – HOURS (aka TIME)

In 2017 I searched out books and articles about how to expand my creative experience but somehow missed this one. I was anxious to see how my year of discovery measured up.


Yes. This one, while always a challenge was something in which I endeavoured to make progress. You have to focus on your goals and make your art intentional if you want to succeed. Haphazard attempts reap haphazard rewards.


Henry insists that we need to people our lives with intentional relationships that will help us accomplish our goals. We need to surround ourselves with people that inspire us by their own pursuit of creativity. I have appreciated connecting with other Creatives on Social Media and recognized the inspiration I have gained from artists with whom I would otherwise not have connected. That said, I have never really thought of developing friendships in quite the same way. No. I’d have to say I have a lot of work to do by way of benefiting from the creativity of others.


The idea of managing my energy  resources was the part of the program I found the most intriguing. While we all know that some tasks take more mental energy than others, how many of us actually budget our energy? Most of us have spent countless hours trying to manage our, well, hours. There is great value in that, which we will see in the last strand of the program, but having time is of little value if we have no energy for the task at hand. Henry suggests setting energy goals each week, month and quarter in order to ensure that our energy is going to the right projects tasks and commitments.  Are we wasting energy on activities that are not contributing to our personal and work-related goals? He recommends pruning out the activities which drain our energy but do not contribute to our goals. I really like this idea. Now when I look at my family commitments, I take into consideration the energy involved and plan my writing time accordingly. As for pruning, it will be painful. Already I know some areas in desperate need of pruning if I want my creative life to bloom.


This is the area, I have to admit, where I have focused. My goal in 2017 was to gain as much inspiration and material for my imagination as possible. It is important. This collection of experiences and sensory feasts will continue. Input = output. Right? But, as important as fuelling our imagination is, input alone is not enough.


Ah. Here it is. Managing our time to fit in the creative process. Always a challenge. Based on Todd Henry’s book, I’m now taking a two-pronged approach with this:

  • Use the small bits of time consistently, rather than let those unfocused snippets pass by unproductively.
  • Mindfully choose the larger blocks of time in my schedule when I will have the most energy for creating.


 Focused Free Writing OR MINDFUL MUSINGS

 Decide on a scene you would like to write in your current project.


Pick a scene you would like to include in some future project

Transitions between scenes, for me are more difficult than writing the scene. Where is she standing? What is she doing? What led up to this particular scene? How do you get the character out of the room at the end of the scene? I have wasted a lot of time mulling over these dilemmas, causing a stall in the writing process which inevitably led to a block. So much wasted time. Now, I leave the transitions until later.

  1. Pick an exciting or dramatic event. It can be a fight between a mother and her daughter. Maybe the daughter wants to go to an event with her friends and the mother doesn’t feel it’s appropriate. In this case, the drama will be the dialogue that takes place between the two characters. Or it can be more of an action/adventure scene in which one character is physically trying to escape a dangerous situation. Either way, make the stakes high.
  2. Write the event as the ideas come to you, without stopping to judge them or worry about whether or not the scene will actually work.
  3. Write three pages.

It is such a great feeling when you open your file on the computer to write the next day and you have a new scene to work with. If you aren’t ready to include this scene in the story yet, go ahead and write a new scene. It’s a lot of fun and very rewarding to have several scenes already written, just waiting for a spot in the story!

Write On!

Published by Lois Donovan

Author of historical time travels, THE JOURNAL and WINDS OF L'ACADIE, Lois is in demand as a speaker/presenter at literary conferences and young writers' conferences and teachers conventions. Lois grew up primarily in Riverview, New Brunswick, but has called Calgary home for many years. Currently, Lois enjoys life in Calgary with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law.

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