Creative Thinking for Writers - Brainstorming
Writers use variations of brainstorming techniques all the time. Brainstorming can be particularly useful when a new, fresh idea is needed. Its main goal is to produce a long list of ideas from which one or more can later be chosen.
Have you ever bought breakfast cereal in a supermarket? These days there are literally hundreds of products to choose from. Some will grab your attention straight away, and others may look quite unappealing. But at least you have a lot to choose from. Selecting an idea should be no different. And while you may not always choose the best idea from your list to work with (or the best cereal from the shelf), you can always go back and select a fresh one when needed. The more options you have the better position you are in.
When starting a creative project from scratch, a good brainstorming session will usually give you a wide variety of ideas to choose from, and can often lead to unexpected moments of inspiration. Your head is already a wealth of great ideas – a good brainstorming session can help you get them out.
Fluency is the key to brainstorming. Think of a kitchen tap – sometimes you need to let the water run for a while to get to the temperature you like, and to get rid of the bacteria and yucky bits collecting near the surface. Your creative flow works in the same way. Sometimes you just need ideas to flow – fluently and unimpeded – in order to get to the really good stuff.
Quite often the ideas that we generate when brainstorming will not be mind-blowing in their own right (although they might be!). It's more often the case that they will provide a valuable launching point for great ideas to be developed from. They will push your creative energies in new, exciting directions.
Here is an example:
Suppose you are interested in writing a story about travelling to the moon. A quick bit of research, or a very easy Google search, will give you a few facts about moon travel. And here’s a fact that most people find rather surprising – nobody has actually been to the moon since the late 1970’s.
Why is that? Did they get bored of it? Was there nothing more to discover? That would be most people’s immediate reaction. But what if we brainstormed this question for a few minutes, trying to apply the skills of fluency and flexibility in our thinking? Below are some possible ideas that might be derived from a good brainstorming session.
Looking through this list of ideas (and this is a very short list) we see a broad collection of ideas that could suit many genres. The idea of space missions going missing could inspire great science-fiction stories, or perhaps the man in the moon getting cranky could be turned into an original children's tale. Most of these ideas will be discarded, but the more you have to choose from, the better your chance of find one that’s perfect for you. As an extension you might take one idea from your list and make that the new topic of a brainstorming session. For example, to further brainstorm Why was the man in the moon getting cranky? could lead to some hilarious new ideas that you would never have thought of previously. After a good brainstorming session you should be genuinely surprised and delighted with some of the new ideas you have generated, almost to the point where you have impressed yourself with your own creativity.
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