5 classic brainstorming techniques to help you get an idea off the ground

It’s a Mexican standoff between you and a blank page. Without breaking eye contact, you wipe a bead of sweat from your brow with the back of your hand. Sometimes the hardest part of the writing process is getting started, so here are five classic brainstorming techniques to add to your arsenal against writer’s block.

1. Mind Mapping 

Also known as clustering or webbing. Start with a central thought, idea, or word in the center of a page. Circle it. From there write any surrounding or related ideas and subcategories. Circle those. Draw lines connecting them to the center bubble. Continue branching off of each bubble until you fill the page or run out of steam.


2. Free Writing

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Put a pen to paper. Hit start. Write the first thing that comes to mind. Let your thoughts stream onto the page. Don’t worry about what it looks like yet. When the timer goes off, go back through and search for any pieces of value.


3. Making Shapes or Charts.

T-charts can help in comparing two things. Triangles can help us see connections. Cubes can help us see many sides to one topic. Personally, I like to make Venn diagrams. I take two seemingly unrelated things (like jellyfish and pencils) and think of all the things they could have in common, or all of the ways they could intersect.


4. Changing Perspectives.

 If writer’s block is making you feel trapped inside your own head, imagine you’re not you. Imagine being anyone else, anywhere else in the world. Would you have a problem to solve, a need to be filled, or a story to tell?


5. 5W’s and 1H. 

The journalist’s best friends. Who, what, where, when, why, and how. Attempt to answer one of these, and fill in the rest as you go.

You can even combine different strategies to help you work and rework ideas. For instance, you can start with a “WHO” in the center of a mind map, and answer the rest of the questions in the surrounding bubbles. Keep branching off of each circle and the next thing you know, you have a fully-developed character in front of you!

By tvoutiritsas

I’m a writer. I live for fresh, creative, relevant, human-centric content. I currently work at Andrews McMeel Universal, where I write content for digital products. I’m also a co-creator of The Semi-prose project, an incubator and archive of creative writing. On the side, I review manuscripts for authors and screenwriters, and I run a personal blog for my own sanity. In a past life, I worked as a writing consultant and an editorial assistant at New Letters Magazine and The American Educational History Journal. I graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a B.A. in English Language and Rhetoric, and a minor in Manuscript, Print Culture, and Editing. I know that’s a mouthful. In short, I’m an unapologetic word nerd.

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