What's Your Brainstorm Forecast?
Light showers? Chance of thunder? Flash flood warning? There's a reason it's called brain-storming.
Do you like storms? I love them, especially in the summer when they come on quickly, with lots of thunder, lightning, and rain! As a writer, I find that my brainstorming often unfolds like a summer storm. Flashes of lightning-- inspiration. The rolling thunder-- my own exclamations of joy at that inspiration.
The pouring rain and likely flash flood-- a deluge of unstoppable ideas. Then, once the storm is over, I move through to clean up, salvaging what I like and discarding what I don’t.
There’s a reason it’s called brain-storming.
While everyone’s brainstorming is certainly going to look different, I thought I’d share with you a few things I’ve learned from my most productive experiences.
The number one thing you need to remember when you’re cranking out those ideas, whether it’s plotting the entire novel or just wading through a trouble spot, is:
1. No idea is a bad idea.
This is a time to shut down your inner editor/critic and let the inspiration flow like water from heaven. Your storm will create lots of little rivers, some of them fraught with dangerous rapids and plot twists at every corner, others more subtle, soothing and relaxing. Either way, this is not a time to hold back anything. Even if you don't use an idea you storm up now, you might use it later!
Because of the very nature of a storm...tip number two is:
2. Carry a notebook.
It’s always beneficial to carry a small notebook, or keep the Notes app on your phone handy. You never know when those storms come on! Whether you're intentionally brainstorming for a project, or that lady in line at Wal-Mart gives you a sudden and crazy idea for a character...you always want to be prepared for those storms. Think of your notebook as your umbrella.
As an auditory learner, I discovered that my best brainstorming came when I was talking out loud to Marit. I threw out any and every idea that popped into my head and we would pursue those that interested us. We did this for each other, even on books we weren’t co-writing, and it was immensely helpful! I found that brainstorming on my own was much less productive than when I could bounce ideas off of Marit.
This leads to tip number three. Even if you don’t have a co-writer, I’d encourage you to:
3. Brainstorm with a friend.
Do this whether they're a writer or not. Otherwise, you might come away having been the only one to see the beauty of that storm...and you might forget some of the details!
Oftentimes, Marit wouldn’t even say anything and instead would stand on the sidelines under the protection of a sunset-colored umbrella, sipping tea, eating a bar of dark chocolate, and grinning at my enthusiasm. While she did so, I would solve my own internal inconsistencies and play in the rain of my inspiration for a little while before wringing out what I didn’t want and noting the things that I did.
Having someone else there keeps you accountable, motivates you to continue scrounging for ideas, and prevents you from banging your head against the wall and not getting anything done (not that I know from experience or anything).
Perhaps you’re a visual learner, and you’ll best remember that stream of ideas by writing them down or making sketches. Whatever the case, I’ve found the most productive brainstorming is with a friend.
So there you have it, three simple tips to help keep track of your brainstorming. Have fun playing in the rain, be prepared for a storm at any time, and enjoy doing it with a friend.
Comment below with your own brainstorming tips and tricks! What does your brainstorm forecast look like?