I love brainstorming. One of the reasons I can say I write everyday is that I count brainstorming as writing. It doesn’t matter how tired or cranky or blocked I am, I can always sit down with a pen and notebook and let my imagination run wild for a few minutes.
I’ve always advocated brainstorming as a way to overcome writer’s block. Giving yourself permission to write anything, pouring as many ideas on the page as you can in a set amount of time, can give you options about how to move your story forward and can simply physically unstick you and get you writing again.
But another benefit of brainstorming, for even when you don’t have writer’s block: writing down all those crazy ideas, and pushing yourself to come up with as many ideas as you can for the next scene, the next plot twist, whatever, will help you push the envelope, avoid stereotypes, and move beyond what I call “top drawer” ideas. Top drawer ideas are the ones you see everywhere. The ones that make you able to guess who the murderer is ten minutes into a police drama. It’s the plot twist we’ve all seen before — and we’ve all seen them before, because for the most part, if we’re all swimming in the same pop culture stew, we’ve been exposed to the same tropes and are pulling from that same stew for our ideas. Brainstorming increases your chances of coming up with that surprising twist, exploring ground that isn’t quite so well explored. You don’t just go to the drawer that’s easiest to reach, you have to keep opening drawers and searching until you find the thing that no one else thought of doing.
I’m always saying that writers should go big or go home, push the envelope, do the thing they think as crazy, do the thing that’s scary. Because that’s going to be where you find the real treasure, that will make you stand out from the crowd and help you find your voice.