How to Be More Versatile at Brainstorming

“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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How to Transform Your Dream into a Vision and Then into a Reality: Part 1

“All our dreams can come true—if we have the courage to pursue them.” —Walt Disney

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Today, we’ll focus on the dream and the vision. Next Thursday in Part 2, I’ll give steps to convert a vision into a reality.

My dreams that have come to fruition are those I’ve worked hard to make happen. Because they were labors of love, I was energized to do the work.

When is it time to transform a dream into a vision?

For me, I know it’s time to pursue a vision for my dream:

  1. When my dream will help others;
  2. When I’m confronted constantly with things and people that spark possibilities and ideas for my dream;
  3. When God nudges me through scriptures and prayer that it’s His will.

Prepare Yourself First

  1. Visualize the experience your dream will create for others.
  2. Picture people using and enjoying your dream’s benefits.

    Image courtesy of Ambro at
    Image courtesy of Ambro at
  3. Envision people changing for the better and helping others because of it.
  4. Believe in your dream so much that its fruit outweighs the costs.
  5. Adopt a just-do-it attitude. Many good works don’t happen because we want others to approve and shoulder our dream.
  6. Embrace that you will sacrifice time, money, and energy for your dream.
  7. Garner courage and determination to complete the good work.
  8. Refuse to entertain subtle or blatant discouragements.

Steps to convert a dream into a vision.

Image courtesy of Kenneth Cratty at
  1. Enlist a supporter who truly believes in you. Ask them to be willing to listen to your ideas, challenges, and progress reports.
  2. Mind-map everything about your dream that enters your mind in a brainstorming session—how the experience should look, the benefits, the tasks, the resources, materials, and permissions needed.
  3. Prioritize the elements of your dream as laid out in your mind map. Some items may be extraneous or too expensive.
  4. Brainstorm with your supporter alternatives for some of the expensive dream items. Pare down others.
  5. Write a paragraph describing the vision of your dream.

Creating a Christian Library – Dream to Vision 

A Christian Community library hosted my workshop. The library captivated me. Having taken a library cataloging course and having worked in a branch library, my mind started churning. Wouldn’t such a library benefit our community?

Our church library lived in a tiny room and offered mostly ancient books. Often, the hand bells were stored there, hogging browsing space. How sad.

Among other dream igniters, every time I drove by a small house for sale near our church, I envisioned a Christian library inside it.

Finally, my prayers led me to turn my dream into a vision.

Image courtesy of -Marcus- at

I brainstormed a mind map and trimmed my dream from a community library to a new church library. I decided forming a committee would only hinder forward movement. I had some money I could use. I’d secure permissions and just do it.

My husband and the church Education Director believed in me.

My vision: Refurbish the large, abandoned youth room, using its closet for an office. Keep two sturdy existing bookcases and add several new ones. Add comfortable armchairs. Find a table for the children’s area. Purchase a cataloging program and link the catalog to the church website. Use the Dewey Decimal System and catalog and label books. Develop rules for what goes on the shelves. Acquire modern books from donations and used bookstores. Once the library proves worthy, ask for donations of new books or money. Train assistants.

What dream would you like to turn into a vision?

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How to Plan an Engaging Activity in Less Than 10 Minutes

“You give birth to that on which you fix your mind.”  —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I love mind mapping. I use a simplified version of Tony Buzan’s Mind Maps I learned in a creativity workshop.

Creating a Plan for Your Activity

Although you can use this technique for any type of activity, I’ll demonstrate the process through planning my workshop: Prayer: It’s Aliiive! The workshop was based on two short stories from my book, Crumbled, Tumbled, Humbled—Saved.

Prayer Beads

Step 1. (Five minutes.) I sat comfortably with a piece of paper, a pen, and highlighters in different colors. In the center of the paper, I wrote Prayer Workshop and circled it. I fixed my mind on what an engaging workshop might look like.

Then I let my mind go wild. All over the paper, I wrote words or phrases that came to mind. I didn’t judge or cross out any jottings.

Like for popcorn, when ideas popped less frequently and finally stopped, I went to Step 2.

Step 2. (Two minutes.) I perused my jottings. I saw connections among various items. Usually three to five groups are identified. I recognized four in my workshop list.

I highlighted the items belonging to each group with a different color.

  • simple & fun
  • handouts
  • base on 2 stories and quotes on prayer
  • story 1= Praise God!
  • story 2 = Trinkets
  • prayer beads
  • dramatic readings
  • quotes on prayer
  • quotes by popular Christians
  • quotes profound and personal
  • scripture on handout: 1 Samuel 12:23
  • decorate room with life-sized trinkets
  • lesson through activities
  • craft-store beads in shapes of story’s trinkets
  • intro about how stories came about
  • rainbow-colored prayer-chain cord
  • divide into groups to discuss quotes
  • books available to purchase
  • token to take home as reminder
  • handout to record bead shapes & people they represent for receiving prayer
  • one hour
Quote on Prayer

Step 3. (Three minutes.) I assigned descriptive headings to the groups. On the back of my paper, I made a table with the headings across the top. I placed the unique, color-coded jottings in their respective columns. My plan was complete.

General Workshop Setup  Dramatic Reading Quotes on Prayer Participants Make Prayer Chains for Praying for Family & Friends
Simple & fun Dramatic readings of 2 stories on prayer Quotes by popular Christians Prayer beads on cord represent family members and friends
One hour Story 1= Praise God! Quotes profound and personal Craft-store beads in shapes of story’s trinkets (animals, stars, harts, etc.)
Lesson through activities Story 2 = Trinkets Divide into groups to discuss quotes Rainbow-colored prayer-chain cord like in story
Base on 2 stories and quotes on prayer Decorate room with life-sized trinkets –stuffed animals, etc. Handout of quotes Handout to record bead shapes and people they represent  for receiving prayer
Intro: how stories came about Quotes posted around room Scripture on handout: 1 Samuel 12:23
Token to take home as reminder
Books (containing the 2 stories) available to purchase

Sometimes items will fit under multiple headings, adding something different to each group. Also, more items may be added (see two not highlighted).

What is your favorite brainstorming method?

To CONTACT ME use the form. To LEAVE A COMMENT use the COMMENT option below the form.

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