Sorry for the long absence. I’ve been struggling with what to write as of late, and have been experimenting with different methods to come up with ides. And then it struck me: write about those different methods! So I’m back after a break, hopefully with many new and varied posts! Enjoy.
Brainstorming. Free-writing. Spontaneous idea generation. Removing the brain-to-hand filter.
Call it what you will, but the process of getting ideas out of your head and into action is an important step for anyone. Whether your ideas are small and ordinary or grand and sweeping, the first step is to get them out of your head. When you write something down, or create a computer model, or draw a diagram it becomes real. It leaves the abstract and mysterious regions of thought and takes shape in reality, growing with each stroke of the pen or click of a mouse. For writers this is especially important because when you can’t think of anything to write about you are stuck.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve tried, or want to try to come up with new ideas for my writing:
- Free-writing: Just writing down whatever comes to mind, whether it makes sense or not. This method is best done without stopping or correcting for grammar. I find that free-writing on the computer is harder, because it often points out misspellings and grammatical errors. This can prompt you to stop and correct your writing, which interrupts the flow of your thoughts. This method clears your mind of excess and distracting thoughts and can even give shape to thoughts that may be floating around in your brain awaiting the form and substance provided by the written word.
- Mind Mapping: This method is like free-writing, except that as you come up with each new idea, draw a bubble around it. As you find similarities or relationships between the ideas (perhaps things you want to explore later), draw a line between the two bubbles and write the nature of the relationship on the line. A great tutorial on mind mapping can be found here and here.
- Word Association: Look up a word in the dictionary, or pick one randomly out of a book. Perhaps use a word that you recently learned. Once you have the word, write down everything it makes you think about when you hear it. Write down as many things as you can think of. Once you are finished, look through your list and try and determine the connections. Why does a certain word bring up those connotations? Does it have meaning, or is it simply a product of your experiences and unique perspective?
- Responses: Try writing a response to an article you’ve read, or a piece of trivia that you just learned. Often times this can get your mind working in new directions and can lead to bigger and better things.
However you choose to do it, brainstorming is an excellent way of generating new ideas and continuing to be creative even if you are “stuck”. Besides it can be fun to let loose and let your imagination soar for a while. Even if the idea seems ridiculous and you think it could never work, who knows what great things could come of it? But by far the most important thing to take out of this is: keep writing. No matter what.