Time for a shameless plug:
We just dropped our son off at college this week, and you know what I’m the most envious about? That he’s going to school in Boston, which gives him access to the Boston Public Library! He’s our third child in college, and they’re all good readers, but even so I’ve encouraged all of them to visit their town’s public library and apply for a free card. Public library collections are very different from college library collections, since the colleges need to cater to a specific audience – namely the professors and students, focusing their collection on materials that can supplement coursework. Years ago I worked at a small public library in Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, and one day two young ladies walked in, obviously new students at the school. They looked around the small magazine reading area, taking the entire library in in a few glances. Back then the library (now in it’s own gorgeous building) rented space in a storefront of a strip mall and the staff did their best with the tiny, odd space. We had a magazine reading area, children’s area, public computers and a small staff area in the back of the storefront. Usually we’d get visitors who would look around and then compare it to the big, beautiful library in their home town or places they went on vacation. But these two girls looked around, sighed, and one said to the other, “Oh, yeah. That’s more like home.” Our tiny library was familiar to them, a haven of normalcy in their big, unfamiliar college territory.
What’s in your wallet?
Brainstorming is a creative problem-solving activity that can be performed in groups or alone. It’s not just for battling writer’s block – in fact, according to Wiki, brainstorming was invented by an advertising executive way back in 1939 as a method to break open creativity among his employees. (I find that I automatically engage in brainstorming activities with my colleagues to solve problems at work, and since libraries need to be constantly improving and changing, it’s a great skill to bring to any employer)
Since its inception, many variations of brainstorming have developed, and it’s certainly best to use the ones that work for you, but there are five key points to keep in mind:
- Defer judgement – when brainstorming, there’s no bad idea and it’s important to suspend the urge to dismiss anything at the early stages.
- Aim for quantity – the more ideas you come up with, the better the likelihood that you’ll generate something that works
- Go wild – the wilder the idea, the better. I’ve found that when I’m brainstorming, I’ve got to travel pretty far out in the realm of improbability to unsnag something that might eventually be developed into a probable solution.
- Two heads are better than one – Despite how wild your imagination might be, it’s still just shaped by your paradigm, so you can improve on your ideas if you share them with someone else who is willing to bring their experience into the mix.
- Let it simmer – After a brainstorming session, I always set my ideas aside, at least overnight, so I can gain some distance from them. Things always seem a bit clearer, a bit fresher, after a rest, and when I return to my list, inevitably the best ideas start to rise to the top. Connections between what seemed like random ideas start to form, and I experience renewed energy about the project.
For me, those are the basics, but there is a wealth of information available for specific techniques to approach brainstorming to help you get started.
During April, I’m participating in The A to Z Blogging Challenging, blogging 26 days of the month on topics that systematically move through the alphabet. The goal is to develop a more regular blogging habit and network with other bloggers. Join us!
Camp NaNoWriMo is a modified version of National Novel Writing Month that will take place in April. It’s a free online event that encourages you to shake off the winter blues and get back into your novel! Participants can set their own word goals, join a virtual tent of fellow campers and work on any project they choose. Some of you Wrimos may be familiar with a plot device known as “The Traveling Shovel of Death” which can be pretty handy to increase your novel’s word count if the TSoD shows up in your book! I saw this picture and I wondered how useful it might be for Camp NaNoWriMo… What do you think folks? What would your MC do if they came across an axe emblazoned with the message DO IT?
An inspiring clip from a film from co-creators Allan Amato & Olga Nunes, Temple of Art, is about why we need to do the hard work of creating art with comments from over 40 creators including Neil Gaiman, Billy Bob Thornton, Amanda Palmer, Kevin Smith, Ben Folds, Chuck Palahniuk, Grant Morrison & Molly Crabapple. Their message? You have permission to create.
“Have you ever pulled over the side of the road to hear a song again from the beginning, or seen a painting that just seemed impossible? How does this beautiful thing exist? How does a person decide, day after day, to build their life around making such a thing happen? Imagine you got to hang out with some of your favorite artists; now imagine you asked them: Why do you make art?
“TEMPLE OF ART is a documentary that looks at what it even means to be an artist, how to fail beautifully, and proceed with courage.”