I’ve been working with several blocked writers since Christmas. They were stuck on projects which included books, blogging, and marketing.
It’s easy to get unstuck — dump your brain and create a mind map. Then you can create an outline… finally you’re unstuck, and happily writing. If you get stuck again, repeat the process.
That’s a major secret of outlining: dump your brain first.
For more on outlining and brain dumping, see Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy; there’s a snippet below.
Here’s the thing about creativity.
Creativity: ideas beget ideas
Ideas always beget ideas. When you’re stuck, you need to conquer your inertia first. You may feel as if your creativity has departed for good, never to return, but that’s rarely the case.
It’s time to kick your inner editor aside, and dump your brain onto paper — or onto the computer screen. I prefer paper, but it’s up to you.
Map It For Writing success: the brain dump secret
Here’s an excerpt from Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy.
Brain dumps are intimately related to free writing. The brain dumping strategy has become popular as a result of David Allen’s excellent book, Getting Things Done.
Basically, in a brain dump, you make a list of everything you know about the topic of your book. If you’re writing fiction, you dump down any ideas for characters, plot and conflict which occur to you. You’ll be amazed at how much material you “know”, when you sit down and make your brain dump list.
Why create a brain dump?
You’re you. You know much more than you realize. If you don’t get “you” down at this very early stage, you can end up writing “me too” material. Not that there’s anything wrong with researching and then writing, but if you rely solely on research, there’s a chance you’ll grow bored, and block. Because…
Writing is thinking. The temptation, when you rely too much on research, is to cobble together others’ thoughts, and present them as your own. This kills your creativity and inspiration.
Some brain dumping tips
- No kvetching or negativity is allowed. Dump everything, even those ideas you currently think of as “stupid.” Sometimes stupid ideas combine into a great idea, and the only way to get that great idea is via a bunch of stupid ideas.
You’re not looking for magic here. You don’t need any wonderful insights. You’re looking for information, from yourself.
- No research allowed. This is all you. If you write something and you’re unsure about it, add a few question marks: “???” if you must. You don’t want to know what others know, only what you know.
This can be challenging. You’ll be tempted to hop online, and research. Don’t. Give yourself permission to write stupid stuff. As we’ve said, paradoxically, what you considered stupid might be the spine around which you grow your outline.
- Give yourself a few days to dump everything which pops into your mind. Quantity is great. Remember, you’re not looking for quality at this stage. Just dump it.
I like to set a time limit: 25 minutes for a brain dump. I might spend 25 minutes on a brain dump every day for five days before I’m happy that I’ve scraped my mind clear of everything I think I know about a topic.
- Use pen and paper, as well as your computer. Add little stick figures, and doodles. Drawing involves another part of your brain, and even if you’re convinced that you “can’t” draw, feel free to add squiggles, lines, and embellishments.
The coloring book craze is a craze for a reason.
Got your brain dump? Great. Open your mind mapping app
You’ve dumped your brain.
Your next step is to organize all this material. You’ll have much more than you thought.
Start by reading your brain dump through once, just to see what you have, without making any notes or deciding what you’ll keep, and what you’ll delete. Read it all. On your next reading, underline or circle (if using pen and paper) anything which excites you. You’re looking for areas which energize you.
Next, open your mind mapping app. Write your project’s name in the center. Start adding the material from your brain dump. As with the brain dump itself, add everything, even the stupid stuff.
Add your material without organizing it. You can start new branches with topics, but don’t wed yourself to any specific format. I like to use the Inspiration app for mapping brain dumps, but you can use any mind mapping app you choose.
Creativity starts with you
Writers can get stuck or blocked for any one of a dozen reasons. WHY you feel as if your creativity has vanished doesn’t matter; what matters is clearing the blockage.
You can do that with a brain dump.
Dump your brain before you outline, and you’ll usually find that — magically — your creativity has returned and ideas flow faster than you can add them to your outline.
Have fun. 🙂
Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy is available now.
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
In this book we'll aim to increase your creativity to unlock your imagination and build the writing career of your dreams.More info →
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