We’re all familiar with writer’s block. It shows up when we’re doing creative work and, in particular, when we’re working on something new. Brainstorming can counteract the effects of writer’s block that often occurs during admissions essays, thus improving your chances of getting into college.
The process of brainstorming destroys the barriers to creativity and allows us to generate ideas, find solutions quickly, and do our best work. Brainstorming helps you deal with much of the uncertainty and anxiety around essay writing. The following list of brainstorming methods includes both individual and group approaches that can be applied to choosing an essay prompt, developing an essay prompt, establishing a writing approach, and anything else your creative mind can conjure.
Individual Brainstorming Techniques
Brainstorming may give rise to images of groups shooting ideas back and forth. However, you don’t need anyone else to brainstorm with the following techniques. Note: these techniques are not limited to individuals; they will also work in groups.
The word storm technique is about creating groups of word clouds so you can visualize an idea or encourage the process of creative writing to begin. Feel free to use a whiteboard and a marker or a pen and paper. Start with a simple word in the middle of the sheet or board (usually, the one describing the topic of your essay best) and use association to come up with any other word related to it. Finally, group these together based on some connection between them.
Another way to use associations and organize ideas is by mind mapping. This works better than lists as it emphasizes the visual element, which is proven to help us remember better. Start with a single word/idea again and imagine that any other word you write connected to it is the branch of a tree. This is especially useful with complex essay topics, which you can break down into easy to follow steps.
Group Brainstorming Techniques
While all of the previous methods can work for either individual or group brainstorming, these next techniques work best with more than one person.
Gather 2 or more people together and present to them the same problem (the topic of the essay). Each individual will write an idea on a piece of paper or index card. Then everyone passes the index card to their left or right.
After receiving another’s card, you add a comment or improvement to the idea directly below it. Continue this until everyone has commented on each card. After one or more sessions, collect all ideas and write them on a whiteboard. Let the discussion ensue.
Rapid ideation is an intensive session of idea generation that can produce massive results. Experts in all fields have used it to think of big ideas in a short amount of time, and it might be what you’re looking for to proceed with writing your essay.There are many methods connected to this approach, such as SCAMPER (the technique that uses action verbs to help the idea generation process) and gamestorming (for those interested in gamification).
Figure storming is an unusual technique that involves thinking of a person from history that all people in the group know and trying to figure out what that person would do to solve the problem you’re discussing. This method encourages individuals to explore outside perspectives in a new, fun way.
Brain netting, a fancy name for online brainstorming, allows a group of people located in different parts of the world to collaborate (which brings extra opinions and resources to the table). The principles of any other brainstorming session are the same, except you are drawing from a larger and more diverse set of people. There are a wide variety of tools at your disposal such as Google Docs. Get connected and get creative.
Brainstorming is a crucial element in the process of writing a good essay. It is the foundation from which you construct your narrative. Use the above techniques to facilitate your creative process and distinguish yourself from the large pools of essays in your classroom or your admissions process. If you are still struggling with your essay, check out our deconstruction of the notorious Costco Essay that got one student into 5 Ivy League schools.