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Creativity Coaching : Jurgen Wolff : An Endless Flow of Ideas

An Endless Flow of Ideas: The Four Brainstorming Guidelines

Excerpted from Chapter 4 of Your Writing Coach: From Concept to Character, from Pitch to Publication

By Jurgen Wolff

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." — Jack London

Your Writing Coach by Jurgen WolffInspiration is wonderful, when it happens. The problem is that it is notoriously unreliable. In this chapter you will discover strategies and techniques that help you come up with ideas whenever you need them. I first became interested in this when I started writing for television. My agent set up appointments for me to pitch ideas to various series. At each meeting I was expected to present six to eight storylines that suited that show. I quickly realized it would be very helpful to have a method for coming up with good ideas, rather than sitting around and hoping some would occur to me randomly. Over the years I have continued to research and develop new approaches for generating ideas, and now I will share the best ones with you.

Before we start, let's consider the simple guidelines to keep in mind for effective brainstorming.

The four brainstorming guidelines

  1. Go for quantity. Try to come up with as many ideas as possible, as quickly as possible.

  2. No judging! Later you will evaluate all the ideas you have come up with, but if you do that while generating ideas you will stop the flow.

  3. Write everything down. Not writing something down is a form of judging it, so capture every idea, no matter how crazy or off-topic it may seem.

  4. Build on other ideas. Don't get hung up on trying to develop something completely new, because in reality there is almost nothing totally new in the world. Even the most amazing breakthroughs tend to be combinations of existing elements.

Of these four, the hardest by far to observe is number two. We seem to be trained to judge every idea instantly, and usually to judge it harshly. If you brainstorm in pairs or a group, remind each other not to judge — not even with a look or an intonation, or a self-deprecating comment like, "This probably isn't a very good idea, but — " If you have a particular problem with this, you probably have an out-of-control inner critic, and a later chapter will help you transform it into a more constructive inner guide.

You may want to jot down the four guidelines on a sticky note and put it on a wall somewhere near your desk. Now you're ready to let the ideas flow. •

Next: Your Writing Coach Book Review »

© 2007 Jurgen Wolff. Reprinted with Permission.

Jurgen WolffJurgen Wolff has written over 100 episodes of TV, and six books. More »