Think First, Write Later: Why Brainstorming Will Take Your Writing to the Next Level

I love to brainstorm … really! There is something about letting my mind run free, moving away from the task list to dream a little. There is a benefit to brainstorming that will add creativity and life to your writing. Whether you are brainstorming titles, plot points, character names, direction for your paper, resources to reference, or topics for your dissertation, brainstorming can generate ideas that will benefit your writing greatly. Consider these tactics for generating creative ideas.

1. The Opposite Game – Yes, try to think of the worst-case answers for what you are trying to generate. They can be stupid, crazy, off the wall, or just plain bad. But there is a funny thing about this approach. Starting with the wild and crazy ideas can lead to creative and innovative ideas that move you forward.

2. Rapid fire – Jot down everything that comes to mind as fast as you can. Or even better record ideas on your phone or other device that can record. Work on quantity and you can evaluate for quality later. Quantity often leads to quality in brainstorming. Just don’t give up too quickly. Some estimate that it takes 20 or so bad ideas before the really creative ones emerge.

3. Group Brainstorming – Ask a couple friends to help you brainstorm, whether they know your topic of writing or not. You will play off each other’s answers and generate better ideas. There is something about having numbers when brainstorming that helps build creative energy.

4. Change Your Environment – Go somewhere you never write or research and see what ideas bubble to the surface in a brand new setting. Take inspiration from people and places you don’t normally consider as inspirational for you writing.

5. Sleep Brainstorming – It works. I don’t know how, but it does! The students in our psychology class kept a dream journal – Freudian theory of course! Before that class I thought that I did not dream anymore. At least I never remembered dreaming. But with a notebook by my bed, and the intent to write down anything I could immediately upon waking, I had success. Oftentimes I woke continuing to think about items from the day. You might just awake to a great idea!

6. Draw It! – Try to pictorially communicate your message. See what new connections you make because of communicating through pictures. Picturing your argument in a different way will help you communicate it better.

7. Summary Statement – Summarize your writing in one word. Then give yourself five words. Then write a one-sentence thesis statement. See how this exercise focuses your thinking and takes it in different directions.

8. Reader List – Make a list of 25 adjectives or words that describe or name your reader. Then brainstorm with the reader in mind.

9. End Game – Pretend you are your reader and project what you want the reader to think or feel when reading your writing. Brainstorm how to get to the final state. Think of it as an action plan for your reader.

— Dr. William, www.edit911.com/staff

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