Helpful Tips for Brainstorming
In any writing project, brainstorming is both an essential and useful tool. Irrespective of whether you are confident in your own abilities or are suffering from writer’s block, you should make time for brainstorming if your written piece is to be a successful. In rough terms, the word “brainstorming” can be defined as generating sufficient ideas on a given subject or topic, arranging these, and then choosing the most important or relevant ones. After a brainstorming session, the output usually takes the form of a collection of words, terms, phrases, concepts or ideas related to a given topic.
The Process of Brainstorming
Prepare to brainstorm. Find a pen and sheet of paper or switch on your computer to document any thoughts or ideas you generate. The efficiency and effectiveness of brainstorming would appear to be influenced by the work environment so make sure you have a clear and uncluttered space.
Time yourself i.e. set a limit: While it might seem better to allow a lot of time for brainstorming, in reality 15 to 20 minutes is considered sufficient.
Focus on your topic or subject and make a note of any thoughts and ideas that occur to you, Attempting to organize or sort out your thoughts at this stage will hamper the process and make it less efficient. This is a time for free writing.
When you cannot think of anything else, look back over your list. It is now time to assess and re-arrange the thoughts and ideas you have put on paper. Select those ideas that appear most useful and valuable and that you may use in your writing. Organize these according to importance.
When you feel your list is adequate, start developing a rough draft or outline from it, and this will be the basis of your final paper.
Techniques for Brainstorming
There are several useful techniques for effective brainstorming and these can be used in the creative stage of writing a paper. It is possible to divide these techniques into categories i.e. those used by groups of individuals working collaboratively on a single subject and those used by one individual working on their. The following brainstorming methods are popular:
Ask questions: Rather than attempting to write about your topic, ask yourself some questions in relation to it. The answers should provide ideas to write about.
Free-style writing: As the name might suggest, this technique involves writing in an entirely free and unfettered manner allowing your thoughts to flow uncensored, especially when you are not sure where these will take you. All you have to do is write every idea down and allow your subconscious do the creative work.
Mind mapping: This is a technique that helps develop existing thoughts and ideas. This method involves writing down your main thoughts or ideas in a circle in the center of a page. From here, you jot down other ideas that stem from these and also place them in circles. Continue to apply the same process to any further ideas that occur to you, even the smallest ones. This technique helps the writer to frame their thoughts and allows them reflect on how different ideas connect to one another and to the central idea.
Role-swapping (or role-storming): This method involves you swapping places (or imagining to swap places) with another person i.e. someone of a different age, race, gender, etc. Then try considering the subject matter from this other person’s perspective to see what you come up with.
Main Points for Consideration
While brainstorming will not necessarily help, you fully overcome writer’s block or immediately present you with a host of wonderful ideas, think of it as a way of warming up your mind to at least get started in the right direction. It is an extremely useful technique when you are unable to come up with any good topic-related ideas and, perhaps more importantly, when your mind is overflowing with different ideas. It helps you draw out the most important points one at a time without worrying about where to begin.
The effectiveness of brainstorming in groups depends largely on the psychological mind-set among those participating so it is important to have a moderator.
Making associations can be helpful. This allows you to effortlessly produce interesting ideas and to expand sporadic words into almost entirely full papers.
Discipline is an essential success ingredient in group brainstorming. If even one participant’s ideas are allowed to be criticized, this can inhibit other participants from being spontaneous and/or from expressing their innovative ideas in case they too are criticized. Therefore, people will try to confine themselves to “quality” and “conservative” ideas, which are usually limiting and hollow.
Common Brainstorming Mistakes
- Attempting to structure the brainstorming process at the outset, especially while ideas are being generated. Organizing and editing can be dealt with later since this can be distracting and hinder spontaneity.
- Trying to analyze ideas as they are generated i.e. being too hasty in ignoring and/or criticizing potentially good ideas if they immediately seem inappropriate.
- Abandoning the process early on when one or a few good ideas emerge. This is akin to robbing yourself, since if a few great ideas crop up straightaway, there will probably be plenty more if you persevere.
- Attempting to generate new and original ideas from afresh. The brainstorming process hinges more on quantity so it is best to leave quality until later. It is certainly possible to turn a poor or average idea into a good one while it is very difficult to freshly generate such ideas without preparation and a degree of creativity.