Writing Tip: Creating Constellations

So, I found out I’m not a linear thinker. Instead of opening tabs in my mind, one by one, from left to right in a coherent sequence, my brain likes to flood my mind’s eye with pop-up windows, creating layers of thoughts that are difficult for me to sift through. I can write lists, create tables and use templates to stay organized but wouldn’t you know that these methods, for some reason, feel too organized for my mind.

I know what you’re thinking, but B, is that really a thing, being too organized? When it comes to brainstorming, yes, it’s so a thing for me and it’s why obvious methods of organization don’t stick with me. I don’t really know what this means about the kind of person I am, hopefully nothing too concerning, but all I know is that if my mind feels confined or restricted in any way, it gets all pissy and won’t let those flood gates open. What I’ve doing for the past couple of years is picking a pop-up box to focus on, while others expire and disappear from my mind. Even if I managed to record as many of those fading pop-ups as I could, when I come back to them, they don’t feel as tangible. I’ll ask myself, where the hell did that thought come from? fail to make the connection to my context and then dismiss the idea.

When I think about it, I wonder how many great ideas I’ve trashed, those ideas that were before their time, so to speak (RIP those brilliant story plots that got killed off).

So, B, what are doing to get your literary shit together? I’m glad you asked. The method that I’ve found that works for me isn’t a new one. In fact, it makes perfect sense for those who hate numbers and boxes (pfft, numbers, who needs em?). Some people call it clustering, others call it mind mapping, but since I had to make the method more appealing to myself, I call it creating constellations.

I knew about this technique for a while but kind of blew it off because I thought it would be just like the other mainstream methods but it’s not. And I tell you why.

What makes a big difference is that my brain is free to empty it’s mess of thoughts without worrying about what should come first, what should go last, which thought is more important, which thought is too minuscule, and more importantly, I can retrace my line of thinking, keeping the context prominent. There is no order I need to follow. No cap. And when I’ve exhausted a branch, I can hop over to another bubble in flash, keeping up with my spewing thoughts so that I don’t miss a thing, and I can go right back to the other bubble to expand some more, with no time lost and no thought left behind.

I’m sure a lot of you are already familiar with this method and probably use it already but if you don’t, if you have the same hang ups as I use to have, I want to tell you to get in the habit of sitting down and using this method. It’s freeing because it doesn’t have to make sense on the paper, what’s important is that you cooperate with your complex, not-always-rational way of thinking.

It kind of annoys me that it took this long to know how to use this method effectively but better late then never right? I already have a short stack of constellations accumulated. I’ve decided to date them and over time, look back and see how my thinking process develops.

What methods do you use to brainstorm?

– B. Brown