Blogging from A to Z Challenge: B is for Brainstorming


My theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is Creativity. Today, I discuss Brainstorming!

This is an interesting 2012 article from The New Yorker on brainstorming.

According to the article, brainstorming is a concept created by Alex Osborn, an advertising professional who wrote: “The more you rub your creative lamp, the more alive you feel.” He presented his idea of brainstorming in his book Your Creative Power published in 1948.

The article—and Osborn’s concept—focus on group brainstorming. Of Osborn’s “rules for brainstorming,” he felt the most important to be the absence of criticism and negative feedback. “Creativity is so delicate a flower,” he wrote, “that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it in the bud.”

Now, from the results of various studies, some have concluded that brainstorming doesn’t work. Their premise for this conclusion is, as Charlan Nemeth, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley said after a 2003 study, “While the instruction ‘Do not criticize’ is often cited as the important instruction in brainstorming, this appears to be a counterproductive strategy. Our findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them relative to every other condition.”

I can see their point that conflict can be stimulating, but I also believe brainstorming can be a good thing to boost your creativity. I believe brainstorming takes you out of the constrictions you may have placed yourself in (most likely unconsciously), making it difficult to “think outside the box,” thus inhibiting your creativity.

And brainstorming doesn’t have to be only used in group activities. It’s a great tool to use for yourself, no matter what your creative outlet is.

Many professionals promote the use of mind maps. I’ve never used one, but they look like they could be a good tool. I’m not going to go into that in this post, but there’s lots of information about mind mapping on the web. Here’s one article if you’re interested.

Today, I just want to touch on basic brainstorming.

There are different methods for brainstorming. One article suggested timing your brainstorming session, but for me that would add tension, making your brainstorming session counterproductive.

For your brainstorming session, you should find a quiet place by yourself where you won’t be disturbed.

Write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how dumb it may sound. Remember, nobody but you needs to read the notes from your brainstorming session. Osborn wrote: “Forget quality; aim now to get a quantity of answers. When you’re through, your sheet of paper may be so full of ridiculous nonsense that you’ll be disgusted. Never mind. You’re loosening up your unfettered imagination—making your mind deliver.”

Once you’re done brainstorming, you can organize your ideas into categories. You can also expand on the ones that appeal to you, and set aside the ones that you think won’t work. (I wouldn’t get rid of them entirely. What came from your subconscious may be valuable later!)

It’s best to implement your ideas while they’re still fresh, at least in rough form, such as a rough draft if you’re writing.

What’s your opinion on brainstorming? Do you think it’s a good tool to unleash your creativity?

About lindacovella

I am an author of fiction and nonfiction for kids and teens.
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16 Responses to Blogging from A to Z Challenge: B is for Brainstorming

  1. I think it’ s very important whether done in groups or alone. Quantity first — write anything that comes to mind — then quality — editing and such. Praise is also very important, but we have to be careful of overdone praise. It can handicap a writer pretty badly when out there, in the real world. Great post, Linda. Thanks for mentioning the NYT article.

    • lindacovella says:

      That’s true, Silvia–praise for the sake of praise, or praise that isn’t honest (the kind we might get from friends and family? 🙂 ) doesn’t do us any good! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Carol says:

    I think brainstorming’s a great idea. I’m just not very good at it.

    • lindacovella says:

      Carol, it might take some practice. I think the most important thing might be to really relax, find a quiet spot and just let yourself go! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Something strange happens when I sit down to write whatever pops into my head: nothing. I go blank. There are, literally, no words. I cannot even write “I have nothing to say.” On the other hand, if I have a general idea to work with, and am allowed to think about that idea (self-criticism, some would say, because even considering that there may be another way to approach an idea is ‘finding fault’ with the original approach), I can come up with a lot of ideas, some of them useful to one degree or another, in a fairly short time. Perhaps this is because I’ve been doing the actual “brainstorming” subconsciously and have already generated a pool of ideas to work with. *shrug* I don’t know. All I know is that the ‘no critical thinking because it’s bad for creativity’ method does not work for me.

    • lindacovella says:

      Yes, I think you need a subject to brainstorm on. I’m also constantly brainstorming in my brain, thinking about a story I’m working on. I haven’t spent a lot of time writing things down–doing the on-paper brainstorming, but it seems like a good idea. Thanks for your comment, Thomas!

  4. Hmmm… Osborn gives such an interesting perspective. When you think about it, it’s so true. Loved the post!

  5. Wonderful post! Thank you.
    I find that my best brainstorming sessions occur when I am exercising. Thank goodness for voice memo functions on iPods and my phone. 🙂

    • lindacovella says:

      Now that’s a good idea, Ashtoreth! I’m still in the dark ages though–no iPod and a flip phone (embarrassed to admit, but it works for me:-)) Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • I have the iPod for commuting — it is easy to manipulate my moods with a good playlist. I got my smart phone for the GPS ability when I realised I’d be driving my son across country for college. Otherwise, I only upgrade things when they break. 🙂

  6. vanillabean says:

    Very helpful post! I write morning pages, so most brainstorming for me tends to be on the fly there if I am puzzling over something in among all my other random thoughts. Not very directed or intentional though. Need to sit down and try this as an intentional thing!

  7. Sania says:

    I have heard about mind maps but have never tried using them. Brainstorming is an entirely different thing. We use it during our ‘prep time’ in college debates. In all the non-sensical arguments that come out, we always find gems.
    Sania @ Fragile Words

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