When it comes to brainstorming, we think it is just about sitting down and cranking out a short list of ideas.

Oh, it is so much more than that. The secret is to dig deep.

We have our sights set and devoted to that first idea, sketch, sentence or word being PERFECT. After all, it came so easy! A no-brainer!

I’m here to tell you the gold is more than halfway down the list.

A few years ago while working as an entertainment reporter, I had an editor who would always chop off the first sentence or paragraph of my stories. It used to drive me flippin’ crazy because I had spent so much time writing and rewriting that lede, slaving away to make it sizzle. I wanted him to open my story, read the first sentence, and publicly admire my innovation! Instead, his fingers tap danced across his keyboard to highlight and delete. Can you say humbling?

Finally, one day I asked him why. He explained that most of the time, the gold is what comes after that first idea for the following reasons:

– The first try comes with the pressure or stress of trying too hard to be clever or cute.

– If you think your first idea is brilliant, chances are someone else has already thought of it.

– Sometimes it just doesn’t click, kind of like that first pancake on the griddle. It’s always a little wonky.

– There is a good chance it is a cliché.

I stopped pouting and let it sink in. He was right! I started going through my past stories and had an Oprah “Ah-ha!” moment. It clicked in my brain that by the time you get past the stress and energy of going for the most obvious ideas, you’re relaxed and able to think deeper. That’s when the best stuff happens!

When I used to interview celebrities for the newspaper, I’d brainstorm questions. I quickly discovered that my brilliant topics were also everyone else’s and the talent had a canned answer. So I began to dig around their bios and come up with offbeat topics related to their passion projects that I knew other reporters wouldn’t ask about. That is how I found out that Kate Hudson loves to scrapbook with lots of glitter!

Sometimes it happens organically. Other times you have to push yourself to come up with (and embrace) the next round.

I eventually applied the concept to branding my business and blogging. And writing. and everything! Every project, I’ll jot or sketch a few ideas. Even when I think I have a great list, I always, always, always whack off the first three or four.

Recently I spoke at a Disney Social Media Moms on the Road event, and had the pleasure of chatting with the Disney marketing team. One of the members explained the method of “listing.” She said that when brainstorming, the first five-to-six ideas come easy because they are from the logical side of your brain. Then that side is tapped out and your brain clicks over to the creative side. This is when you have to really push to come up with five to six more ideas. These will be the better ones because they aren’t as obvious. And of course, you’ll have to create sublists under them to bring them into context.

This process forces us to think outside the mainstream, or as my daughter Maya says – “basic.”

It also works with marketing plans. Write that press release or pitch. Find a kernel of something catchy in it and then rewrite it with that as the focus. I guarantee it will be more exciting and fresh.

Try it with:
– shopping
– blog headlines
– presentation topics
– naming your business/creating a logo
– choosing where to pitch a business plan
– the way you approach people
– slogans
– personal or company mission statements
– web design

Remember: Brainstorm at least 10-12 ideas and know that the gold will be in the bottom half! Use each topic as a header and add a sublist to it to expand upon it! You got this!

NOTE: The photo at the top is from an awesome blog post from PepperedThought about one of my novels!


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