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brainstormBrainstorming is an essential part of writing. No matter whether you’ve got writer’s block, or feel confident in your abilities, brainstorming is an activity you do to create a successful piece of writing. Generally speaking, the term brainstorming means generating as many ideas on a subject as possible and sorting and selecting the key concepts after. The outcome of brainstorming is usually a number of words, phrases, or concepts relevant to the subject chosen by the writer.

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Brainstorming Process

  1. Prepare for brainstorming. Turn on your computer, or take a piece of paper and a writing instrument: you will need to express your thoughts. The condition of your workplace affects the efficiency of the brainstorming session, so have a clean place to work.
  2. Set a time limit. 15-20 minutes per session is usually enough.
  3. Concentrate on your subject, and write down all the ideas and thoughts about it that come to your head. At this point, trying to organize your thoughts or sorting them out will only harm the efficiency of the process. This stage requires focusing on just writing.
  4. After your stream of thoughts dries out, look through all the ideas you came up with. Now it is time to evaluate and regroup all the concepts you’ve written down so far. Choose ideas that seem the most valuable and the ones you see using for writing; organize these selections into a sequence of importance, from first to last.
  5. If you consider your collection to be sufficient enough, use it to start creating a rough outline of your future piece of writing.

Brainstorming Techniques

A vast amount of brainstorming techniques exist. These techniques can be divided into those that are used by a group of people working on the same subject, or by a single writer who works on his or her own. Some of the most popular brainstorming techniques are listed below:

  • Mind mapping. Write down your main idea in the middle of a page and draw a circle around it. Then write down some ideas referring to the main concept, making circles around them as well, and connect them to the center circle with lines. Do the same for each connecting idea. This procedure will help you frame your thoughts and see how they are connected.
  • Free writing. This method implies a completely uncensored flow of thoughts. Your only task is to be in the present, writing everything down that comes to your mind about your main idea. 5 minutes of this exercise is enough.
  • Questions. Instead of trying to write on the topic, start asking yourself questions about it. Answering these questions will give you ideas for your future piece of writing.
  • Rolestorming. Imagine you are someone else—a person of a different gender, age, skin color, and so on. Try to think about your subject from this person’s point of view and record your thoughts.

Key Points to Consider

  1. Brainstorming won’t necessarily completely break your writer’s block and shower you with great ideas immediately as you start doing it. Treat it more like a warm-up exercise that will at least set you on course. Brainstorming is useful not only when you cannot think of any ideas relevant to your topic, but on the contrary, when your head is stuffed with various ideas. It will help you retrieve your most significant thoughts one by one, without trying to decide where to start from.
  2. The success of group brainstorming to a significant extent depends on the psychological atmosphere among participants, so the role of the moderator is important.
  3. Use associations. This way, you can come up with interesting thoughts without excessive effort, and expand on random words into an almost complete writing project.
  4. During group brainstorming sessions, discipline is among the key factors of successful idea generation. If the moderator of the session allows at least one of the participants to criticize someone’s thoughts, others will be discouraged from expressing experimental or spontaneous ideas to avoid mocking, and will tend to speak about only “quality” ideas, which are often hollow and constrained.

Dos and Don’ts


  • Do try to expand on every idea you’ve written down, even if it seems absurd or somewhat irrelevant to your subject.
  • Do review your list of ideas when you feel the process is getting stalled. Some of your previously-noted thoughts can whip up your thinking.
  • Do go rather for quantity than for quality when generating and noting down your thoughts.
  • Do start with a well-formulated statement of the subject you need to write on, or your purpose for writing.

  • Don’t neglect ideas because they seem weird or absurd to you. On the contrary, these ideas are often the brightest. Write every thought on the subject that comes to your head.
  • Don’t criticize thoughts that come out during the process.
  • Don’t write down your thoughts in details—sketch out the main points so that you are able to grasp the whole idea later.
  • Don’t organize expressing ideas in turns if you have a group brainstorming session. Important ideas are usually expressed spontaneously. So if you make everyone sit and wait for their turn to talk, the flow will be forced and not productive.
  • Don’t be afraid to ride ideas of other people during group brainstorming. If you hear your colleague speak about an interesting thought, develop it, add extensions, or offer counter-proposals.

Common Mistakes When Brainstorming

– Trying to structure the brainstorming process immediately. Leave all editing and organizing for later, otherwise you will get distracted and may lose inspiration and the spontaneity of thinking.

– Analyzing the ideas that came out during brainstorming, and criticizing and neglecting them without expanding on them because they seem inappropriate.

-Dismissing brainstorming if one or more nice ideas appear in the very beginning of the session. This is self-robbery, because if you come up with several awesome ideas from the beginning, you can produce even more of them if you continue the session.

– Trying to come up with a fresh and original idea from scratch. Brainstorming is more about quantity, so your best option is to forget about quality for a while. You definitely can develop one bad idea into several good ones, but it is extremely difficult to produce these ideas without preparation and engaging in a creative search.

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