How to Be More Versatile at Brainstorming

by | Creating | 3 comments

“Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” —George S. Patton

Image courtesy of tungphoto at

Image courtesy of tungphoto at

Sometimes our brainstorming technique gets stale, and we need a fresh method to brainstorm a project. In a past post, I showed how to use a simplified form of mind mapping. If you haven’t used mind mapping see How to Plan an Engaging Activity in Less Than 10 Minutes. If you’re already familiar with mind mapping, here’s another brainstorming technique I call the Challenge Method.

The Challenge Method is based on a simple game I’ve played over the years.

SquiggleSomeone draws a curvy line and challenges me to make something recognizable from the squiggle. The challenge and the crude drawing spark my interest. I study it and see the craggy nose of a fisherman. But wait. It also resembles the weathered head of a tortoise. I rotate the scrawl, and the possibilities churn. Inspired, I complete the drawing of an anthill with masses of ants streaming in and out of it. I’ve triumphed.


4 Steps to the Challenge Method of Brainstorming 

Step 1: Receive the spark.

Step 2: Accept the challenge.

Step 3: Explore the possibilities.

Step 4: Build the product.


Four of the six windowed sides.

Examples best describe the 4 steps.

Example 1: After my husband and I bought a hill overlooking a valley and the mountains in Southwestern Virginia, I perused thousands of floor plans online. Thousands. None were adequate to see our 270-degree view.

Finally, John said, “Get me a piece of graph paper.” He constructed an octagon on the paper and challenged us to design the rest of the house, extending it from two of the octagon’s adjacent sides. We explored many configurations, even after we turned our plan over to a draftsman. Today, we live in our dream home, enjoying our spectacular 270-degree view from our octagonal great room.


Bride and Groom, Just Married, Driving Away in CarExample 2: A hypothetical pastor sat in a restaurant booth next to two newlyweds. He overheard the young man say, “You are my morning star. I wake up early to watch you rise. I can’t wait to be with you all day.” The husband’s words wowed the pastor. He challenged himself to use this sentiment in a sermon. A sermon on anticipation? A sermon on adoring love?

But wait. Jesus is called the Morning Star in the Bible in Revelation 22:16. The pastor writes his sermon. He shares the story of the newlyweds and equates it to loving Jesus so much we rise early to read His words in the Bible and spend the day with Him.

Example 3: I enjoy thinking up hooks for the first line of possible stories. Here’s one: With the many interruptions to her already loaded schedule, when would she find the time to kill Rita?

Image courtesy of Pong at

Image courtesy of Pong at

Unlike many of my first lines, this one piqued my interest. I challenged myself to create a story starting with this line. It, indeed, kindled several ideas. Christian Fiction Online Magazine published my short story that the Challenge-Method generated. No plot spoilers here. You can read my story free at Plotting Murder.

Stay alert for the sparks all around you. They’re often unlikely items. Years ago, the target sign on a popular department store caught my eye. I wrote a short story about a father who discovers his troubled son with a bulls-eye taped over his heart and fears he’s contemplating suicide. So, keep your creative feelers twitching in every direction.

What trigger challenged you to the possibilities of a successful project?

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  1. Marcia A. Lahti

    Stimulating topic.

    I’ve participated in scribble art, especially to entertain children, seen the 270° view, and was there when two young caddies talking (one was a girl) sparked Zoe to envision a complete love story.

    I am always looking for creative triggers for my correspondence ministry—a photo, a quote, unusual stationery and stamps. I decorate my envelopes with pictures, words, stamped images, or drawings. I look for things to include with my notes—a pressed flower, shiny confetti, a tea bag—Inspirational stories, cartoons. I’ve sent a puzzle made from a cut up card. Right now, I’m looking at a stick of bubble gum flavored gum…aaah…wouldn’t that perk up a stack of mail? Commenting has been fun, and I haven’t even started on emails.

  2. Zoe M. McCarthy

    I know the recipients of your letters await them, Marcia. My day gets a blip of enjoyment when I’ve received colorful envelopes and fun stationary on your emails.

  3. Zoe M. McCarthy

    I have received some good comments through emails: Dreams as sparks. An extension to the simple mind mapping. Keep them coming. Post them for all to see.

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