Did you have time to catch typos and
gaffes? Do your key points seamlessly
connect? A New Yorker cartoon comes
to mind: The driver is barreling down
the highway when the passenger, referring to a map, mentions they’re on the
wrong road. “Yeah,” the driver says,
“but we’re making great time.” Step
back, take a break, and make sure
you’re headed in the right direction.
Breaks offer more than time for rest
and reflection. Neuroscientists have
found that the brain can get in
a rut (and take our writing with it). But
a simple break can wake up our creativity and give our subconscious a chance
to deliver insights and ideas. It doesn’t
have to be outside, either. Instead of
typing on your computer, pick up pen
and paper. Or move your laptop to a
4 powerful brainstorming techniques
Our brains are always coming up with ideas and
solutions, but we need effective ways to tap into
them. Try these easy techniques—alone or in
a group—to discover the fresh insights and inspiration awaiting you.
1. Genius generator is the perfect antidote to
whatever is holding you back. It helps with “spaghetti
head” (that tangle of ideas in your head) and with
frozen synapses (when you think you don’t have a
clue—even though you do).
• Step 1. Set a timer and write without stopping
for 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t stop! Keep writing no
matter what. It’s OK to fill in blanks with scribbles
or Xs. Just keep writing—anything, though try
to stay on track. This technique helps quiet that
ornery editor inside your head with each tick of
the timer until eventually it steps aside and makes
room for inspiration to strike.
• Step 2. When the timer goes off, take another
minute to circle the good stuff. Sure, there’s lots
of chaff, but even that wasn’t a waste. It provided
the stepping stones to the important points.
• Step 3. Now prioritize those key points in the
order you want to present them in your writing.
• Step 4. Finally, take those numbered items and put
them in numerical order. There! An organic outline
in less than 20 minutes.
2. Mindmapping is a popular brainstorming tool
because it takes you out of a linear thought pattern.
Set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Start by writing
a word for the center of your map. Then around that
word jot down any associations, thoughts, feelings,
etc., that come to mind. In England, this process is
known as creating a spidergram because as the process unfolds, a web of possibilities emerges.
3. List of 20 is a linear brainstorming tool that can
help you move beyond the obvious. Come up with 20
options—for example, 20 headlines for one story. Too
often the easier ideas—even hackneyed ones—show
up first. You will be more impressed with what you
come up with by items 15 or 16, but don’t stop there.
Keep going to 20 to uncover something special.
4. The devil’s advocate technique helps you move
beyond your own ideas and recognize any potential
problems. Say your company is small and can’t compete with an industry giant on price. But consider
that because of its size, your company delivers better
service and can make changes quickly. When you play
devil’s advocate, you can see shortcomings and come
up with solutions that preempt objections.