Sometimes ideas come easily with no effort. Most times, they don’t. That’s when you have to sit down and brainstorm ideas. The internet has a lot of information on brainstorming. There are a number of techniques out there. One of the hardest things about brainstorming is disengaging judgment. You have to generate ideas without regard of how good they are. You generate the idea and judge it later. This is the hardest part of brainstorming. You are trying for the maximum number of ideas, not quality. It’s important to remember that.
I use free writing a lot. I just sit down and write. I don’t worry about whether what I’m writing is good. I just write whatever comes to mind. That’s the technique. Sometimes you strike gold, more often you are shoveling manure. Don’t worry about the manure. Often something good will grow out of the manure you produce in the free writing session.
One technique include taking a word and writing down all the words you associate with the original word, then take one of the words you wrote down in response to the first word and then write down the words you associate with that one. Repeat as many times as you need. This is basically just word association. It can spark ideas. The more ideas you can come up with, the better. You can judge them later.
Another technique is mind mapping. I use the software called Scapple, which is put out by the same people who give us Scrivener. There are phone apps that you can use for it as well. However, you don’t need software for it. You can use a pen or pencil and paper. Just write down an idea and then branch ideas off that original idea and branch those off into other ideas. It can work well for you.
Brainstorming is a method of generating ideas, good and bad. Ignore that when generating the idea, you can judge them later. You need to generate a large number ideas before you judge the worthiness of each of them. Your purpose in brainstorming is to generate ideas not judge them. That’s the second part of the process of generating ideas.
Often it is useful to put a limit on the time you are brainstorming. Timed writing works for me too. I set a timer and start writing. It’s a variation of free writing. That works for me. It’s also good to put a limit on the number of ideas to generate. Make it a high one. Say you want a good writing project topic, set a timer and say you want to generate twenty ideas for the topic. Then get to work writing words that come to mind. I’m not talking about sentences, just words. When the timer rings, see how well you did in generating words.
Do not, under any circumstances, judge your ideas as you come up with them during the brainstorming session. Wait until after the session to even look at them. Then and only then, do you examine the idea and evaluate it.
Brainstorming is a two-part activity. First you generate the ideas and then you evaluate them. It can’t be done in one step. So the next time you are brainstorming, remember don’t judge until after you have finished coming up with ideas. Sometimes the worst sounding idea is the best one.