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Words of Wisdom

Don't be afraid to write badly, everybody does.

— Frank Conroy


Coming up with ideas can be the most frustrating part of the writing process, but you can always get better with a little bit of practice! Here are a few brainstorming strategies that you can use to  help you out when you’re feeling stuck.

The goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible-both good and bad, then decide which are the strongest and most effective for your purposes

One technique you might want to try is freewriting: for this method, set a timer for five or ten minutes and write about anything that comes to mind. Write without any interruptions or self-editing. Don’t worry about the clarity of your ideas, spelling or grammar. Just keep writing! If you get stuck, try writing the same word over and over again until you think of something else to say.

When the time is up, put the pencil down and look over what you have written. A lot of it may be unusable, but you might discover important insights and    ideas.

Another method is called clustering: if you’re more of a visual learner, this could really help you.

Start by writing your topic in the middle of a blank piece of paper and circle it. Next, in a ring around your topic circle, write the main sub-topics and draw lines connecting them back to the main topic. If you think of more details, examples, or facts related to the subtopics, write them near the appropriate topic and connect them back to each subtopic. Do this in whatever layout makes sense to you

The third brainstorming strategy is journaling: the more you write the easier it gets, and the more ideas you could generate! Keeping a journal regularly will help you develop the ability to come up with lots of ideas. You can journal about something related to your research, or you can write about whatever interests you, even if it is completely unrelated to your topic. If you don’t know where to start, try one of these topics:

-record your reactions to something you’ve seen or read -

did something stand out to you in a lecture or conversation with a friend? What about a recent book you read?

-ask questions and answer them -

somewhat like a reporter! Ask who, what, when, where, how, and why.

-describe people, places and things -

look at your surroundings and write about something or someone around you, seriously anything you see.

-examine the things you hate or love -

Journaling gives us the opportunity to write about anything and everything

Now, if you’ve tried all of these strategies and still feel stuck, you may need to do a little more research to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the topic. Maybe you missed one detail that could really get your writing going!

Or maybe you just need a break! Many writers find ideas come to them more easily when they step away from their work for a bit. Try chatting with a friend. You never know, they might say something that sparks your creativity!

Or start doodling, draw out your ideas to help you define what you want to write about, without stressing on how to say it. Just let loose a little!

Remember your brainstorming doesn’t have to produce perfect ideas. Just start writing and see where it takes you! Try out these techniques and see which one sparks your own creativity.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

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