Monday, June 6, 2011

Storming your Brain

We give you topics twice a week.

We ask you to think outside the box.

And then we ask you to come back and link up what you have pulled out of your ear wonderfully crafted.

For some people, the process between prompt and link up is natural and somewhat easy...or at least routine.

For others, they have yet to link up because it seems like some of the writers here are effortlessly turning a prompt into gold.  They are intimidated because when they see the prompts?  They stare blankly at the screen.

Our internal dialogues go something like this....

"Oooo!  That's a good prompt this week!"

"I am totally doing it!"

"I bet I can come up with something great!"

"Shit.  I've got nothing."

"Damn. How does everyone come up with such great stuff?"

"I am just not a good writer."

I hear it all the time:  I would love to link up, but I am so intimidated.

People?  For most of us?  Each and every prompt is intimidating.  Yes, even for Nichole, Cheryl, and me.  We don't pick the prompts because we have something in mind for them, but because they will be a challenge to everyone.

Even us.

That means all of us....the writers you read that you feel can do this writing thing with their eyes closed, AND the people who are on twitter (me included) lamenting their struggles with another prompt...ALL of us have to brainstorm.

Some of us are just more natural with our brainstorming than others.

There is no "right" way to brainstorm; we all have to find a way that is successful for us.  A way that fits with who we are and what our life is like.

When I teach writing to high school and college students, we try LOTS of different ways of brainstorming. After a few weeks, I give students the option to choose the method they feel bet suits them.

I thought today I would share some of the methods I teach in hopes that if you struggle with finding ideas, maybe one of these would work for you.

Listing:  This is what I do when I am brainstorming for Sluiter Nation.  I have a notebook devoted to listing ideas of what to write about.

Once my lists get sort of out of control, I start to make categories for my lists.

For instance, I have a page of ideas of Eddie posts.  I have one of Motherhood posts.  I also have one for PPD posts.

Writing lists is more helpful to me for long-term brainstorming.  When I am on a tight schedule for a TRDC prompt or a guest post, I do mental listing of just 3-5 ideas.  Then I move on to the next brainstorming method.

Post it notes. F. Scott Fitzgerald was famous for writing his story ideas and plot lines on paper and pinning them to the wall in his writing space.  He would obsess over wording and sentence structure and move things around.  He was "cutting and pasting" before it was a thing.

I do this with post it notes for my TRDC posts.  I write my ideas on post its and then list ways I could expand that under each post it.  The idea with the most post its...or with the best post its...wins.

Mapping or Webbing. This is one my high school students choose a lot.  The idea is to write the main idea in the middle and then add sub-ideas around it with details around those.  Sometimes this leads to an idea change.

If you are making a big web and you realize one of your sub ideas (or stories) is better than your original idea, you can go with that.

I have used this for TRDC prompts too.  I'll put the prompt in the middle and web off from that with my ideas.  The idea is to put everything you think of no matter how useless or dumb you think it is because it might lead you to make a connection and come up with something you otherwise wouldn't have thought of using.  This is how I come up with my most obscure takes on prompts.    My most "outside the box" ideas.

How do you brainstorm ideas for prompts?  What helps your think of fresh ideas?

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