Let the storm(writing) begin

The idea of brainstorming is one we talk about all the time. For everything, not just in books. But certainly, if you are trying to come up with a book idea or developing a concept for an author, brainstorming is a critical part of the process. Just this morning, I had a brainstorming session with an author and his editor to try to think of ideas for the next book, which will be his fifth.

But sometimes the brainstorm isn’t enough and you’d be better served by digging deeper and finding ideas that come from your “heartbrain”. That’s what guest author on writersdigest.com Elizabeth Sims talks about in this piece adapted from her book You’ve Got a Book in You.

Sims describes your heartbrain as your whole, deepest self. When you bring this to your brainstorming, it takes on a new life. Thinking about it from a more personal and heartfelt place gives you an ability to reach deeper for your big ideas. She compares it to improv for actors: “In practically any stage of writing, when you’re brainstorming, trying to create new material, it’s like doing improv. And just like improv, it requires more than your head. It requires your heartbrain.”

By starting with a couple of key phrases that work as activators for your heartbrain – “Yes, and…” and “What if?” you are setting yourself up to have a successful stormwriting session.

Take a look and hopefully this idea will help you better develop new work that comes from your heartbrain and through the process of stormwriting rather than just relying on the rather dated and  overused notion of more general brainstorming. Good luck, and let us know if you come up with anything great!

5 Responses to Let the storm(writing) begin

  1. Joelle says:

    I love the idea of “Yes, and…” and likening it to improv. I used to make my living doing improvisation and was trained in Chicago and I often use things I learned from it in writing. In fact, I wrote a piece about it for SCBWI (A Questionable Beginning – a different topic). There’s a lot to be taken from improv.

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I’ll check it out. Both for myself and for when I do brainstorming with my young writers. It’s one of their favourite workshops.

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Writing isn’t something can can be “learned” beyond a certain basic level in my opinion; for instance, someone who sweats to learn how to play a musical instrument without the natural flair involved (and sorry to disappoint, but not everybody has this) might make an occasional sensation playing cover songs at a wedding, but they’ll never be remembered for their Stratocaster technique at Woodstock, if you’re familiar with that peculiar timewarp. I’m sure all this “heart brain” stuff sounds like a serious newsflash over at Writers Digest, but if you ran it by Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, they’d probably just laugh. If you have to beat a couple of rocks together to light up your keyboard you need to find a better hobby.

  3. Joelle, you’re right that ‘Yes, and–‘ is related to improv! The idea to apply it to writing came to me after talking with an actor friend about improv and hearing him say that ‘Yes, and–‘ is the only way to be successful at it. I relate the conversation in the book. (Full title: YOU’VE GOT A BOOK IN YOU: A STRESS-FREE GUIDE TO WRITING THE BOOK OF YOUR DREAMS.)

    Kevin, I agree with you that you can’t learn to write well from a book or a teacher. But you CAN develop your innate talent and teach yourself to write well, given good tools. That’s what my book is about. My methods and little made-up terms are just ways to try to get at the universal, imperishable truths about pouring out your creativity via the written word. I know they won’t resonate with everybody; we’re all on different paths.

    Thank you guys for commenting, and best to you in your writing!

  4. D.C. DaCosta says:

    Wow. Read that article and could only think….”DUH!”

    The problem is, there’s a difference between WRITING and STORY-TELLING.

    Many people who handle the language well can’t think up a story — or relate it in an interesting way. (Nathaniel Hawthorne comes to mind.) Others have a terrific tale to tell…but are weak on grammar and vocabulary or run to ambiguous sentences(J. K. Rowling?).

  5. Stacey says:

    Thanks for the great comments and useful discussion points. I love seeing you responding and exchanging ideas. Whether you agree or disagree with the blog’s content, thinking and talking about writing is the most important lesson of all.

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