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Getting Smarter through Language

The Writing Process | Enrichment Course

Stage 1. Step 1. Generating Ideas

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Avoiding Writer’s Block and Punting

A common mistake by inexperienced writers is to just jump right into writing only to stare at a blank page without knowing how to get started. It is no wonder they end up with writer’s block.

Conversely, sometimes they just start writing whatever first comes to mind. When you start writing without any preparation or planning, you likely end up rambling. You lose track of your central point and have to rewrite paragraphs.


You may also have great ideas as you go along only to forget them before including them in your work. If you do include it, it may mess up what you have already written, so you have to rewrite everything.

These problems result in frustration and loss of valuable time. To avoid them, you should first think about exactly what to want to write about. Rather than jumping right in, spend some time prewriting, planning, and creating a thesis before you start writing.

Prewriting and Generating Ideas

Prewriting refers to tasks you complete before you start writing. A number of prewriting techniques can help you explore a subject or topic, generate many ideas about it, and start gathering and organizing your thoughts.


List of techniques to generate ideas

These prewriting techniques can be adapted to generate ideas for any topic, for any purpose, and for any audience. Common techniques to generate ideas for writing include

Your Own Technique

Your own technique is what you ultimately develop as you try the aforementioned techniques over time. You should use the technique that works for you and for a particular task. If needed, create your own by combining or adapting techniques.

For example, you may start out by brainstorming and identifying “Topic A.” Then you can use clustering and find subtopics on “Topic A.” Next, you could discuss those ideas with others. As you would when using any of the other techniques, you end up generating and refining your ideas until you decide on a manageable topic that is suitable for your writing task.

Writing tip

Generating ideas is a process you must engage in intentionally. When you use any of the above techniques, make sure you understand why it is important to take the time to generate ideas and how the technique works.

If a technique does not work for you for whatever reason, find something else you can do. As long as you do spend time generating and selecting ideas for writing, you are on the write track.

Up Next: Stage 1. Step 2. Planning Your Writing

Continue the lesson to learn about planning your work.

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