Better Brainstorming without Computers

by Meryl Evans | Category: Meryl's Notes Blog, Writing 4 comments

I use a pen instead of computer when I write in my journal, sign stuff, write thank you and personal notes, capture reminders on a sticky and make a list. It doesn’t take much for my hand to cramp when entering longer journal entries. The left hand tires easily when writing and I type fast. So why would I rely on a pen or pencil for coming up with ideas for articles and blog posts?

Mind Map

Photo by sxc.hu user mzacha

Brainstorming with a keyboard just doesn’t work as well as with pen and paper. Not even when using brainstorming and mind mapping apps. It takes a different type of effort to enter information and draw shapes. This  interferes with the brainstorming process making it feel forced and tedious.

By accident, I discovered a better way. A bunch of ideas hit me while I worked on my laptop in bed. Rather than let risk losing those thoughts, I pulled out the pad stored in the drawer next to my bedside for easy access. I also grabbed a specific right pen instead of the first one available. I had a specific pen that I love to use for special writing with its soft point that glides without teeny bumps as my left hand made circles, dots, crosses, curves, lines.

The brain and hand ran wild bringing more ideas than I had initially. Bullets, circles, notes. No criticizing allowed. Within 15 to 20 minutes, I had enough notes for 25 articles and posts.

I’ve had a pen and pad next to my bed for years. Why did it take this long to realize the benefits of hand mind mapping? Whenever I jotted anything down, it was only an idea or two and then I went back to sleep or resuming whatever I was doing. This time I had a mountain of ideas that grew from there as I continued writing.

So why does opening a document and typing everything that comes to mind not work as well as pen and paper? Even mind mapping and graphing software fails me. Using software merely produces a few notes between a lot of long pauses.

Daphne Gray-Grant gives me the answer in her excellent Power Writing newsletter. She says it’s a left and right brain thing. The right side is the creative side. Using a pen and paper gets the right side’s motor running allowing thoughts to pour out easily and quickly. The act of typing and using the mouse slow creativity.

This doesn’t mean that mind mapping software has no place in the brainstorming process. They work for many people.

I’m a lefty, so the right hemisphere of the brain dominates. You’d think this advantage would make up for using the keyboard. It doesn’t. I love using technology and gadgets, but sometimes the brain needs extra help and that means switching to pen and paper.

If you’ve struggled with mind mapping or brainstorming or find you can’t get much out of a typed outline, go the pen and paper route and see what happens.

How do you come up with story ideas?

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