Brainstorming (A Most Important Storm)

We stare at the computer screen or blank page, and we do not know how to start or what to say.  Perhaps we sigh and want to do anything other than stare at a blank notebook page or empty computer screen. This problem is so common it has a name: writer’s block. Fortunately, the solution has a great name too: brainstorm!

First, remember two basic facts:

  • You have erasers and delete buttons. Anything you write can be removed or changed.
  • Writing is a process. We teach this fact over and over to our students. Writing, re-thinking, erasing, revising, rewriting—that’s all part of the normal writing process.

For now, let’s just focus on brainstorming. Knowing that you will make mistakes, choose the wrong words, scribble down an awkward phrase, type a vague idea—knowing all this is freedom! Erase or delete, change words and ideas, feel free to follow a thought and know even if it crashes or hits a dead end, it doesn’t matter. You can change it, and that means you were never stuck in the first place.

The trick is to start writing. You can think all day and night but that won’t put any words on the page. You can think until you believe you have the perfect sentence, then write that down, and then realize an hour has passed and you don’t have another idea for what you are writing. That’s not helpful.

Just start writing. Write anything. Any idea that floats or screams in your brain is fine to write down. Keep going. Forget punctuation and capitalization if you want to and focus on the words and ideas. Don’t stop. At least, don’t stop too soon. The point is to generate material on the page. In five minutes, you can have half a page or even a whole page. Maybe there’s only one good thought in that mess, but you did that in five minutes instead of staring at white space for hours. Take that good idea, put it at the top of the page, and start writing again. Do it again. Keep going. Let those good ideas out!

We will have more to say about brainstorming in the future, but this is what you need to know to get started. Never suffer writer’s block again. Now, start writing!


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