Poetry Technique: Brainstorming

file5061340819905What I love most about writing prompts is the ability to write freely without putting a lot of thought into what I’m doing. I don’t know about you, but when I write poetry, I’m prone to having an idea dig at me until I have to sit down and write it out.

Brainstorming takes that process to a different dimension.

I learned how to use brainstorming techniques in a college course. The process is simple and mistake-proof: grab paper and pen or open a new Word document and just write. Doesn’t matter what you write, either. Just put whatever comes to mind right there on the page. I like Word for this because I can keep up with my brain a bit better. You choose your method.

You can start with an open mind or with a writing prompt, as I like to do. I get mine from various places, but Creative Copy Challenge can offer up some suggestions.

Time yourself. Set a timer for two minutes. Go.

Circle and repeat. Once you get your initial thoughts down, look it over. What stands out? What ideas make you want to write more? Any? None? If you’ve found an idea you want to expand, circle it or highlight it. Repeat the circling/highlighting until you have located as many ideas as you want. As you circle, other ideas may come to you. Jot them down anywhere on the page.

Play with words. Take one of those circled/highlighted areas and poke at it (figuratively — otherwise, that’s going to look weird). What words did you use? What synonyms can you use instead or along with? Antonyms? What other words come to mind? Are you seeing or reminded of catch phrases or clichés? If so, write them down. Then deconstruct them and rewrite them in better language.

Find the emotion. Somewhere on that page/pages, you’ve written a word or thought that elicits some emotional response from you. Where is your pain, joy, anger, etc. in what you’ve written? Connect to it.

Brainstorm the emotion. Now that you’ve gone there, dive in with both feet. Why is the emotion there? How are you feeling? What words would you use to show that emotion to the reader? Write it all down no matter what comes to mind.

Wear it. You should have a starting point for your poem now. Pretend you’re putting that emotion on like a coat. What would it feel like? Where would you wear it? If your emotion were allowed to be seen outwardly, how would you behave and how would you describe it? Do exactly that. Find the power in hitting your own nerve.

These are just a few suggestions for brainstorming in ways that bring out your best creativity. You can do one or all of these steps, or you could brainstorm in any way that works for you. But do try to go beyond the brainstorming. Even if you are happy with the brainstormed work, try going deeper. That’s where the untapped greatness is waiting.

Poets, how often do you brainstorm?

What techniques help you unleash your creativity?


2 thoughts on “Poetry Technique: Brainstorming

  1. Don’t use brainstorming for every poem but it works well when I do. I call it free writing and I frequently use a “tree” to organize the fruits.

    My guess is that my link from that blog to yours here is OK. If not, let me know. And I’d like to include you on my blog roll. Thanks for having such an informative blog. Will return often. Please consider linking to me as well. I’m just getting started but plan to focus, as you do, on really helpful content.

    Billy Dean

  2. Thanks for the link, Billy. I like your process — easy to follow and use.

    Let me ask this — do you prefer brainstorming freely or use of the tree method you describe in your post?

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