10 Ways to Learn How to Brainstorm

10 Ways to Learn How to BrainstormWaiting around for inspiration to hit you in the head with a lightning bolt is… dangerous. Go after it with a harpoon and a fishnet! One of the best ways to do that is to learn how to brainstorm.

As I talk about in my book Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, some ways of brainstorming are more likely than others to put you in the way of viable ideas.

Valuable brainstorming methods include:

  • Mind maps
  • “What-if” questions
  • Writing prompts
  • Freewriting

They all have one thing in common: they allow you to move past the critical, analytical side of your brain and get in touch with the “dream zone” in the back. This kind of brainstorming is what Robert Olen Butler, in his thought-provoking book From Where You Dream, refers to as “dreamstorming.”

10 Tips to Help You Learn How to Brainstorm

So how do we go about this dreamstorming business? A few tips:

1. Clear your mind.

2. Try not to direct your thoughts too much.

3. Point your imagination in the right direction and let it drift where it will.

4. Don’t censure yourself.

5. Write down everything, even the silly ideas.

6. Listen to your body (if you suddenly can’t breathe, you’re probably on to something good).

7. Put your notes aside for a while to “cool.”

8. When you pull them out, put the logical side of your brain to work.

9. Start asking questions: What if? Why not? How?

10. Train your subconscious to continually dreamstorm in the background.

Inspiration is everywhere, just waiting for writers to find it. Once you train yourself to be open to those ideas, they’ll flood you from every direction until you have so many ideas you won’t live long enough to take advantage of them all!

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What does your brainstorming process look like? Tell me in the comments!

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Checked out all three blogs. The review of Conquering Writers Block wasn’t posted yet, so I’ll have to go back later to check it out.

    Thanks and have a great day!

  2. Thanks, Susanne! I just emailed Elspeth to let her know the review hasn’t shown up, so hopefully it will be available soon.

  3. Great, Katie! Hope you sell a bunch. 😀

  4. Thanks, Lorna! I hope folks find the CD helpful.

  5. Thanks for sharing dear you are really doing a wonderful job.

  6. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. This is a good posting, I was wondering if I could use this write-up on my website:)))

  8. Feel free! Just please link back to the site.

  9. Was reading methods of it recently in James Scott Bell’s book, plot and structure. Awesome advice’s, both their and here. 😀

  10. Chris Titheradge says

    Hi Katie, great blog.

    Usually when an idea hits me it’s just a speck of the greater picture. I grab a piece of blank paper & write down that idea or write it in my notes app in my phone if I happened to be out.

    Then under the idea I write How, How, What, Where & Why. Sometimes I divide the page into 4 equal squares with these questions at the top. Then I start with the why’s & using dot points I ask myself, why is this situation appealing to me & how do you make that situation harder, what problems could arise from that.

    I leave it on my dinning room table sitting there all alone & when I walk past doing my housework and when an idea usually pops into my head & I jot it down real quick & continue on with my chores. At 10am I will sit down with a cuppa & morning tea & read through what I have & try to answer the questions that are left.

    Sometimes it can still be on my table for days.

    If the answers don’t come or if there is something about one I’m not sure about Mr Google usually answers it for me & sometimes I find more interesting things to add. Sometimes even Facebook has the answer, it will just be staring you in the face. If I still can’t get where I need it to be I will read some books in a similar genre & sometimes your questions will be answered there or even bring new questions. Occasionally I will ‘phone a friend’m, especially if they work in or are interested in that particukar subject.

    That’s how I start & work through my personal brain storming sessions.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ooh, I like you’re “how, what, where, and why” questions. “What if?,” “what’s expected?,” and “what’s unexpected?” are my standby. But expanding these is a great way to drill down for greater specificity.

  11. My ideas come from two places. They are either a joke I make in the moment and then realize is a great premise, or it comes from me wandering through the implications of an event (such as, what would it take to hear my obituaries before i die).
    But I have to react viscerally to the idea. If it doesn’t excite me I toss it out. Writing is too hard to be Sisyphus. If the idea isn’t on top of a hill already I’m not pushing it there.
    My process is not necessarily quick, though. I had an idea I was working and it took weeks to figure out how someone could get away with it. I like these other tools that i might try. The solution came from a movie, I realized after I had the inspiration. If I had just brainstormed some of my favorite books and movies in this genre, i might have solved this long before.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes. I heart all of this, especially the visceral response. For me, that is vital in knowing I will have the passion to carry a story through to its end.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.