Brainstorming: what a provocative word! It conjures up images of volcanic energy and little gray cells storming the ramparts of problems armed with solutions. Brainstorming is a great tool in our writer’s kitbag and it’s especially handy when we hit a roadblock.
It’s happened to all of us at one time or another along the writing road: We get stuck in a rut, we hit a pothole, we take a detour that throws us off course. Our characters misbehave. Our plot has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. We can’t quite come up with the chapter cliffhanger we need.
What to do, what to do? Here’s a simple 6-stage plan of action I came across a while ago for triggering new ideas and possibilities the may prove helpful if you’re creatively in a “bit of a bother” as the Brits are fond of saying:
Give yourself some time to think: Brainstorming isn’t an instant, canned process – it calls for reflection and concentration. So if you want to ignite ideas that really have some flair and sparkle, give yourself the gift of time. A relaxed mind is a creative mind: Rushing doesn’t invite innovative solutions.
Get away from your usual place: When little kids get upset in public, one of the best ways to calm them down is to do a “geographic” — remove them to a different setting. In the same way, a change of scene can be useful for percolating ideas – it’s a way of refreshing your mind and senses. It signals to yourself something new’s afoot.
Set yourself a target: Challenge yourself to come up with 3 to 5 new and different ideas. I was recently asked to come up with 5 openings for a project. Just the notion of dreaming up so many different ways to enter a story got my juices flowing. Here’s an easy way to aid the process: Take a fresh piece of paper or open a new document and list the numbers 1 to 5 on it: having the numbers in front of you waiting for a response can help jog your imagination.
Lock up your inner censor: Go crazy! When you’re brainstorming, anything goes – the sky’s the limit! So press the pause button on that little voice that says you can’t do this.
Be bold: Ask yourself some inciting, exciting questions: If I really couldn’t fail, what would I do? What’s the easiest way to do this? The boldest? The most fun?
Start shaping a solution: Pick the idea that grabs you the most and start playing with it – see where it takes you. If it fizzles, try another. Life is full of fun and surprises – give yourself and your readers everything you’ve got!
OK, here’s our plan: Let’s be creative, be bold, have fun — and write on!