Stormy with a Chance of Ideas

brainstormingNervously tapping my pencil against the edge of the desk, I anxiously glanced around the library. Everyone else seemed so focused, so confident, so productive. Sighing, I mustered up all the leftover brainpower provided from my morning cup of Joe, and decisively read through the essay prompt again. Unfortunately, the third attempt also ended in failure. Even after several efforts to brainstorm ideas, my mind seemed as empty as a swimming pool in the Sahara. Accusatory thoughts of comparison began to torment me, leading to feelings of fear and incapability. Believing the lies, I wallowed in self-pity and began to give up hope that a convincing point could ever be made about the overwhelming topic.

Have you ever felt this way?

If so, you are not alone! Even for the most experienced writers, beginning a paper and creating a thesis can be tricky and occasionally daunting. But don’t despair! There are several brainstorming techniques that writers can use to help expedite the thinking process.

Mapping is the first method that I would suggest when generating thoughts about a topic. To begin mapping, write the assigned topic at the top of a sheet of paper. Next, list any words or ideas that come to mind when thinking about the topic. Lastly, circle anything in the list that seems intriguing or could possibly serve as a point in the thesis statement.

Although mapping can be very helpful, I personally prefer to free write when brainstorming. As the name suggests, the free writing strategy consists of spontaneously writing anything that comes to mind about a specific topic. Writers are encouraged to let their thoughts wander and to explore any tangents that may result, even if the tangent seems unrelated to the topic. Although this strategy can be performed with a paper and pen, I personally prefer to type out my thoughts on Microsoft Word. When I finally begin writing my paper, the free writing strategy allows me to explore different perspectives about the topic, and I often discover creative ideas as a result of the spontaneity.

Though these brainstorming methods seem basic, they are, in fact, quite valuable! Often a little listing or spontaneous writing is just what one needs to jumpstart ideas.

Written by Leah

For more information on brainstorming and other writing topics, check out our Brainstorming Techniques handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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