The blank page. Is there anything more intimidating? The way the cursor blinks at you. Mocking you, even. Your deadline inches closer. Beads of sweat begin to gather at your brow. The abyss of icy white blankness stares back.
Every writer has experienced this moment. What am I even going to write about? How can I approach my topic in a fresh, engaging way? Where is the story here?
The best way to bust out of the blank-page prison is through brainstorming. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned during my writing career that can take your brainstorming to the next level. If you’re ready to generate more ideas, with unique and compelling perspectives, and produce innovative, boundary-pushing work, give these a try.
Real Pen. Real Paper. Real Momentum.
Brainstorming works best without a great deal of background noise. It’s easier to concentrate when there aren’t too many (literal or figurative) tabs open to distract you. I find the quickest path into the brainstorm zone is by closing my laptop and pulling out a good old fashioned sheet of paper. I write my topic in the center of the page, and give it a great big circle. The journey begins.
Roll Out the Welcome Mat for Awful Ideas
Anything that pops into my head gets written in the space around my topic circle. From single descriptive words, to associated people, books or films, from questions I have to only tangentially-related themes – it all gets written down. Related ideas can easily be connected with lines.
I’ll be the first to tell you: some of those ideas are pure, unmitigated garbage. They’re terrible, and that’s okay. Don’t try to refine at this phase. Just put down every single thing that pops up.
Isn’t it a waste of time to write down bad ideas? Nope. Here’s why. First, you can acknowledge them, and get them out of the way. This makes mental space for your next idea, which might be a great one! Alternatively, the terrible idea could possibly trigger another idea, or constellation of ideas, that are very good. At worst, it’s a waste of one millionth of one pen, and a few flexes of your finger muscles. At best, it’s a hidden gem of inspiration.
Get Colorful. Literally.
I find that using color can help me categorize ideas, build bridges between concepts, and keep my creative energy moving. I do almost all of my brainstorming using these pens for exactly that reason. (Note: I’m not refining or self-editing, just putting things into categories. For instance, descriptive words might be purple, whereas questions are in green. I don’t have a strict system here, but it can help separate ideas a little.)
Ask All the Questions
Generating questions about a topic can be helpful in uncovering fresh angles or interesting starting points. Embrace the ridiculous questions. The basic ones. The ones you already know the answer to. The complicated ones, the bizarre ones, and the unexpected ones. This can open doors to innovative perspectives! It allows you to step outside of what you already know – or think you do – to look at a topic through another lens.
Mix Up Your Location
Take your pen and paper, and go sit somewhere else. Sometimes a little shift physically can make a big change mentally. Better yet, go for a walk and stuff a notebook in your pocket. There’s a boatload of scientific data that proves how moving our bodies can help our brains regulate, create, and stay happy.
Delegate to A Professional
All of our content relies on ideas: blog posts, marketing emails, social media posts, newsletters, case studies, articles, and more. If idea generation is a process you dread, it can be immensely helpful to bring in professional help. Creating and refining a list of topic ideas for your content can be time consuming and tough!
A professional writer can make it painless. Imagine instead of poring over your list for hours, you can have a dozen (or more!) ideas delivered right to your inbox, just waiting for your approval. With your go-ahead, a writer can turn those ideas into engaging, innovative content.
And you can use your precious time to focus on what you do best – run your business.