17 Creative Brainstorming Methods That (Might) Produce Brilliance

Being creative is a muscle–it needs to be worked in order to stay active.

But just like a muscle, it can also get used to the same exercises if you aren’t careful to change things up every now and then.

If you’re ever stuck in a rut, try one of these:

1. The “J.K. Rowling” Brainstorm: Legend has it J.K. Rowling began her fateful journey to creating the Harry Potter series by writing notes on paper napkins. Whether that’s true or not, it is a great exercise to jot down ideas that are very meaningful. Do you know how annoying it is to write on a napkin? It’s not a great surface. Which makes what you write all that more special. Go to a diner, order a cup of coffee, and try it.

2. Write 10 ideas every day: This is one of my favorite (and standard) “creative” muscle workouts. Every day, write down 10 ideas you think would be fun to pursue. Don’t worry about how long they would take to make, budget, or whether or not they are realistic in any way–just let your mind wander and see what it believes it could make real. You’ll be surprised how, after a few days, you’ll be flooded with great ideas.

3. Brainstorm every idea that couldn’t possibly work. This is like approaching creativity backwards. Next time you’re in a meeting and everyone is all, “Let’s write down all our best ideas,” if you get stuck, try going the other direction. Write down anything and everything that “couldn’t possibly work.” Funny how this often leads to an obvious and brilliant solution that “just might be crazy enough to work.”

4. Write with your non-dominant hand: This is an exercise I learned in college while taking a poetry class. To emphasize the importance of minimalism, we were instructed to write poems with our non-dominant hand. What happens when you do this is you get so frustrated by how slow (and sloppy) you are writing that you actually subconsciously delete words for the sake of getting to the heart of what you actually want to say. The end result? A wildly short and yet provocative piece. Try it–with anything.

5. Draw what you want to say: Even if you are not an illustrator, there is something about using symbols and stick figures to communicate your message instead of words. Whether you are trying to figure out how to organize a proposal, a chapter of your book, a presentation, etc., try drawing your idea instead of writing it out. The words will practically reveal themselves.

6. Construct it all by memory: This is another helpful exercise I’ve learned through studying poetry. Instead of sitting in front of your notepad and trying to get everything down on paper, construct your message by memory in your head. If you stick with this long enough, two things happen. First, you automatically delete anything that isn’t vibrant enough to be remembered (a positive), and second, you keep things short and concise because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to remember it. Then, once you’ve got it all the way you want it, write it down.

7. Speak it as you write it: Give it a voice. Sometimes sitting in silence with your brain running laps ends up working against you. Say it out loud. Hear it. Feel it. Play with it and work with it. Writers especially, read your work out loud. I promise, you’ll come up with some amazing material by using your real voice as a tool.

8. Go for a walk with a pen. Just a pen, no notepad. If something really great hits you, write it on your hand. Again, a test in brevity here: When we carry around notebooks we sometimes feel compelled to jot down everything that comes to mind. But if you only have a pen and your tablet is your hand, then you will be more mindful of what you ultimately choose to write down. Brevity tends to reveal the most simple (and best) material anyway.

9. Have an “idea storm.” This is one of our tactics at Idea Booth. For big campaigns, we gather the whole team around our big table and we hold an “idea storm.” One person stands at the head of the room (where the walls are painted with idea paint–you can write on them with dry erase marker), and as people contribute ideas, they all get written down on the board. After about 15 minutes, we step back and circle the best ones, and then as a group we dive deep and expand on each one, sharing out loud how we would bring them to life.

10. Read. I mean, so simple but so undervalued. Too many people try to be creative in a vacuum. They sit in a room by themselves and tap their pencil on their desk and wait for brilliance to strike. It doesn’t really happen like that. Instead, start reading everything surrounding the challenge: Read about what other people have done in that particular niche, read case studies, read about the history of whatever you are looking to solve, etc. Read, and the answer will reveal itself.

11. Detox from all technology. Again, extremely undervalued and rarely done because it is a challenge, but the results always speak for themselves. Next time you find yourself in a creative rut, take a Saturday, wake up early, and fall off the grid. Turn off your phone and put it in your closet. Don’t open your laptop. Spend your entire day detached from the digital world, and every time you get that “inkling” to do something or you get bored, journal or go for a walk or read instead. I promise you, come afternoon you’ll be flooded with ideas.

12. Brainstorm in front of an audience. We all have that friend we share everything with. Well, use them as a resource. If you’re struggling with an idea, invite them over, pull out the whiteboard, sit them down, and say, “Look, I just need to think through this out loud. Let me explain what I’m thinking, and then you provide me with any feedback or ideas.” By the time you’re done explaining the challenge, chances are you’ll have realized the answer yourself.

