Brainstorming 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 must 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.
- Prepare for brainstorming. Turn on your laptop, or take a piece of paper and a writing instrument: you will need to write down your thoughts. The condition of your workplace seems to affect the efficiency of the brainstorming session, so see to it that you have your workplace clear.
- Set a time limit. Though it may seem that the more time you spend on brainstorming the better, actually, 15-20 minutes for a session is usually enough.
- 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 plain writing.
- After your stream of thoughts dries out, see through the whole list. Now it is time to evaluate and regroup all the thoughts you’ve written down so far. Choose ideas that seem the most valuable and the ones you see using for writing; reorganize the ideas into sequential categories of importance.
- If you consider your collection to be sufficient enough, use it to start creating a rough outline of your future piece of writing.
A vast amount of brainstorming techniques exist that can be applied during the creative portion of the writing process. 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. This technique builds your ideas using previously-generated thoughts. To create a mind map, write down your specific idea in the middle of your page and draw a circle around it. Then write down some ideas referring to the first one, making circles around them as well, and connect them with the center circle. Do the same for each smaller idea. This procedure will help you frame your ideas and see how they are connected.
- Free writing. This method implies a completely free and uncensored flow of thoughts, when you don’t know where your mind will lead you. Your only task is to be in the present, writing everything down. This technique involves your subconscious in the creative process.
- Questions. Instead of trying to write on the topic, start asking yourself questions about it. Answering these questions will give you ideas for writing.
- Rolestorming. Imagine you are someone else—a person of a different gender, age, skin color, and so on. Try thinking about your subject from this person’s point of view and see what happens.
Key Points to Consider
- 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 for your mind 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 pull out your most significant thoughts one by one, without trying to decide where to start from.
- The success of group brainstorming to a significant extent depends on the psychological atmosphere among participants, so the role of the moderator is important.
- Use associations. This way you can come up with interesting thoughts without excessive efforts, and expand on random words into an almost complete writing project.
- 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 some outrageous and spontaneous ideas to avoid mocking, and will tend to speak about only “quality” ideas, which are often hollow and constrained.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Brainstorming
- Trying to structure the brainstorming process immediately, during the very process of generating ideas. 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, criticizing and neglecting them without expanding just because they seem inappropriate.
-Dismissing brainstorming if one or more nice ideas appear in the very beginning of the session. This is actually 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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