Archive for the ‘unconscious mind’ category

The art of brainstorming: Part one

March 4, 2008




Photo by Gogler John


The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way


If we write personal history only using only what is in our conscious mind, our writing runs the risk of being superficial or boring. That’s because we’ve literally only engaged half our brain. The other half contains our creativity and our unconscious or no-longer-conscious memories.

I use three methods of brainstorming when I write. (They’re not original with me; I learned them by reading books and taking writing classes.)

Today’s brainstorming technique is “listing.”

I begin with a topic that I am interested in exploring. Often the topic comes to me in my daily experience. For example, my recent blog entry about childhood memories of playing in snow was triggered by going outside and unexpectedly seeing snow falling.

At the top of an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper I write a word or theme. Then quickly—I don’t stop and think about it—I make a list of everything I can think of that’s connected to the topic, until I run dry. Using the example of snow, most people find that first listing all the obvious associations with snow (white, cold, flakes, skiing, etc.) gets those out of the way and frees the writer to find his or her own memories.

Today my list related to snow might look like this

Sledding on Albion Street

Playing with saucers at the canal

Big snowstorm when I was 2

Driving in blinding snow on the way back from college

Halloween blizzard

Armistice Day blizzard

Trying to teach Laura to ski

Skiing in the Boundary Waters

Skiing near McGregor

Sliding down a glacier in the summer on my raincoat

Making snowmen

Building forts

Johnny wrecking our igloo

Dad teaching me to drive in snowy conditions

Bill’s gift of cross-country skis

Blizzard in late April that I went through once in Denver and again in St. Paul

Snowball fights.

Rock in a snowball thrown at a car. Trouble!

Bad storm the day of Mary Kay’s birthday party.

I could go on with more associations, but by now you have the idea. Usually I come to a spot where I feel I’ve run out. But often if I just pause for a minute or so, there will be more. If not, I know I’m finished (for today).

Try this out and see how it works for you. Please send me a comment and let me know!