The Brainstorming Process in Creative Writing


I love the process of coming up with ideas.  To me, its like a big party in my head.  If you’ve ever read P.D. Eastman’s, Go, Dog. Go!  you’ll know what I mean.  Just replace the word, “dogs” with “ideas” — Big ideas, little ideas, red ideas, green ideas–well, you get the point.

For many people the brainstorming process takes them way outside their comfort zone.  They are used to going into business meetings to “brainstorm,” but then sit in the same seats they always sit in, use structure fed to them by the management team, and run with ideas presented by someone else.  They might start to say something, but more often than not, an idea not fully formed and researched is judged and shot down. Pretty soon, the room falls silent except for the droning of a bigwig’s voice.  I’m sorry, but that is NOT a brainstorming process that works for me.

Brainstorming process on paper

Brainstorming is messy…and fun!

That’s why I like creative writing.  Each day, the idea is to come up with as many new notions on your subject as possible.  Big notions like, “What if my character, who wants to be a writer, has to overcome dyslexia to do so?” Or small notions like, “what is my character’s favorite snack?” Every day the brainstorm process has you asking questions that are both silly and insightful.  You play in your journal instead of always attempting to write like Shakespeare.

PREPARING FOR YOUR BRAINSTORM PROCESS

One of the biggest keys to brainstorming success, I have found, is to feed your brain lots of new experiences every day before asking it to come up with something “brilliant.”  Some ways to do this include:

  • Reading — right now I have four books I’m reading, and a stack more to charge into when I’m done.  Have you joined Goodreads?  Great, fun site for readers.
  • Watching movies and television — My mom used to yell at us for sitting in front of the “boob-tube”but as she received a new television for several birthdays and Christmases in a row, I think we can ignore her concerns, at least a little bit.  Personally, I love watching the talking heads on MSNBC, then, of course, mystery shows like NCIS, Psych and old reruns of Monk or Murder, She Wrote.
  • Get out of the house — as a person who works from home, this is a very difficult thing to do, but I go to ballroom dance a couple of times a week, and take Prophet to Chatfield State Park daily, where I hear stories of other people’s lives and enjoy the interpretations and antics of lots of dogs and dog owners.  It’s amazing how this can stimulate new thinking.
  • Have conversations — Here again, do it often, but listen with a writer’s attitude.  If someone complains about their heater malfunctioning, and the landlord won’t fix it, there is instant conflict and story ideas can jump off from there.
  • Go onto the Social Media sites and browse around — People are so open with their lives and passions, there is no excuse for an unproductive brainstorm session.  As writers, our main job is to reveal the human condition.  We are indeed living in a lucky time to witness this.

THE BRAINSTORM SESSION

After feeding your brain, and letting your experiences stew for a while, ask your creative side to perform.  Write a question at the top or in the middle of a paper or white board.  Then scribble  all the answers that pop into your head on that paper.  Don’t worry if it’s a good or bad idea–the goal is volume.  Set a timer so you don’t end with a petering off, but with the timer stopping you.  That way you’ll have the thought that “I could have gone on for hours more” instead of “Gee, I don’t have so many ideas.  Maybe I’m not creative enough.”

EVALUATE AND GO!

With the ideas all out on paper, you can scratch off what my old college professor called “moose poop” — things that were good in the moment, but don’t really work anymore. Usually what’s left when this weeding out process is done, are a bunch of solid ideas, and a few surprises.

When an idea surprises a laugh out of me, I know it’s usually quite good.  Something worth building on.  I might even do a second brainstorm session (usually no more than 5 minutes) on the subject.  Suddenly, I can hardly wait to hit my keyboard and put that new thought into play.  Watch out, Daisy.  You’re in for a new wild ride.  Heh, heh.

If you are a brainstorm loving person, what sort of processes do you use?  Can you share your thoughts here?

Happy writing, my friends, and thanks for visiting my site today.

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2 thoughts on “The Brainstorming Process in Creative Writing

  1. Thanks for this fun post, Liesa. I especially liked your professor’s term, “moose poop.” You really have to silence that inner editor, and be willing to throw a lot of silly ideas out there, to brainstorm properly. That’s when the brilliant ideas sneak in.

    • Hi Catherine, and welcome to my website. Thanks for your comment. I like the idea of sneaky brilliant ideas. And I’ll be excited to read your Alfred Hitchcock story. Tried to find it at my local Barnes & Noble, but that location didn’t carry it. I’ll try elsewhere.

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