Individual Brainstorming

July 14, 2022 by Eileen Wirth

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two blogs about brainstorming. This one focuses on individual brainstorming for creative projects while Part Two will outline a group brainstorming process.   

Grab a pen and notepad and head to your favorite thinking place – a quiet spot where no one will bother you, indoors or outdoors – whatever works for you. 

Turn your phone off and put it away so you won’t be checking the time or your text messages. You can’t brainstorm on a deadline.

Relax! Try a few breathing exercises as you begin to let your mind roam free. Soon you should start to feel serene. At this point, you are ready to brainstorm.

As your mind wanders, jot down the random ideas that occur to you. It’s okay if they don’t make sense because you will eventually discard many of them, you just don’t know which ones. Use a notepad instead of a computer because the computer will tempt you to engage with the outside world instead of yourself.  

When you’ve filled a page or two, circle ideas that fall into some theme or pattern. Jot down additional ideas that fit with your theme or pattern. 

Test your theme or concept both intellectually and emotionally. Are you seeing a message you want to convey? Have you found something fun to work with? Do you sense a  creative project emerging?

If so, begin to re-enter the world by underlining the ideas that don’t fit your theme. Return to your daily life but continue to think about your ideas and add new ones to your notepad.

After a day or so, look everything over and evaluate your results. Do you still like your theme? How could you pursue a possible project?

If you conclude that your idea won’t work, what do you need to change? Will one of your discarded ideas work better? Do you need to do additional brainstorming or just more research? You might be surprised how quickly things fall into place. 

The crucial part of brainstorming is to withdraw and let ideas surface that would normally get lost in the craziness of daily life. You can’t be creative if you don’t spend the time to get in touch with yourself.

Got a question or topic on creativity you would like Dr. Wirth to address for The Greenhouse Journal? Shoot her an email at EILEENWIRTH@creighton.edu.

Eileen Wirth

Dr. Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and is an author specializing in Omaha history. She was a reporter at the World-Herald and a PR Writer for Union Pacific before joining Creighton in 1991. Eileen’s books include The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Historic Omaha Houses of Worship and From Society Page to Front Page. She is on the board of History Nebraska and a member of the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Women’s Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Omaha Press Club Hall of Fame. She also has been active in numerous groups particularly the Omaha Public Library.

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