It’s almost unfathomable, if you think about it— that the entire world is able to exist, simultaneously, before our eyes and in our heads. Often, though, we think of brainstorming for writing like powering up an old machine: press the power button, crank the handle, oil it a little bit when it starts to squeak. Sometimes, being conscious about what we want to write inhibits us from writing anything at all. We absorb too much of the world, and the internal critic takes over. When this happens, we have to train our brains to relax, and remain purposeful, but open.
“Life is ‘trying things to see if they work.'”
–Ray Bradbury, author of The Illustrated Man
Bradbury is spot on. That’s how brainstorming works the best: when it’s unafraid to take a chance, and go with that chance, even with the risk of failure. It’s always okay to try. The next time you brainstorm, think about these tips to help keep your mind in the clear and cloudless.
1. DO write down whatever comes to your mind. Yes. Everything. You thought you would humanize your canine-loving protagonist by giving him or her a dog allergy? That’s one idea. There are probably more where that came from. The point here is to extract everything you can onto the paper because you never know when that wacky idea might just work.
2. DO set time limits (optional). One way to ensure that the brainstorm isn’t too thunderous is to lasso it in with a time constraint. A time constraint normally goes hand in hand with free-writing, but this is a method you can use with your more structured work, as well. Time tricks your brain by giving a reason to work efficiently. It would be inefficient to waste time worrying about polishing and bedazzling your writing. Tack the jewelry on later, and make the time about nitty-gritty writing.
3. DO value quantity over quality. The great thing about brainstorming is that no one else is in your head or on that page except for you. The only person who will read what you wrote (at this stage) is you.
The most important thing is to enjoy writing as it comes and create a technique that is tailored toward your needs as a writer. Some methods may not work for you at all, and that’s okay—focus on the ones that do, and practice them. You’ll thank yourself later.
For more brainstorming tips, check out this page to learn more about other brainstorming strategies, like mind mapping, word storming, and word associating. Don’t forget to also check out the rest of our blog posts for other ways to enrich your writing process. Happy writing!