Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tools for Brainstorming - Part I

I was stuck.

It happens more often than I care to admit. But it does happen. And when it does, I turn to my tired and true "techniques" for breaking through.

I have two methods which I will separate into two parts/posts.

Method I -- Sunflower seeds

Don't laugh! Brainstorming is serious business. What? You'd rather I gnaw away at my poor finger nails?

Okay, so maybe Part I is bit less "serious" but the fact remains -- this is what works for me. For anyone who's walked this line, you can understand when I say this is an addictive and focused activity. My mind becomes singularly focused on that stinkin' seed. I become myopic in that all other thoughts get flushed. And this is an important first step.

When I'm stuck, it's because clarity is alluding me. Things are muddled and the issue at hand is bombarded with so many other thoughts that I can't actually focus on the issue. Instead my brain is running in multiple directions.

I found that any action that forces focus, cleanses my head and allows me to start again.

Part II, will touch on mind-mapping and "on-the-couch" writing. You'll have to come back to learn about those methods :)

Okay, so back to my friends, the sunflower seeds.

The Process

Step 1:

Seeds! Get a bag, any bag will do.

Unfortunately, they are typically way too salty. What's a suffering writer to do?

Step 2:

Water! That's right. Apply water to sunflower seeds. Rinse 'em out a couple of times. Don't go crazy with this step. Just rinse, then pat dry. We're not making soup here.

Step 3:

Toast! Warm up a pan and drop them seeds right in. If there's still some water on the seeds, that's okay. The heat from the pan will cook it away.

Toss it around a bit. Move them seeds around so that they don't burn. Remember this, toast is good, burn is bad. Repeat it after me: toast is good, burn is bad.

Step 4:

Consume! Eat them like there's no tomorrow. As you crack, withdraw, chew and toss, think about the problem at hand.
The carnage!
The Method Behind the Madness

I'm sure you've heard of the saying, walking and chewing gum at the same time. This method is a take on that saying. You are focused on seeds and the problem -- nothing else. The seed is a physical process. Remember that a physical process that isn't automatic takes over both mind and body functions.

Focus and concentration are key elements in brainstorming a solution. Eliminate all thoughts that are blocking you and then start at the start -- the problem at hand. Nothing else.

“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein

Fight the good fight!


  1. I like this. My husband's a big sunflower seed chomper. Maybe he's solving the world's problems! :) This is my temple pose in yoga. We all have our methods!

  2. Kathryn, you're absolutely right. Same thing happens to me when I do certain exercises. Yoga and martial arts are well known for that. It's common for me to hit the pause when in the middle of a P90x workout to jot down some thoughts :)

  3. First of all, I love your sense of humor!! Second, what a GREAT idea!! No, seriously, this makes total sense. I am going to try it! :)

  4. Thank you Shawna :) I have confidence that it'll work. As commented by Kathryn, yoga can bring that clarity as well.. but you know... that's exercise and that's... umm... hard work. Eating sunflower seeds is so much easier. Thanks for following.

  5. I love the Einstein quote. I usually have my best luck getting ideas/solving problems while running or driving. It definitely helps to NOT be thinking about it, but to be open to inspiration.

    I'm looking forward to part 2. =)

  6. I guess now I have to actually do part 2... Gwen, you know how to call people on their commitments don't you :)

  7. I never really liked sunflower seeds all that much lol. You definitely are passionate for them.

  8. Michael, I cannot tell a lie :) It's true. One of my few addictions.

  9. Interesting approach. And I must say you are dead right. Kudos for quoting Einstein as well. :)

  10. Lyn, Thank you for your comment and joining the madness called my blog :)


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