13. Use social media to gain feedback. That’s really what social media is used for–conversation. Instead of spending three months bashing your head against the wall trying to come up with “the perfect idea,” just start testing and sharing things on social media and see what people respond to. Brainstorm by interacting with people and adjust as you go along, based on feedback.

14. Wake up at odd hours. This can be extremely jarring but it can also be really effective. If you’re used to getting up at 6 or 7 a.m., try getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning, pitch black, and starting your day then. This is not for the faint of heart, but there is something to be said for drastically adjusting your surroundings to spark your creativity.

15. Create it in a completely different format. As a musician, I tend to do this a lot as a cross-training exercise: I take something I am working on writing and compose the same story through music (piano, an instrumental, a song, etc.). This is another challenge in keeping things concise, and also tends to reveal a lot about the underlying emotions of what it is you’re creating. Music is, after all, a language.

16. Write it as a letter. If you’re ever struggling to figure out how to say something, or who it is you’re “talking to” with what you’re creating, image it as a letter to one person. Visualize that one person in your mind: What do they look like? How old are they? What do they want to hear? Write as if you are speaking to them and them only, and watch the voice reveal itself naturally.

17. Create consistently! And finally, the real secret to all creative brainstorming is to do it regularly–every day, no matter what. That’s how you keep that muscle engaged and alive. 

5 Brainstorming Techniques for Writers: A Guest Post by Linda Craig

‘Brainstorming’ is an idea-generating session where you come up with a plot, characters, and ideas that will define your novel. You can’t simply get out your laptop and start writing your next big masterpiece—you need to know the direction in which you’ll take your story. That’s where brainstorming comes into play.

Here are five brainstorming techniques you can use if you’re struggling to generate ideas.

1. Skim-Read

Many times your personal brainstorming sessions need a little kick. It may not be that you’re not in the right frame of mind, or that your creative side is failing; it may simply be that your mind hasn’t found an idea just yet.

You can try quickly skim-reading a book from your library. Sometimes just the chapter titles are enough to get you going. Needless to say, you should never copy another author’s ideas. But this technique can spark your imagination and maybe even guide your impressions in an unexpected direction throughout the brainstorming session.

2. Use Contradictions

Let’s say your hero has the best intentions and great personal qualities. During the brainstorming session, look for ideas and personality traits that contradict the ones you’ve come up with. Your readers won’t identify with an ideal hero; they want complexity, and you can deliver this through contradictions.

Alternatively, if you’re completely stuck, start by thinking about what contradicts the main idea or theme of your story. If, for example, you’re writing about everlasting love, you can add characters who distort the traditional concept of love in every single way.

3. Read Similar Stories

A successful novelist delivers a story the audience has never seen before. You don’t want to follow the trends and write about vampires or dystopian societies similar to that of The Hunger Games. Readers will tire of repetitive trends and only respect the original work.

However, you can’t create a story that sets itself apart unless you know what’s already out there. This will be a longer brainstorming session that will help you come up with an ideal plot. If you find another writer has already covered ideas similar to yours, you can think of ways to improve your plot such as with an unexpected turn. That’s when you’ll have some real brainstorming to do.

4. Use Active Imagination

Most novelists understand that fiction writing is closely related to psychology, so you shouldn’t be too bored to explore the concept of Active Imagination developed by Carl Gustav Jung. It’s a method that requires you to find a quiet place, close your eyes, and imagine other people in the room with you.

Pick some of the writers you admire the most. They can be from any period in history. You can choose people you know, historical figures, celebrities…whoever you like. Imagine them as they are with their own personalities.

You then conduct a meeting, but you should allow your creativity and intuition to take over the show. What do they think about the plot? How would they develop the main characters? You’re not purposefully imagining their responses, you are simply allowing them to speak and take part in the meeting. If you really get into the spirit of it, there may be times when they interrupt each other or get into harsh discussions.

This technique will help you come up with fantastic ideas for your story. It may sound crazy, but try it a few times and you’ll be surprised with the ideas your subconscious comes up with.

5. Try Rolestorming

With this idea-generating technique, you pretend to be another person and apply their thoughts to the idea at hand. This is similar to a primitive version of Active Imagination, and it’s almost like a child pretending to be Captain America.

You put yourself in the shoes of another person and think of what he or she might say about your idea. It can be anybody from the perfect reader to Beyoncé to Stalin. It’s up to you. Rolestorming may yield no results, but it will help you examine the issues of your plot from another angle, and may even awaken your imaginative side.

The last thing a novelist is, is boring. The creative writing process demands an unusual approach, especially when you’re forming your initial ideas. These brainstorming techniques will help you dig into the deep areas of your sub consciousness. That’s where your best ideas are hidden!

9 Brainstorming Techniques for Creative Business Writing

Brainstorming is a crucial aspect of any creative process, whether you’re writing copy or creating a new product. Although the original definition of a brainstorm is a collaboration of ideas, the term has since become a colloquial that means any sort of creative planning, whether it’s done in a group or independently.

