The Tool that Gives You an Infinite Number of Brains

By forcing yourself to consider alternatives when writing your copy, presentation, screenplay, novel, short story or other prose, you can create a virtual brainstorming session within your own skull. The best way to do this that I’ve found is to create a decision tree. The key here is to force yourself to get your thinking out of your head and onto the paper or screen. The temptation to turn it over in your head and consider the job done will be great. But the difference between just thinking about it and doing it is the difference between imagining doing twenty reps on the abs machine — and doing them. 

The process itself is simple. Go through what you’ve written so far and wherever you spot a choice, give it a name and write it down. The nature of the choice depends upon the type of writing you’re doing. It may be a decision that a character makes, or a component of the universe you’re creating. It may be the value proposition of the product or service you’re pushing, or what overall tone you decide to give your piece. 

Make a list of these choices, then branch out the alternatives from each choice. When you’re done, you’ll have a list of variables and possible values sprouting from each. One at a time, choose a value and see where it takes you. When you feel you’ve reached an impasse or a successful conclusion, Move down to the next choice on your decision tree.  

If you’re assiduous, you will start to see a pattern in your thinking. This may be good, if it helps you shape each decision and your overall scheme. But it may be bad if you start to see where lazy thinking has got you repeating yourself.  

The whole idea is to exercise your mind. As it strengthens, you will come up with alternatives and ideas that you never considered. The decision tree will in fact become a multiplier, enabling you to accomplish the brainwork or two or more people all by yourself. 

Being a nerd, I like to use mind mapping software for this exercise. It’s fast, easy and makes the whole thing more fun. But it’s just as effective to use a writing stick and those pounded sheets of tree pulp.  

So get treed!  

I made this decision tree using SimpleMind on my iPad Pro. SimpleMind is also available for MacOS. There are many other mind map programs available for all platforms, including pen and paper.  

I made this decision tree using SimpleMind on my iPad Pro. SimpleMind is also available for MacOS. There are many other mind map programs available for all platforms, including pen and paper.  

“Crap, I made too much.”

Ever get approached by a mom, friend or relative with an offer to take handmade food off their hands? “Crap, I made too much of this dump pie / tuna casserole / hazelnut butter brownie loaf. Would you please, please take some home?”  

Awesome, right?  

You can give yourself the same delicious gift in your writing.

First, a disclaimer: if you know The Writer Coach paradigm, you know it’s all about the plan. We’re front-loaders around here, and that means don’t just sit down in front of blank glass and spitball at it. NO. Create your wonder-work step by step, building new work upon old. Turn an idea into a premise into a structure into an outline into a screenplay, presentation, webinar or whatever your final product is. Not only will your final draft be better for it, you’ll get multiple writer-gasms when all that early work starts to pay off in the final stages. 

But to paraphrase Eisenhower (I think it was), once the first shot is fired, the war plan goes out the window. Just as you need to be structured and straited enough to build the all-important underpinnings of your project first, you need to be footloose and improvisational enough to abandon the plan when circumstances, intuition or inspiration calls for it.  

A good example is writing the movie or TV scene. You’ve laid out the arc of your scene, which characters will be involved, how it begins and ends, and about how many pages it ought to run. Then you start to write, and you’re cooking. It feels good. It’s as close to something “writing itself” as you’ve experienced.  

Well, don’t stop simply because the scene is over and your plan is executed. This is one of those times that you don’t drive according to the TripTik (see the Auto Club website for what the heck that is), you drive according to how much gas is left in the tank (or juice left in the Tesla). Don’t even pay attention to proper formatting. Drive! Stick a new scene heading in there if you’re writing a screenplay, or click up a blank slide for your Keynote deck if you have the presence of mind — just keep going.  

You’ve just transitioned from writing to drafting.  

“Drafting” is a term I use advisedly. It not only means that you’re writing off-plan; it means that you’re using the supersonic wedge of your inspiration to create a vacuum into which your stream-of-consciousness can flow. Just like the smartest drivers of race cars, you’re taking advantage of your speed and position to get farther, faster. But unlike those drivers, if you make a mistake (and you’ll make plenty), you can fix it later.  

So hit the Pomodoro timer with a mallet and ignore those calls for dinner. This is no time to pace yourself.  Go ahead and make too much.

You can always give the extra away later.