Posted by: Cathy | April 8, 2013


April showers bring May flowers. Brainstorming can bring you creative flowers too. The more you let your curiosity rain, the more you water your creative seeds.

The point of brainstorming is to generate ideas on a topic. There are a few standard methods for brainstorming: word association, mind-mapping, free-writing, etc.

Here is an exercise to try when standard brainstorming isn’t helping you; a brain-tornado!

Coach Blog 040813 First of all, take a few minutes to relax. Have a cup of tea or take a short walk. If anything is on your mind, write it down and set it aside for later before your relaxation activity. Ground in your body and in the present moment.

Second, take some index cards or slips of paper, a good-size stack of them, and a timer. Set your timer for 60 seconds. Once your timer starts, write one word per card/slip and don’t stop until the timer goes off. It doesn’t matter what words you write, you’re trying to get at your intuition here.

I came up with “desk, lamp, lantern, tent, mountain, river, cloud, eagle, egg, nest, Chinese food, dragon, soar, sore, bruise, muscle, ocean, boat, wave, shell, turtle, island, tree, monkey, banana, mango,” etc.

Third, stand up and wiggle your body a bit to get out of your head. Then look at your cards/slips. Does any word in particular jump out at you? How might that word relate to your problem?

I love mangos, so that word jumps out at me. If my problem is feeling blah about a story I’m writing, what might mangos have to do with it? Mangos are sweet and bright … how could I bring more sweetness and brightness to my story or my writing process?

If none of the words necessarily jump out at first, close your eyes and swirl them around in front of you (this is the “tornado” part of the brain-tornado). Then look for pairs or trios of words that make interesting combinations.

I got “mango, dragon, tent.” Using the same story problem, the tent could represent my story structure, the dragon could represent my creative fire, and the mango could be a sense of the exotic; so, how could my creative fire infuse my story structure with a sense of the exotic?

Use your imagination and a sense of curiosity. You’re trying to tap into the abstract part of your brain to get at new information, which your linear mind may never have thought up. Keep swirling your cards or write a new batch if the exercise doesn’t work at first. The more you relax into it and make it a game, the more ideas you’ll generate.

Your brain-tornado can whisk you out of Kansas into a wonderful new land! Give it a try!



  1. […] Fight Like a Girl, is a certified coach, and has some very cool posts on writing up on her personal blog, copied here with permission. Whether you are a seasoned writer, or just starting out (or thinking […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: