brain·storm (br n stôrm ). n. 1. A sudden clever plan or idea. 2. A sudden, violent disturbance of the mind. v. brain·stormed, brain·storm·ing, brain·storms ...
I don't believe I've ever had a 'sudden, violent disturbance of the mind', unless it was the time my hubby accidentally chopped off my favorite ivy at the side of the house, or maybe when the driver in front of me stops suddenly or doesn't signal. But I have had clever ideas on occasion, mostly when I least expect them--just before I go to sleep or standing in a lineup at the grocery store. Good reasons to always have a notebook and pen on you.
Brainstorming helps writers take advantage of their natural thinking processes by gathering their brain energy into a storm that hopefully transforms into words that lead to vibrant writing. It can help when you're devoid of plot ideas, inspiration, or too tired or anxious to write. In this case, brainstorming can stir up the dust, whip some air into our stilled pools of thought, and get the breeze of inspiration moving again.
There are also times when you have too much chaos in your brain and you need to bring it to some conscious order. Brainstorming can force the mental chaos onto the page, getting rid of the 'junk', so your thoughts will have more clarity.
If I can't brainstorm with my critique partner, my favorite method is freewriting: writing whatever comes into my mind. I turn off my internal editor and my inner critic and just write. I set a time limit (15 minutes) or a space limit (two pages) and write until I reach that goal.
There will be a lot of filler and unusable thoughts, but there are usually some gems in with the junk. Even if the gems are sparse, I've quieted the noisy chaos or greased my writing gears so I can begin to write about an idea.
Freewriting is just one example of a brainstorming technique. Does anyone else have any techniques that work for them?