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!