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The Brainstorm Book
by Kathleen Ewing

"I can't think of anything to write."

By the time you sit down to create a poem, article or story, you should never have to make that remark. Ideas pursue you through the day and haunt you at night. They assail you without warning, jumping out at you from corners both dark and light. They tickle you, tackle you or steal your breath. With a spiral ring notebook, you can capture the essence of those ideas when they occur and keep them safe for those moments when your brain is vacant.

I call my notebook the Brainstorm Book. It is my most valuable writing tool. This stiff-backed volume accompanies me when I read the newspaper, watch the news on TV and peruse magazines or eavesdrop in the doctor's waiting room. Some entries are brief phrases or a single, poignant word. A few cover half a page. Some are neat and thoughtfully written, others scribbled in a rush and barely decipherable. All of the entries have one thing in common. Each is an idea that appealed to me when I recorded it.

Do not bother trying to organize your book. It is merely a spider web, a dream catcher, a mustache through which you filter the crumbs floating in your daily broth. It should resemble a scrapbook as much as a journal. Those notes you make when you wake up in the night with the perfect plot or line of dialogue? Do not waste time rewriting them. Tape them into your book. If you find a photograph, a small news clipping or a sticky note that intrigues you, glue it to a page. No one is grading you on neatness. It only matters that you are able to read your collage at a later date and recall the reason you entrusted those notes and items to your book rather than to your faulty memory.

Do not judge or agonize over what you write here. Send your nagging internal editor on hiatus. Participles may dangle. Nouns and verbs may clash. Adverbs and adjectives may proliferate. Doodles are acceptable. At this stage, it is all about capturing the illusive idea, not the style with which you narrate or illustrate it.

Ignore the temptation to fully develop your idea in your book. You don't want to expend all your creative energy at this stage. Simply record the idea along with a few pertinent details, and then allow it to sit and germinate. When you return to it at a later date, you may find that your mind has been secretly taking the original concept in a totally different direction that you imagined when you recorded the entry.

The best time to glean ideas from your collection is when you have just finished the first draft of your current project. Open your Brainstorm Book and select the seed for your next project. When you find one that still intrigues you with its potential, create a file folder for it. Staple a copy of your book entry inside the front cover of the folder. Do not remove the original from your book. In the future it might provide another seed for an entirely different embryo in your writer's laboratory.

Into this project file folder you can place other notes as they occur to you, pertinent news clips, photos and market data, including guidelines to help you slant your work. It will ferment there while you polish your current project and be waiting for you when you sit down to develop your next piece.

With a Brainstorm Book, your complaint may become, "I have too many ideas!" Every writer should have such a magnificent dilemma.

© Copyright 2008, Kathleen Ewing

Kathleen Ewing is an award-winning freelance writer headquartered in Central Arizonas high country. Among her credits are feature articles for Art Calendar, American Falconry, Bend of the River, TrailBlazer and Hobby Farms magazines. Visit her blog at www.rodeowriter.blogspot.com

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