Brainstorming Tip #1: Mind Mapping

I once watched an episode of Brain Games on Netflix that changed the way I think about brainstorming. The episode was about creativity, and it explained that those eureka moments come when your brain connects two different concepts and makes them into a new idea. This made me wonder if there was a way to sort of replicate that process on paper.

The first idea that I came up with was the mind map—everyone learned how to draw these in elementary school. It’s basically where you take one or two ideas and start branching off related concepts until you can connect them. The first time I tried this was with my submarine story that I’ve written about before now. One night, I was scaling some salmon for dinner, and I decided to see what ideas I could generate out of the word “fish scales.” This is what I came up with:

This may seem like a pretty simple way to break down writer’s block, but it hasn’t failed me yet. I used the mind mapping method to help me brainstorm short stories, single scenes, full novels, character motivations, whole worlds, and more.

If you still don’t believe me, try this. Get out a blank sheet of paper. On one side, write “circus” and circle it. (Or any other random word that come to mind.) Start writing down other concepts that come to mind and connect them to other related ideas on your paper. Don’t self-censor, no matter how unrelated or odd the idea might be. When I was brainstorming about fish scales, the word “currency” came to mind for some reason, probably because fish scales might look a little like shiny coins. In reality, they are almost completely unrelated (at least as far as I know), but I ultimately wrote a story about mermaids being hunted because the scales on their tails were valuable. It might not sound like your kind of story, but I got a lot further with it than if I had just started writing a story about fish scales.

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