Brainstorming is like looking for seashells on a beach. At first, you wander around and search, grabbing just about anything that catches your eye. Then, once your bucket is full, you sort through them, only taking the best ones home with you. In the same way, brainstorming lets you get a lot of ideas onto a page without much judgment or close inspection. Then, when you feel like you have enough or you can’t come up with anything else, you look back through what you’ve created, choosing the best ideas to include in your writing.
It’s a personal process, though. Everyone’s brainstorming process is as unique as they are. However, no matter what kind of writer or thinker you are, there are still a few general strategies to choose from to help you get those ideas out on paper.
If you’re the kind of person who’s always doodling in the margins or building things with different materials, you may want to try mind mapping. You can create bubbles or other shapes to hold in ideas; then, you connect the shapes based on their relationships. You can create a hierarchy, a web, a cycle, or even something linear! It’s all a matter of how you see the connections.
Have you ever been Googling something, and an hour later, you’re looking at websites that have nothing to do with your original search? That’s because just the act of researching can lead you down a rabbit hole of information. By searching through articles and websites focusing on your topic, you can run into new ideas you might never have thought of on your own. And the plus side? You’ll already have a head start on your Works Cited page.
Maybe you can’t come up with anything. Your brain is at a standstill. What do you do, then? You free-write! When you use this strategy to brainstorm, you literally put pen to paper and don’t stop. Set a time, and keep your pen moving until the timer goes off. Write your thoughts. Write your feelings. Write “I don’t know what to write” over and over. The simple act of putting down words will help you get things flowing, and soon, you’ll have a list of ideas to choose from in no time.
Free-writing is awesome for when there’s nothing you can think of, but when you have too many ideas? How can you get them all down before they fly out of your brain? The key is listing. When you list, you use bullet points or other simple symbols, and you make a list of your ideas. Forget spelling, forget grammar, and definitely forget the full sentences. Just use keywords and phrases that capture the essence of your idea. That way, you hang on to all those ideas before they fly away.
Which will you choose?
Perhaps one strategy doesn’t quite fit your writing style or brainstorming needs. Don’t be afraid to experiment by mixing and matching. Remember: everyone follows their own path of searching for ideas. Make it yours!