Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Brainstorming is an ideas-creating activity where you try not to think too much.  Sounds silly, but true!

What I mean is, you want your creative mind working while your critical mind is shut off.  You want the freedom, the excitement, the energy, the "out of control" brain activity of a lightning storm up in the skies, not a nice safe AAA battery in your hand.

There are numerous tricks to help make this work.  Here are a few:

A.  Group brainstorm (quick version)
  1. Work with two or three other people who agree to help you
  2. Set a time for the event - 5 or 10 minutes maximum (more people can go longer, two people, even 3 minutes is a lot of work!)
  3. Don't allow even one second of silence, people must talk all the time.
  4. Don't judge (rate) the ideas, just write them all down (time for evaluation is after the brainstorming)
B.  Group brainstorm (slow version)
  1. Use Post-it notes on a wall so that each time you walk by you must add two notes (two new ideas)
  2. Ask everyone who walks by that wall to help add ideas (no judging, no taking down, no revising)
  3. Maybe no time limit, although after two or three days people will probably quit
C.  Self-brainstorming

  • Some people use a mind-map (ideas-web), so that each idea gets new ideas connected to it  (this method is a bit more "controlled" than some other ideas) See for another example.
  • Some people can just sit down with a piece of paper and write everything that comes to their mind for 5 minutes
  • Some people daydream and just write down the odd thoughts that come to their head over a 15 or 30 minute period of time
  • Some people (like me) think about something before they go to bed (any of the above types of brainstorming could be used, or reading an article or hearing a discussion or seeing a TV show about the topic) and then wake up at night with ideas -- be sure to have a paper and pen next to your bed!
D. Techno-storming
  • Some people just type key words into Google or other search engine, and quickly read the results page (not opening the linked pages)
  • Some people send an email or SMS (or other social media) to their dozens/hundreds of friends asking for quick ideas.

After you have a bunch of ideas, you'll want to sort them out into three or more groups

  • This is a neat idea, I think I'll use this
  • This idea might be useful
  • This idea is not going to be useful, I don't think.
Don't throw any ideas away.  You might discover later that your first sorting isn't perfect!  I like to use memo cards (10x15cm size) or big Post-its so I can move them around a table-top or on the floor to sort, because I'm a visual person, but other people use computers or other ways).

As you prepare to write...

Most people like to organize their notes into order, how they think these will be best presented in their writing.

That could be into groups inside paragraphs, with separate paragraphs and even separate chapters.

Some people like to develop formal plans, often called "outlines," other people just loosely sort the cards and mix them around a little as they write.  (See outline sample below)

Me, I like to sort the cards into groups on the floor or stick to the wall, and then write according to how it feels - I let sentences find their own way instead of following an outline closely.  After all, it's just a First Draft, it will get changed!