Most of us prefer to keep our writing ideas close to our chest until we’ve spent a lot of quality time putting our thoughts on paper.
Even then, we may be hesitant to let other people see our work in case they say something we don’t feel comfortable with. Often we don’t show others our work until it’s nearing completion.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. If you feel you need to keep your ideas to yourself so they can grow in protected shelter, then that’s fine.
But each project is different. Sometimes there are ideas that dangle in front of us saying ‘write me one day’ but don’t grow any further. No matter how many different ways we look at the idea, we just can’t get a handle on the next step.
If you’ve got one of those ideas hidden away, why not try brainstorming with other writers or creatives?
Does It Actually Work?
I am writing this post minutes after witnessing brainstorming in action. My brother is a talented writer who has been focusing on crafting engaging loglines. Today, while my father and I were standing in the kitchen, he read out a logline he’d had tucked away for a while.
I’d heard the logline before and thought it was brilliant, but it was the first time my father had been exposed to the pitch. He latched on to the idea and started throwing out extra elements to weave into the concept.
It wasn’t long before all three of us were creating a complicated world in which this story could exist. Within half an hour we’d gone from logline to a basic outline complete with a surprise twist for the ending. The energy in the room was electric, as if ideas were drawn from the air to our creative static. We were three very excited people with three very happy Creativities.
My brother is now in the next room scribbling down all the stuff we talked about, finally able to do something with a logline he’s had for months.
Pros and Cons
As with any decision to do with you Creativity and your writing, you need to decide what works best for you. Weigh up the following pros and cons to see if you and your Creativity would be comfortable in a brainstorming situation.
The pros are:
- Brainstorming can reveal potential in your ideas and take you in directions you would never have thought of by yourself.
- During the process you may find plot holes that you wouldn’t have noticed until much further down the track.
- A brainstorming session could lead to writing collaborations if your fellow brainstormer is excited about the project.
The cons are:
- You may feel overwhelmed by all the ideas being discussed and start to worry about the scope of what you’re committing to.
- You may feel like your fellow brainstormers are running away with the discussion and leaving you behind. You may eventually feel like the story no longer belongs to you.
- Your fellow brainstormers may feel a sense of ownership over the story once the session has finished.
If you want to try brainstorming ideas with others, then keep the following pointers in mind.
Choose the right people
If you want someone to brainstorm a story with you, then that person needs to be:
- Experienced in writing, story and character building. They need to have at least some of the skills of a writer/storyteller, otherwise their suggestions may not be strong enough to build on (and trust me, in a good brainstorming session the story builds very fast).
- Flexible and respectful. Brainstorming sessions can become a little heated at times when people have conflicting ideas on where the story should be headed. You want to be working with a person who respects your right as a writer to have the final say over where your story goes.
- Willing to participate. If they don’t feel comfortable giving out ideas that you might use and publish, then it’s better not to start brainstorming at all. You don’t want to end up in legal problems sometime down the track.
Speak up for yourself
Remember, this is your story and you’re the one who will be working on it (unless your brainstorming session leads to a writing collaboration). So speak up when you feel the story is going off track or you don’t agree to an element that’s been suggested.
Remain engaged in the process and don’t let the other brainstormers run off with your story and leave you behind.
Keep an open mind
At times the discussion will go into areas you hadn’t envisioned for this story. Don’t discount these detours right away. They may help you find a whole new story or a story element which is stronger and more exciting than your original concept.
Writing is a journey of discovery and brainstorming is a wonderful chance to branch out into the unknown. After all, you’re only spending an hour or two on this journey, so what’s the harm in seeing where it takes you?
Either keep notes during the brainstorming session or write everything down as soon as possible after the session. Ideas flitter away quicker than you expect, so make sure you’re capturing them (perhaps even create an audio recording so you can go back and check points).
After the session, you’ll still have residual pep from the experience and you may find extra ideas appearing as you write. Don’t miss this opportunity to go further with your story. You can always cull your notes later when the calmness of reason returns.
You don’t have to use everything you discussed
Just because you and your friend talked about something, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. Once you get back to the page, it’s just you and the story. Remain true to where that story needs to go, even if it diverges from what you decided during your brainstorming session.
What you come up with in the frenzy of brainstorming might not work in the coolness of hindsight. That’s okay. The session got you the fire you needed and gave you extra ideas to play with. But the journey doesn’t stop there. It continues onto the page and throughout your writing process.
Is It Worth It?
Whether brainstorming works for you and your Creativity is a matter for you to decide. Hopefully this post has given you an opportunity to think about the subject.
If you’re not sure whether it would suit you, perhaps try brainstorming a small idea with a trusted writing friend and see how it goes. If you feel comfortable, you could try something bigger next time.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you ever tried brainstorming ideas with others? Are there any points I didn’t cover? I can’t wait to hear what you have to say on the subject.
May 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm
My best friend and I used to brainstorm together all the time. After her death, I found energy and sometimes synergy with other writers in writer’s groups. I love to bounce ideas around with other people, whether it be my project or theirs, and get a charge out of it. It is a good idea to have guidelines like those you wrote, though. And it takes a lot of luck and effort to find that perfect fit in a brainstorming partner.
May 9, 2013 at 8:15 am
I’m sorry to hear you lost your best friend, but I’m glad you’ve found others to brainstorm with. I think that ‘creative charge’ is so important to being a healthy writer.
Glad you liked the guidelines. It does take time and effort to find the right partner, and I think different people will suit different ideas so it’s always good to have a network of writer friends.
Thanks for the comment. 🙂
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