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Monday

Brainstorming

While at the ACFW Conference, I attended Rachel Hauck's workshops on brainstorming, and learned so much. For me, brainstorming is very difficult because I am such a perfectionist. I have an easier time writing seat-of-the-pants because it feels like less pressure. When I write an outline beforehand, I feel nervous and almost panicky as the editing side of my brain and the creative side try to work together at once. I'm actually even in the process of doing this right now, and it's making me crazy! Can you relate?

Today I want to share several things Rachel said that stood out to me because they're so helpful in overcoming these problems.



1) Brainstorming in groups can be a great exercise. I'd never thought about this before! Sure, I've talked to my husband, mom, friends, etc. about my books, but I've never sat down to chat strictly for the purpose of brainstorming. Rachel recommended even considering finding a brainstorming buddy, like a critique partner, who can know your story inside and out and really help you craft the essential elements of it. If you meet in person, have someone keep track of time so you can be sure you get to everyone's projects.

2) Keep asking "why." On the plane flight home from ACFW, I practiced this... and boy, it really works! Brainstorming often feels overwhelming to me because I'll just have snipbits of ideas I'm trying to piece together into something coherent. Asking"why" helps deepen these snipbits and connect them. For instance, maybe all you know about a character is that she's scared of stairs. Well, why? Maybe because when she was a kid, she tripped and fell down them. Why does that matter? Maybe she cracked her two front teeth and the other kids made fun of her. Why does that matter? Maybe she still has self-confidence issues today. That's a really quirky example for the sake of illustration, but it really is amazing how your brain will fill in the specifics if you keep digging deeper.

3) Turn off your inner editor. This is the thing I most struggle with when brainstorming. Every time I come up with an idea, part of me says, "That doesn't work with the rest of your story," or "That's ridiculous. No one will believe that." But I loved that Rachel said during her workshop. Imagine if Tolkein had sat down to write Lord of the Rings and thought to himself, "I think I'll invent a place called Middle Earth and invent a fictional language for its inhabitants... no, on second thought, that would never work." How often do we stifle brilliant ideas because they are only in the beginning stages? Rachel said you should never give up an idea until you've considered it from every angle. You may find a way to make it work.

What do you think? Do you enjoy brainstorming? What tricks do you have to make the process effective?

10 comments:

  1. I attended Rachel's brainstorming workshop too.
    I love brainstorming with other writers because it stretches me past what I think into the realms of what others think. My story is often better for it . One of the best things I learned early on about brainstorming is that you shouldn't shut anyone down -- all suggestions are good suggestions. I heard the Disney Imagineers (tasked with creating all that wonderful stuff we see at Disneyland and Disneyworld) keep this rule when they are brainstorming. If someone criticizes and idea, they have to toss a dollar in a bowl set in the middle of the table. My nonfiction group took up that idea -- and it was a great way to remember not to be negative about possibilities.

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    1. Beth, I love that idea!!! Refraining from criticism is one of the hardest parts of the process for me because while I'm creative, I'm such an editor at heart, and I struggle to silence that negativity. What a neat idea! Those Disney folks, always coming up with great stuff. ;) Thanks for stopping by today!

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  2. I have the HARDEST time turning off my internal editor, whether I'm brainstorming or drafting my ms. I've got that perfectionist thing going on too, though...

    Great ideas and thoughts! Thanks for the recap of what Rachel said.

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    1. Isn't it so tough to do? I love Beth's idea about putting dollars in a bowl each time you have a negative thought. Rachel's workshop was great... she went into a lot more depth than I did here... I would definitely recommend the cd's! :)

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  3. Turning off your internal editor is hard, but it can be done! :)

    I enjoy brainstorming a lot, and I do it with my hubby or my daughter sometimes. A lot of the time I only have a very vague story outline, with characters who have occupations and then a happy ending. And I need to fill in the rest. Mostly we just back and forth with "what if" questions until we find scenarios that work.

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    1. Cindy, I think it's really cool that you love brainstorming so much! I have a love/hate relationship with it. I just get frustrated when I can't find the perfect storyline right off the bat. But I think your idea of asking "what if" questions sounds like a great way to spark creativity! Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I so wish I could have attended this session. I'm about to start brainstorming my next book, and I need help! These are great tips!

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    1. Thanks Julie! So glad they were helpful to you. I DID attend the session, and I feel like I need to attend it again! Ha! I missed half the first one because of appointments. I know MBT has some great brainstorming resources too. I got their 24 hour pass to see their exclusive content, and found some interesting articles. You may want to check that out as well. Have a good day! :)

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  5. Hey! Thanks Ashley! Glad to be of help! Now I have to use my own advice to start my own novel!

    Rachel

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    1. You should be thanking yourself for being brilliant. ;) I really did enjoy your workshop, Rachel, as always. Thanks for stopping by today!

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