Everyone has a process for creating. Whether you make art, take photographs, or just plan a route for a cross country trip, there is a process involved. For some people, this entire process takes place in their head. Others might require a visual map of their ideas. And then there are people that feel like they need to talk about their ideas to really feel them out. One of the best ways to improve your writing is to first improve your creating process.
So, how do you do that?
First of all, you should figure out how you specifically create. Think about the last time you had a long assignment. How did you come up with ideas?
- Did you jot notes down before you started writing?
- Did you have any kind of plan of attack?
- Did you have some kind of organization in your head?
- Did you research what you were planning on talking about?
You’ll want to think about this for a few minutes…
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Did you think about your process? Believe it or not, you just started brainstorming.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out what to write, just start writing. Yes, what you’re working with might not work at all with your final draft, but that’s not the point. As you write, you will most likely think of new ideas, refine your current ideas, and ultimately produce an actual draft–albeit probably imperfect–you can work with.
If you’re a visual person, like me, you might want to start by doing a mind map. A mind map is an illustration that looks like a web with the topic you are working on in the center of the paper. I usually then draw several lines growing from the topic that I will attach subtopics to.
To get a better feel of what I’m talking about check out Freeplane, an open source software specifically made for creating mind maps. There is also MindMeister which offers Google Drive plugins and collaborative mind map options–be aware that some of the features of MindMeister require a subscription to the service.
If you’re someone that feels out their way through a topic by discussion, try just recording yourself talking about it. There are several free apps for mobile phones and computers that will do clear audio recording. I think what you’ll discover is that when talking about whatever you’re having a hard time writing over, the words just kind of come out to fill the silence. You’ll list off ideas you might have thought were silly off the top of your head before your mind has a chance to dismiss them. Now they have been recorded. Your ideas might not be perfect in the raw, but now you’ll have some items to consider and meditate on as you go forward with your topic.
Arguably, one of the hardest parts of writing is figuring out how to get started. Enhancing and refining those brainstorming skills will enhance not only your first drafts but your critical thinking skills in general. You’ll become quicker as you work at it!