The main goal of any copywriting brainstorming session is to come up with a successful idea that suits your particular business needs. You don’t have to be an expert copywriter (or even a writer at all) to come up with creative solutions to your marketing dilemmas–you just need to follow the basic techniques of brainstorming.

Know Your Purpose and Set Goals

Before you can even begin brainstorming any ideas, you have to figure out what you want to accomplish from your business writing. Are you trying to promote a new product or service? Do you want to try and attract a certain type of customer? Know what you want to accomplish so that your ideas will better work towards reaching your goals.

You’re not going to come out of a brainstorming session with a fully realized concept complete with copy and media–but that’s not the point. The point is to come up with a number of smart ideas which you can later build upon.

Freethinking and Pre-Planning

Even if the bulk majority of your brainstorming is going to happen during a group meeting, you still need to come to that meeting already prepared with some ideas ready to go. The pre-planning phase is just as important; in this part of the brainstorming process, it’s all about you.

Use a pad of paper or wipeboard to jot down any idea that comes to mind–and that means any. Your goal is not to come up with a fully developed idea right away but to build towards something amazing by letting your ideas flow freely. When you’re done, take a look at what you’ve come up with and you’ll have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t before you even attempt a group brainstorm.

Use Your Senses

When you talk about a product or service in your copy, you’re not just trying to hand out information– you’re trying to produce an emotional response. One of the best ways to do this is to use sensory imagery in your copywriting. We all know that Brand X is the most powerful product of its kind-but how does it smell? How does it feel? Can you hear it, and if so, what does it sound like?

Make a list of all the sensory aspects of your product or service to find words and phrases that invoke a particular emotional response. Applying a sensory technique to copywriting will allow you to look at your product or service in a completely new light.

Separate Ideas

When you discover a good, strong concept to tie to your business writing, write it down on a notecard or slip of paper. When you discover another concept, give that idea its own notecard. If you have a good idea that’s actually two concepts combined into one, separate these ideas and put them on their own notecards. At the end of the process, you’ll have a number of different usable copy aspects that you can now mix and match to come up with something even better, much like refrigerator magnet poetry.

Allow Wild Ideas to Develop

You have to be willing to let wild ideas develop on their own, whether you’re coming up with ideas by yourself or brainstorming with a group. In order for creativity to thrive, it must be given room to breathe, which won’t happen if ideas are constantly being rejected. Even your weirdest, craziest and downright ludicrous ideas have a place in the brainstorming process. These ideas may never come to fruition, but they may provide the groundwork for an even better idea in the future.

Criticism Comes Later

Not only should ideas be left to run wild during the brainstorming phase, but criticism should be left out of the equation entirely. This means both rejecting the ideas that you don’t like and trying to change good ideas that others have come up with in an effort to improve them.

Brainstorming is about getting your rough ideas out there; taking time to tweak and change every idea is counter to what you want to accomplish. You should wait until the brainstorming session is finished and then go back to figure out what needs tweaking.

Set a Time Limit

The easiest way to know when the brainstorming session has ended is to set a strict time limit. Putting the pressure of the clock on you makes you more likely to come up with rapid-fire ideas and less likely to stop and critique ideas. That doesn’t mean you should give up on finding the right idea if it doesn’t come to you in X amount of minutes–don’t forget that you can always come back to brainstorming after everyone’s had a chance to rethink and regroup. Setting a time limit just keeps you on task and helps you know when to stop brainstorming and start developing and critiquing ideas.

Get Others Involved

Business writing brainstorm sessions do not have to be exclusive to copywriters–they should involve anyone who can provide valuable input. Graphic designers are good to include because chances are your copy will need a graphic representation to tie it all together. Your social media staff and sales department are the ones who interact with customers on a daily basis, so they can offer a unique perspective on what customers are looking for. Hearing different ideas and input will open the door to new solutions and creative ideas that will bring out the best in your writing.

Save Rejected Ideas

You can often only pick one idea in the end, which means a lot of great concepts end up going unused. Save these unused ideas–you never know when they might be put to use at a later time or when they might serve as inspiration for another great idea. However, this doesn’t mean you should always rely on your old ideas to be successful. When a new brainstorming session begins, pick some of the best ideas from the last session to get the ball rolling, but focus on coming up with something new. If an old idea really is the best choice, you’ll discover it once you sit down to look at your ideas in closer detail.

These are just a few of the thousands of different techniques that you can use to brainstorm creative copywriting ideas, so find what works best for you. Maybe you find your team works best under pressure of a deadline or that it takes a little pizza to get everyone in a creative mood. The end goal is to create valuable copy that attracts customers to your business–however you get there is entirely up to you.