Step 3 – Brainstorm
Brainstorming is the technique of quickly and spontaneously creating ideas through imaginative thinking. It is an important prewriting step. It complements the previously discussed activities of identifying your readership, determining your purpose, and doing research. Brainstorming helps link existing pieces of information to your theme and reveals additional insight. This uninhibited thinking helps you mold your thoughts into a full message.
“In writing, there is first a creating stage—a time you look for ideas, you explore, you cast around for what you want to say. Like the first phase of building, this creating stage is full of possibilities.” attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. (photo credit)
You can brainstorm alone or in a group of people. It depends upon the assignment and your circumstances.
Brainstorming works best if it is fast-paced and the participants work without criticizing one another.
Speed is vital. Set a short time target—say, 5-15 minutes. Work quickly.
Speak whatever comes to your mind. Rapidly capture each idea. Then jump to the next thought. Let the process gallop.
If ideas do not gush forth, keep working until the end of your time limit. Generally, restricting the time and using short bursts of effort will spur creativity. If it does not, consider recycling back to steps 1 and 2 or brainstorm with your sponsor or a colleague.
When done, clarify your notes.
Whether working alone or in a group, accept everything that comes. Do not judge. Embrace diverse and unusual thoughts. Let inspiration flow from the complete spectrum of possibilities. Invite novel, crazy, and whimsical notions.
Before you start brainstorming with other people, make it clear to the participants that their contributions will be valued. Establish rules that the participants will not hinder the contributions of others nor judge one another’s comments.
Not all ideas will be gems. Nevertheless, capture what might be considered dross as well as precious nuggets. Keep everything—even notions that seem unconnected or inconsequential. Later, you can judge how well the ideas support your thesis. For now, get everything down on paper or captured electronically.