Brainstorming is the process we use to come up with ideas. We can then use those ideas to write about or to come up with the solutions to problems. You can do it in teams or solo. That’s what’s nice about it. I’m going to discuss brainstorming in relation to writing. A brainstorm can sweep an idea into your head or sweep a multitude of ideas out of it, leaving a few to choose from. Sometimes, that’s all we need. Either way, you will get some ideas.
One of the easiest methods is free writing. I’ve talked about this before. You set a timer for fifteen or twenty minutes and write whatever comes into you head. This can be quite effective for coming up with ideas for stories or even scenes. You might find a lot of good ideas; you might get a lot of bad ones. The point is you won’t know what you will get until that timer goes off.
Another good way to generate ideas is to take a word and write down everything you can think of about that word. Or do a word association something like, “bullet, gun, rifle, shoot, basketball,” and so on. Going back to our single word. Describe the word. Compare it to another word. Use it in a sentence. Debate it by arguing for or against it. Pick a word out of the dictionary or any book and apply this technique. You may find the process suggests a character or a plot.
Mind maps are another way to pluck ideas from the ether. Sit with your eyes closed, a pen or pencil in your hand and a pad of paper in front of you. Write down the first word that comes to mind. Open your eyes and draw the shape of your choice around the word. It doesn’t matter if you use a circle, square, or triangle. Read the word. Read it aloud. Write down a related word and draw your symbol around. Connect the two words with a line. Read them together. Do they make a sentence? Write down another related word and repeat the process. Do the same for each of the words you have listed. Somewhere in the mix you will find an idea. It might be the seed of an idea, but it will be there. You only have to find it.
If you are stuck with no options, try freewriting a list of words. Set your timer for ten or fifteen minutes and write a list of words as they come to your mind. After the timer goes off, read the list and separate the nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. See if you can make sentences from the various lists you get from step two. You can set a timer for this part as well, if you want. Try to use each word once. You may find yourself composing a story.
Google brainstorming and read some of the articles you find online and try a few of those if these don’t work. You will get an idea. I’m sure of that. How good that idea is, will depend on what you do with it. That is up to you. Sometimes all you can do is write junk until you get something good.