Last week a student came into the Writing Center. He was struggling to come up with ideas for a paper he had to write. The assignment was for him to pick a time when he felt “out of place or like an outsider,” to describe the situation, and to tell how that experience made him feel. He said, “I don’t really have anything to write about this topic.”
However, once we started talking, it seemed to me that he had plenty of examples from which to choose. The problem was, as it often is, that he was thinking on such a broad scale that every example he came up with didn’t seem big enough to write about.
It was through talking the assignment and the subject out with me that the student was able to see that he was limiting his options too much. All I had to do was act as his sounding board and let him work his way around to that realization.
Basically, what we did was brainstorm. We talked everything out. The more we talked, the more ideas came to him. I wrote them down as we went along and before he knew it, he had given me five examples with supporting ideas. All he had to do was choose the one that was most interesting to him and/or that he had the most to say about and start writing.
Sometimes the best thing we can do when we feel stuck in the mud of our minds is talk to someone.
By talking to someone else, we will be forced to conceptualize the assignment we are working to complete. We have to explain it in a way that makes sense to them, which in turn solidifies the task in our minds. Talking is tricky that way.
The other thing that talking does is give us a fresh perspective. It allows us to get out of our own head long enough to see the assignment differently than we could or did on our own.
Have you ever heard the saying, two minds are better than one? Well, this is the basic idea of brainstorming through talk. And it works.
So next time you feel stuck in the mud of your mind and can’t seem to think of a topic or any ideas, talk to someone: a roommate, a friend, a coworker, a parent, anyone you can find who is willing to spend a few minutes talking with you (and keep in mind: there are plenty of those people willing to help at the Writing Center) to get those creative juices flowing!