How to Brainstorm

Brainstorming is one of the more common types of informal invention. It should be used when writers encounter writers’ block or when they are not sure what to write about. Brainstorming can also be used to guide writers in a certain direction if they already have a topic or idea that they wish to explore. This exercise helps writers to gather their thoughts and ideas before they begin writing a paper or other document. The end result of brainstorming should be lists of words or phrases that are somehow related in the writer’s mind. These lists may be helpful in the preliminary writing process. Here are some guidelines for this type of invention:


  1. Set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Write a topic word or a thought that you would like to explore at the top of your paper, such as education or government. Continue writing words or phrases in list form down the page until your time has run out.
  3. Never stop writing. Even if you have to write down an idea that’s completely stupid and wouldn’t work, it’s better than stopping. Your pen should never stop.
  4. Assume that no word is self-explanatory. Continue to focus on one topic word until you cannot describe it with any further detail. In other words, take a deeper look at an individual or minute part of a larger whole.
  5. As your thoughts slow or become stagnant, begin to review your lists periodically. Previous terms may need further explanation or bring new ideas to the surface.
  6. This is also an uncensored practice, so don’t allow for corrections during the brainstorming process.
  7. When you are finished brainstorming, re-organize your words and phrases into sequential categories.
  8. If you have a sufficient collection of good ideas, begin to work on the rough draft. If more ideas are needed, try other informal invention techniques such as freewriting or mapping.
  9. Utilizing a dictionary, search for random words. Close your eyes and place your finger on the page or choose the most attractive word as you scan through the pages. Write these words down as well as any other thoughts that may be in relation to these words.


  • While brainstorming, it can be helpful to listen to classical music or songs without lyrics.
  • A few extra writing utensils along with a thick pad of paper ensures for an adequate supply of materials – to continue the flow of your work without interruption.
  • Keep going, even if you come across a good idea near the beginning of the brain storm session; as better ideas may come along.
  • Don’t immediately dismiss an idea – continue to write and see where your thoughts take you.
  • Save your brainstorm as you may need it in the near or distant future.
  • Brainstorming can be difficult during the first session. Don’t give up. If it doesn’t work, try again.


  • Brainstorming is not guaranteed to break the toughest writers’ block, but it should give you an idea of where you are going with your writing process.

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. You can edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on wikiHow. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

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