Brainstorming days are so different from regular writing days. Not bad different, just different. The extra freedom and lack of boundaries feel liberating and scary at the same time. I spend brainstorming days dreaming, jumping from one "what if" to another, knowing nothing is too outlandish to consider.
In my desk, I keep a plastic zipper bag full of little scraps of paper. They're ideas I've jotted down over the last few months--the ideas that hit me whenever, wherever. They are the "maybe I'll use this someday" thoughts that I scrawled on anything handy. I have observations, funny lines, descriptions of outfits--all sorts of things. Brainstorming is the perfect time to pull them out and see if they spark anything.
The uncomfortable part of brainstorming is that it produces nothing tangible. No pages are being written and there is no chapter for my critique group. Still, I look forward to meeting with my group--and it isn't just because of the tea and baked goods. I'm eager to discuss what I've come up with. There's something about just saying the words out loud to my own little team of people that helps me sort the good ideas from the bad. Then comes the very straightforward feedback, and certain ideas float to the top as we all brainstorm together. It's critique group magic: the back and forth, the outpouring of ideas, the energy in the room--especially when it all leads to something that snags both my heart and mind, turning on that inner light.
When I play with what hooked me, tweaking it and shaping it, and it begins to feel alive and like it is my very special story to tell--a story that must be told--I know I've struck gold.
Do you have any favorite brainstorming techniques?