Have you ever noticed that most articles have a similar format? I’ve read many, many articles, and interestingly enough, though different in content, many follow a very similar format. It looks sort of like this: 1-2 opening paragraphs, 3-5 solid points, followed by 1-2 paragraph closing. It’s a format that reads well, and it lends itself to people like myself who do not fancy themselves writers. Most of them end up being somewhere from 600-800 words. That’s enough to give Google their around 300 words for SEO, and it has the added benefit of painting a coherent argument.
For me, writing is not a very linear process. I usually do not begin at the beginning, as the old adage goes. Rather, I start with the part that’s most important to me—it begins with what I want to teach. By training, my background is in history, so it makes sense that I always start in the middle and work my way forward and backwards. Historians start with the point they want to prove, looking for evidence before working on any of the complementary parts.
The right frame of mind is very important as well. I’ve been able to create the right frame of mind through the use of classical music. Dubbed the “Mozart Effect,” a 1993 study showed that the IQ can be raised by as much as eight to nine points, for a period of 15 minutes, during listening to classical music. Lately, my music of choice while writing has been Wagner or Chopin, making the brain dump also a very mindful practice. I shut the world out during my writing process, powering down my phone, logging out of social media accounts and turning off all email notifications. Though when I feel stuck, I will post a status on Facebook that generates a social conversation, jogging my brain for more ideas.
How to Perform Brain Dump Writing
The brain dump is the method of dumping everything out that is in my head into a Google Doc, my preferred writing space. The brain dump has been used by productivity experts for years to help remove rubbish from the mind and to help to hash things out that otherwise would be metaphysically floating around. I have a running Google Doc where I keep all the topics I want to cover and possible headlines for each, though no headline is set in stone. I repeatedly ask my email list, podcast listeners and live stream interactors what they want to know more about. I am constantly growing this list of ideas.
As for a fresh brain dump, I open a blank document, put the title at the top and then start listing all the things I know about the subject at hand. I continually make notations at the bottom of the document as important points come to me, though they may not be pertinent at the given time. I work on expanding each point until it becomes apparent which are the main points. Then I see how and if the other points are complementary to the main ones, and if so, I combine them, if not I remove them.
Once I feel the main points are solid, I write a conclusion that sums it all up. After the conclusion is reached, I have enough information to go back and write the introduction. I read the whole document through. Usually, this first read doesn’t quite sound correct. I will then work an article up and down until it totally agrees and sounds strong.
After I realized that writing does not have to be a linear process, I became a much better writer. In typical historian fashion, I finish everything by going through it and looking for supporting resources to prove my point; adding some nice backlinks and also giving more authority to the piece.
The brain dump does not have to look the same for everyone. For me, it takes the form of a Google doc. However, for author, Jesse Tevelow, it’s Evernote, but for Speaker and Coach, Kamala Chambers, the preferred method is a notebook. The brain dump is very reliable and flexible, producing succinct results when put into action. You can also use mindmapping software such as Freemind, which is free. Or Scapple, which at the time of this writing costs around $15.
The Unexpected Results of a Brain Dump
The interesting thing about using the brain dump method of writing is that it has actually allowed me to better organize my thoughts and present them in a way that I am used to. More than just generating content, it’s allowed me to work out things in my business and my life by organizing the thoughts in my mind.
Content marketing is continually changing thanks to standard bearers such as Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute. More than ever it’s important that brands can generate valuable and unique content. In my mind, there is no better way to do so than a brain dump. You may just find your authentic voice and grow your following at the same time.