Best Places and Activities for Passive Brainstorming

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What does brainstorming look like? Is it a bubble graph spreading over a sheet of paper, or a neat folder full of news clippings and timelines? Everyone asks published authors where they get ideas and how inspiration turns into a story. Sometimes, brainstorming isn’t about glaring at a blank page and demanding a narrative. Often, the best ideas come when you aren’t looking, and there are several great ways to coax them out of your peripheral vision.

Browsing the Library

Libraries aren’t just for research. Simply wandering the shelves and browsing through titles, authors, and sections you rarely visit can spark new ideas. At the very least, you’ll probably go home with a fresh book (or twelve) to read.

You already have more ideas than you realize. Random word association from different book spines may push two concepts together until they click. Old stories come flooding back with a few words, suggestive notes from history associated with the names in the biography sections, and even the unique fonts on individual spines keep your eyes busy while your background thoughts spin something new.

Strolling in Nature

It’s an unfortunate fact that your brain is just another part of your body, and it depends on the rest of your body to function. Going on long walks is a tried and true brainstorming method of the greatest authors to ever write. It isn’t just the exercise. It isn’t just the fresh air. Even the most spectacular scenery in the world won’t do the job alone.

A combination of nature and exercise leads to not only new ideas, but better brain function. We writers spend an awful lot of time sitting, and our brains process information differently when we’re on our feet, in motion. Taking that motion outside leads to extra stimuli, which are the font of all great thought.

Taking a Shower with Aroma Therapy

Lots of people have their best thoughts in the shower. No surprise there. Adding new scents to the scene, however, can sharpen focus and heighten sensory input. Essential oils are nice, but you don’t necessarily need them. Candles work great, as do wax melts, and incense.

Want something that doesn’t generate heat? Slice a lime, lemon, or orange and put it on the shower floor or shelf. All you have to do is relax and let the thoughts flow. Practiced regularly, this technique can train your brain to automatically go into creative mode when you detect the right scents.

Creating Pinterest Boards in a Dark Room

Pinterest is many writers’ favorite distraction tool. It feels vaguely productive, and you have something to show for your effort at the end of the hour (or day), even if you haven’t written a word. Used wisely, however, Pinterest really is a brainstorm machine. The trick is to use it less as a distraction and give the website its own timeslot.

Wait until its dark, shut off the lights, and let the ‘distraction’ become your focus. Search images, ideas, words, and tropes that have been floating around in the back of your mind. Watch those concepts flesh out into full boards, and don’t be afraid to micro-organize with subfolders. You may surprise yourself with a vague outline at the end of the day.

What passive brainstorm techniques work best for you? Ever had a eureka moment in the shower? How did your best ideas come to you?

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