Once you decide to write about something, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by the volume of ideas which flood your mind. Of course, the reverse could also be the case. I think it is important to realize that writing provides an opportunity to explore rare pools of knowledge and to learn something new.
Starting from scratch on a writing project gives you a chance to sharpen your analytical and writing skills. Ultimately, you will discover something about yourself by the end of the process. Before you start writing, explore topics through the following steps:
1. Make a list of things you want to write about; this is your brainstorming session. Spend time on it. Let your mind wander. Write things down: thoughts, ideas, feelings. Be random or organized whatever works for you. Do not worry about the words you choose. They do not matter at this stage.
2. Get a writer's notebook or a journal and write down your experiences relating the topics you're interested in and how you feel about them. Write down what you've learned from conversations you've had with people around the topics. Research articles on the topics. Search for online or offline forums discussing these topics and take notes. From time to time, read your journal and write down any new insights. Do not worry about grammar and spelling. Your notebook is your personal space to feel free.
3. Ask yourself questions about the topic (s).
- Whom or what is the topic about and why?
- Why am I interested in topic A, B or C?
- What information is available on this topic?
- What insights do I want to add to this topic?
- What is happening in this story?
- Whom / What is causing the action in this story (if any)?
Write down your answers and compare them with previous notes / lists you've made on the topic. When you compare your ideas, look for similarities, contrast, relationships, and repetitions.
4. Gather your lists, experiences, ideas and insights into groups; this is called clustering in writing. You can create a simple table with columns and rows, and group similar ideas, thoughts and observations in separate columns. You can also draw a simple mind map with circles, squares, or rectangles, and organize your topic ideas and notes in them. Use lines or arrows to link related groups. This process helps you organize your thoughts on the subject.
5. Free Writing: This is the style of writing you use when brainstorming and answering the questions you ask yourself. Write thoughts down and do not worry about whether they make sense or not. Write for as long as you need to.
Going through these steps will help you to narrow down your list of topics, generate ideas for your first draft, and write confidently about the topic you choose.
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Mercy A. Ananeh-Frempong