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The Truth About Brainstorming

DISCLAIMER: What I write below is my personal insight on the art of brainstorming. You may find this piece to edge on blasphemy against writing.

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The B-word of writing. Brainstorming.

If my schooling has taught me anything, it is that of all the steps of writing, brainstorming is the most crucial. Inside that imagination of yours, characters come in and out of existence, plots are created and destroyed, ideas are thrown high up and shot down as quickly, all before they reach the judgement of black ink on a white page.

In more technical terms, brainstorming is the creation and testing of ideas before they are written. Needless to say, we all know that. Behind this objective (whatever that means) definition, there is also a hidden connotation.

What is the first thing that pops in your head when you hear or read the word brainstorming?

You may have imagined someone hunched over their desk in a sunlit room, scribbling on a paper idea after idea, plot twist after plot hole, and outline after outline. However, you may have been more likely to think of someone facing a blank sheet of paper (or computer screen), their eyes squeezed in an effort to milk out whatever pops in their head. This is what brainstorming really is, right?

But what if it isn’t?

Personally, and please be sure to read the disclaimer, whenever I am given a sheet of paper and told to write, I feel my mind turn into literal tabula rasa. The only times I have tried so was during examinations, and those pieces are my least favorite and I would gladly give them up at the nearest opportunity. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I began writing it all down, only to tear the paper in half after no more than two sentences and proceed to stare at the ceiling for no less than twenty minutes.

Instead, the best pieces of writing are those that are written when the mind is free to roam, without the pressure of an impatient sheet waiting to be filled. In fact, the vast majority of brainstorming should be done during your daily routine.

So much of our mind power is simply wasted during said routine. Think of, for example, preparing breakfast. Whether it is making yourself a bowl of cereal or scrambling some eggs, after a certain number of times, you no longer need to actively think about doing it. Your body is on, what they call, autopilot.

At such a state, your mind is free to be harnessed for anything you would like! You can now use that time to think of the hook sentence or the title of your draft, without the glare of the screen freezing your mind. That is when the real brainstorming comes in.

These moments do accumulate, from getting on the metro to crossing the street. Sometimes, entire pieces are formed before I even pick up my pencil or begin hammering on the keyboard. When you finally begin writing, the ideas are there, which is probably the most beautiful stage. A piece that may have taken you hours and a fair share of burnout ends up taking an hour, or even less.


Because you made your brain storm when it was going to wander away.

Of course, this might all be me rambling about, but perhaps there is some truth, and hopefully some sort of benefit, behind the notion that the mind thinks best when it is free of the terrifying Blankness that is all too familiar to writers.

The Truth About Brainstorming was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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