Feeling stuck is your brain’s way of telling you there’s something you’re missing. It’s a red flag. A flashing light. A clue to slow down and start thinking. Carefully.
One of the best ways to think is through brainstorming. Getting up, getting a marker, and writing things down on the whiteboard. Some people use clustering (here is an example for plotting), some like idea webs, and me, I tend to just plop words up on the board until I find something amazing. Then I write down the amazingness, wipe off the board, and start over with the amazing bits as my jumping-off point. To quote an old marketing director, you have to go through a bunch of bad ideas to get to a good one. So get those bad ideas out, smearing them everywhere without shame. They’ll lead you to the awesome ones.
Of course, a whiteboard isn’t a critical component. There’s always pen and paper, or even better, index cards – immortalize the good ideas in spiffy 3×5 goodness. I’ve even tried sticky notes on the wall (great plotting technique) – the trouble is, the fall off eventually, no matter how Super they claim to be.
So it’s back to the amazing whiteboard. Write, immortalize, erase. Or just take a picture of the board – email it to yourself from your phone. Turn it black and white and fix the wibbly bits in Photoshop or Picnik (free) – keep your doodle forever! Which is super helpful for character family trees and plot boards – you can add the picture to your character sheet and refer to it later.
Whiteboards are also great for freelance-type writing. I spent a good part of the morning splashing ideas for a charity’s website all over the board – and ultimately found the right words, the ones that will communicate their need and their potential. I’ve whiteboarded photographer products, design work and nifty ideas I just can’t put down. Something about standing at a board makes me think. I’m sure it’s all the time I spent in school, standing up doing problems under pressure while my friends looked on. It makes you focus. Plus, standing you burn more calories.
To-do lists also rock on the board. If it’s on (my second, smaller) board, it’s out of my mental clutter. Plus you get to erase one thing at a time until the board’s empty and then look to see how amazing and productive you’ve been. Adding and subtracting is easy – planning rocks. Plus, it’s a board! You can get super magnets, happy markers, even a cute eraser. It’s all the fun and organization of school without the lectures.
So, to bring my whiteboard rant back to a circular (rectangular?) close, when you get stuck, get up. Work it out in brainstorming – preferably on a whiteboard, but paper or sticky notes work just fine – and go through all the bad ideas you can on your way to the good ones. A little thinking makes a lot of difference – your audience can always tell when you’re faking it.