Need new ideas for your blog or can’t figure out how to get your protagonist out of a bind? Don’t panic. Even the best writers get stuck sometimes, and when it happens, a good old-fashioned brainstorming session is often just what you need to clear the fog and unearth new ideas.
Here are a few brainstorming strategies you can try the next time you need a creative boost.
Try free writing
Free writing or blind writing is exactly what it sounds like; instead of worrying about getting the perfect words down on the page, you just start writing whatever comes to mind.
Don’t worry about whether it’s off-topic or makes perfect sense and don’t pause to edit or rewrite. The main point of this exercise is to let your thoughts flow freely. Setting some sort of goal, whether it’s 600 words, 10 minutes or X number of pages, can help you to push past the mental block and express what’s on your mind without over thinking it.
Use mind maps
Mind maps can help you to visualise and develop ideas that might otherwise be too vague to articulate. The idea is to take one central idea or concept and then link it to as many related items as you can. By the end of the exercise, you’ll have an in-depth collection of phrases, themes and other elements that can work together to help you build your story.
Although there are many ways to go about it, at its simplest, mind mapping is done by drawing a circle with the topic or idea in the centre of a blank page and then using lines to connect as many related items as possible to this circle.
This technique, known as starbursting, focuses primarily on generating questions. It’s especially useful if you already have an idea of what you want to write about, but aren’t sure how to execute it.
To use this technique, draw a six-pointed star on a blank piece of paper and write your idea or topic in the centre of it. Next, write down the six essential questions of journalism (who, what, where, when, why, and how) in each point.
Now you can start to come up with questions for each heading. For instance, if you have a particular topic in mind for a blog post, you could ask things like “Who will benefit from reading this post?” or “What do I hope to accomplish with writing it?”
Once you’ve written down as many questions as you can think of for each heading, you can set out to answer each one as best you can.
Do some research
We usually only think of carrying out research when we have a particular question or need to learn more about a topic we’re unfamiliar with, but even if you know your subject in and out, research can help you think in a new direction.
For fiction works, it can be helpful to read up on the culture, social structure and customs of the country or city where your story is set, while for non-fiction, simply refreshing your memory of certain events or people can shed some light on whatever it is you’re stuck with.
Aside from using search engines, the library can often be a good source of information and you’ll often unearth information there that isn’t readily available online.