Timed writing is not just for exercise. It can help you brainstorm as well. The principle is the same whether you are free writing or brainstorming. You just set a timer and jot down ideas as they come to you. Done correctly, you will have a good foundation of ideas to try for any project, writing or not. I don’t know why it works for me, but it does seem to. Having that immediate deadline spurs my thoughts. Of course, there are limits. Sometimes you might not produce anything worthwhile – that’s ok. if that happens, just relax. Free write a paragraph and then try another timed session.
Varying the length of time can help as well. Start with five minutes and increase by five minutes up to a half hour. Anything longer loses the edge of the immediacy. You don’t want to dull the edge, just set a time limit to come up with ideas that doesn’t let you judge the ideas. Create a numbered list with room for ten items, or more if you choose. It’s all up to you. Set the timer to a time that will allow you time to write your list and try to get ten items listed before the timer goes off. At least one of those ten items you list will turn out to be the answer you are looking for, whether you are trying to come up with topics for writing or brainstorming the answer to a problem. The trick is not to give yourself time to judge your responses.
Getting the right answer or the perfect topic is not the point here. The point is that you need options and you need to generate them. That’s all there is to it. Your first option is not always your best option. Neither is the second. Sometimes it is the last option that you write down, or an option in the middle. Generate the ideas first and then judge them. That’s what the timer does for you. It takes away the judgment time. Sometimes an idea may seem too crazy or out-there to work, but that crazy, out-there idea, may be the perfect fit for your writing needs or problem.
Timed writing or brainstorming is a way to access your unconscious mind which is always working. That’s why sleeping on a problem works. Your unconscious mind will process the issue and provide an answer. So get a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil, or sit down at your computer. Set a timer. Start writing. You will be amazed at what you come up with.