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Coming up with ideas can be really hard, but that’s why brainstorming (which leads to outlining) is so important. Brainstorming lets your mind sift through all your thoughts and put them on paper. Whether it’s through a mind map, free writing, or another type, this process can help you formulate what you want to write about and some ideas to start the outlining stage. Although brainstorming might seem hard, it’s actually pretty easy and can be really fun! There are many ways to brainstorm, so it’s important to find the way that works best for you.

The two most common brainstorming ways are:

  • Mind mapping/Thought webbing
    • This is where you start with a central idea and let the thoughts/ideas get mapped onto the paper
  • Free writing
    • This is where you sit down (generally for a limited amount of time- 5-20 minutes) and just write things down, even if it’s just “I can’t think of anything” to get your brain working.

There are many other ways to brainstorm as well, but again it’s all about preference and what works best for you. These two articles have more ideas on the matter of brainstorming.

If you have major writer’s block, this website might help you find a way out. My two favorites were opening a dictionary to a random page and looking at the words to see which might go with your topic and make you think about why. The other is when it says that no word should be self-explanatory. Although words are used to communicate, they aren’t always straightforward and sometimes they need the extra clarification in a sentence. It can be fun and interesting to define a word to its different meanings and then connect those to other words that have to do with your topic.

Although this article is about team brainstorming, it brings up good things to think about when you are brainstorming personally. Asking questions like: “What would make this paper stink?” and then try to make it everything but what’s on that list. Also asking yourself questions like: “Yes, and?” to make you think about where your idea is going, but make sure to give your ideas a good time first, even if it seems silly. If it’s really not going anywhere skip to a different idea. Don’t be afraid to ask for others opinions, sometimes the best ideas can come from a group instead of just an individual. Finally, Make sure you take breaks and get lots of oxygen to that wonderful brain!

Finally, brainstorming isn’t about perfection, it’s about ideas. Don’t just throw something away because you think it’s silly or it won’t work. If you play around with the idea, sometimes they turn into something you can use. Even if they don’t, the idea is still getting your brain in the mental “zone” that it needs to be in to come up with more ideas. This is the generating stage, so no editing yet!

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