Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that helps people and teams generate brilliant ideas.
He’s also penned two books on creativity: Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day and The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant At A Moment’s Notice.
In The Accidental Creative Henry gives readers practical strategies for supporting your creative process, especially when you need to produce bright ideas on a regular basis (and the muse is on vacation).
In his newest book, Die Empty, he gives readers the tools to do our best work on the projects that truly matter in all areas of our lives. As he writes in the book: “The cost of inaction is vast. Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside of you. Choose to die empty.”
Below, Henry reveals his personal creative process and shares his advice for cultivating creativity.
Learn more about Henry at his website.
1. Do you incorporate creativity-boosting activities into your daily routine? If so, what activities do you do?
Yes – I have a few that are critical. For several years I’ve made it a practice to get up early and spend the first hour of my day thinking, studying, and writing.
I just allow my curiosity to wander, and it’s been tremendously valuable in helping me think more systemically about my work and connect dots that might otherwise go unconnected.
Another is that I incorporate something I call “unnecessary creating” into my weekly routine. This means making things that are not for clients or others, but just for myself.
Whether it’s writing, songwriting, or learning a new skill, I’ve found that applying unnecessary creating in my life has opened up new avenues of thought for my “on-demand” creating.
2. What are your inspirations for your work?
I’m perpetually inspired by people I encounter who aspire to do brilliant work in their domain. I speak at a lot of conferences and events, and I get to hear the stories of people across various industries and roles talk about the problems they are experiencing and how they are trying to overcome them.
That’s what fuels me in a major way. I aspire to be something of an “arms dealer” for these people and to help them be better positioned to unleash brilliant ideas and act on the work that matters to them.
3. There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
For me it’s the weight of all that’s left undone. With every idea comes accountability for action. If there are too many ideas clogging up the queue, then it can create a kind of paralysis. This is definitely the case with many writers, artists, designers, and others who have more ideas than they can execute.
4. How do you overcome these obstacles?
I’ve come to learn that I need to focus on a limited number of projects at a time, and key in on the most important activities in each of those projects before moving on to something else.
Complete something, then dream. I may have a variety of projects going in my “unnecessary creating” time, but with regard to the work I’m being paid for, I’ve found that pruning is absolutely essential.
The whitespace created through regular and relentless pruning of priorities becomes fertile ground for my best work.
It’s also critical to know when it’s time to quit something that’s demanding more time and energy than it’s worth. That’s another form of pruning.
5. What are some of your favorite resources on creativity?
A few that have been massively influential on me would be Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono.
Also, I think it’s important to read the biographies of great artists, thinkers, and innovators.
Born Standing Up, the autobiography about Steve Martin’s days in stand-up comedy, is absolutely full of insights about finding your voice and taking strategic risks in the pursuit of innovation.
6. What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
I take long (90 minute) walks just about every day. It’s my way of disconnecting from the expectations of the world and thinking, processing my day, and considering problems. Since I started this practice my creative throughput has gone up markedly.
7. What’s your advice for readers on cultivating creativity?
Be intentional about your creative process. Establish practices that support your ability to generate ideas when you need to rather than expecting creativity to happen in the cracks and crevices of your life.
Establish focus areas by defining your problems effectively, cultivate stimulating relationships that help you stay fresh and engaged, manage your energy by pruning your focus areas and projects, fill your mind with valuable and challenging stimuli, and utilize your hours for effectiveness, not just efficiency.
If you do these things consistently, you will be in a far better place to generate brilliant ideas when you need them most.