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How Unnecessary Creating Changes Everything

by | Process

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from  Chad Allen, who is a professional in the book publishing industry. Chad indicated that he was planning to publish a post on his blog about how “unnecessary creating” had changed his world. I asked if he would be willing to allow us to publish the post on the Accidental Creative site as well. Below is Chad’s story of how the practice of engaging in creating on his own terms has unlocked new ideas and creative energy for his daily work. (If you want to read more of Chad’s writing, he blogs about writing, publishing, and creativity here.)


In the book [amazon_link id=”1591844010″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Accidental Creative[/amazon_link] you learn a dozen or so practices  designed to help you unleash your creative potential. One of the practices recommended is called “unnecessary creating”, and it’s changed everything for me.

What is unnecessary creating?

Unnecessary creating projects have two criteria:

  1. No pay. You’re not being paid for the project.
  2. No timeline. You’re not on a deadline.

That’s it. Go.

Some examples of my own unnecessary creating projects include:

  • A letter I wrote to my five-year-old son that I will present to him on his thirteenth birthday
  • A wooden spoon that I carved and gave to my mother-in-law
  • A letter I wrote to connect with my 11-year-old nephew who lives in a different state
  • My blog

My next unnecessary creating project is to perfect a pistachio pudding dessert a friend served my family a while ago. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since and can think of no place I’d rather be king than the land of pistachio pudding!

Why does it change everything? 

I can say with confidence that if it weren’t for Todd’s admonition to be working on an unnecessary creating project for at least an hour a week, I never would have done any of the above. Instead, I would have been doing something really productive like watching Bachelor Pad and eating Oreos. That’s not to say I don’t need to tune out sometimes, as we all do, but it’s so easy for me to get in the rut of spending all my leisure time in relatively useless activities.

Unnecessary creating changes everything because it redeems useless time into time spent doing genuinely meaningful things for yourself and others.

How Can You Get Started?

  1. Brainstorm a list of possibilities. Start with the list I gave above. Do any of these possibilities spark an idea for you?
  2. Choose one hour a week when you will do some unnecessary creating. (For me it tends to happen on Thursday nights at 8pm.) Get it on the calendar.
  3. Follow through. Remember: you’re not getting paid, and there’s no deadline, so have fun!
  4. Tell others about the experience, and spread the word. Why should you have all the fun?

This week, what will be your unnecessary creating project? It could be a poem, a piece of art, a letter, a sculpture, a blog post, a self-published book you plan to give away, a landscaping project, painting a room, cooking a dessert—whatever you want.


Your turn – what is your unnecessary creating project going to be?

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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  1. Cynthia Herron

    What a profound and life-changing concept, Chad! When we feel like the pressure’s off, the pathways to brilliance are unlimited. Thumbs up to creating! Can’t wait to read Todd’s book.

    Let’s see…this week, despite the Thanksgiving rush, I’m determined to journal new goals. I find that creative and exciting.

  2. Srinivas Rao


    I think that was one of my favorite lessons from Todd’s books. I wish schools would encourage more of this. I’ve created lots of thing without necessity. Some have ended up on the front page of slideshare. Sometimes are unnecessary creations open many doors.

    • Todd Henry

      This is so true! Many of the great projects I’ve seen in my work were originally unnecessary creating projects. They emerged from playful exploration and personal but productive passion.

  3. ElsabePepler

    This is inspiring. Imagine if we can get everybody under 18 to spend maybe an hour a day away from technology (Internet, mobiles, series, FB etc.). But one hour a week is a fantastic start. And I bet it will soon be too short and too little (but not too late). I am working with various “creative schools” in Cape Town that focus on design, writing, copywriting etc. Students invariably tell me that they are expected to deliver creativity on demand, according to what others define as “creative”. With little success. Great blog!

    • Todd Henry

      Thanks, and love the idea of teaching this principle at younger ages. The notion of being in “making” mode more often than in “consumption” mode would be a powerful habit to develop early in life.

  4. Branden Barnett

    Having a “side project” is a powerful way to fuel your “main project”. I am a psychotherapist/songwriter/blogger… I added the blog as an unnecessary creative activity but it soon became my new focus. Now i’m starting the scary process of writing a book on the creative process and empirical counseling/ well-being techniques used to enhance it. That’s what my blog is about too.
    All my creative activities and roles (therapist, songwriter, blogger) seem to fuel one another and it seems my best and most novel ideas come from connecting concepts from the different domains in my life. It tends to get a little overwhelming when i get that “which one do I work on now” feeling but your book (AC) helped tremendously with that.
    To me, being creative is a daily practice that can raise the sense of well being, meaning and self worth of anyone in the world. None of it is unnecessary.
    my blog –
    Fantastic article Chad.
    You inspire the crap out of me Todd

  5. Jill

    What a terrific concept Chad! I teach professional development art courses for teachers, and if this idea could become a part of the school day — or even week — I believe it would invigorate students and revolutionize our entire educational system!

    • Chad R. Allen

      I’m with you, Jill! My six-year-old son LOVES his art class, mainly because at his age art class is all about unnecessary creating. Why do we lose this as we get older. Hey, thanks for commenting.

  6. hearttales

    I’m reading about sailboats to see what they teach me about spirituality.

  7. Crystal Foth

    I love this! Creating for just the sake of creating is really the whole point. To just take time and connect with your creative spirit is something everyone needs! The things I’ve loved the most were created simply because I felt inspired and for no other purpose. Children create for the sake of having fun and the magic of creating… keeping hold of that as we get older and staying connected to that inner creative child feeds your spirit.


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