As someone new to the world of freelance writing, I’m always on the lookout for the best tools and techniques to help improve my writing. Right now my favourite gadget is not my laptop, and it isn’t my android. As helpful as these technological wonders are, my most effective writing tool is not high-tech at all. And the technique that gives me the most effective results is one you probably learned in elementary school.
I recently took an online writing course. The instructor strongly recommended using the Balloon Method for brainstorming. For the uninitiated, this involves writing a topic in a circle, and linking it to several smaller circles that contain ideas related to the topic. The instructor warned us NOT to use letter or legal size paper for the exercise. Instead, she told us to buy a big flipchart, you know, like the one your primary school teacher used. And she said to let our imaginations go wild. This was music to my ears.
I’m a very visual, kinesthetic person. I like seeing the big picture and using my hands. And I don’t like to be hemmed in by rigid boundaries. I think that’s why I never liked doing formal outlines in school. They’re written on loose-leaf, in formal style. Outlines are visually unappealing, offer minimal, tactile experience and are just a little too restrictive for me. But the idea of using colored markers and drawing circles filled with words on a big piece of newsprint? That thrills my hands-on, image inspired heart.
The combination of technique and tool gives me just what I need to stay focused and to exercise creativity at the same time. I’m not restricted to limited space or formal boundaries. I can let loose with as many crazy ideas as I want. Then I repeat the same method with each idea. By the time I’m finished, I have a working outline for my article, blog or essay. And I can keep the page attached to the large pad for future reference (and adding to).
The Balloon Method has liberated my imagination. And the old-fashioned flipchart might be low tech, but it gives me high levels of creative satisfaction. Two vital ingredients for better writing.