People often underestimate the value in brainstorming. You don’t have to sit down to work every day, ready to fire away and write full steam ahead. Sometimes the words just aren’t there. This is when brainstorming comes in handy.

Despite many people thinking brainstorming is a group activity, you can in fact brainstorm on your own. The goal in brainstorming is just to toss ideas into the air and see which ones land as you work to sort out a particular problem.

For example, I had this really long short story call “Blue Moon Story” that had a good IDEA, but the execution never excited me all that much. I knew the idea behind the story was worth pursuing, I just knew I’d gone about it all wrong the first time.

So on the drive home from work one night, I started throwing ideas out, talking to myself out loud. I had a character and an opening, but nowhere to go from there. What if this happens, I said? Where does the story go from there? Where do I want it to go? Okay, I know how I want it to end, but how do I get there?

I brainstormed ideas and directions for this story on the full 15 minute ride home and by the time I pulled up, I had the story ready to go and I tackled it the next morning, finishing a first draft in only a couple of days.

That’s not to say every brainstorming session ends with similar results, but at least you can walk away with a list of ideas that don’t work and directions you know not to take.

I’ve done this with titles dozens of times. Not every story has a title built into it. My STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE sequel short, “The Dichotomy of Monsters” went through a handful of possible titles before settling on that one, and each one was CLOSE, but not THE title. I used a brainstorming session one morning on the way to work to get that one.

Hell, even the name Midwest Creativity Control was the result of a brainstorming session with my team, everyone throwing out ideas in a group email and discussing each one until we finally came up with the right one, complete with rationale on why it’s the perfect name for our organization.

Brainstorming sessions can be a lifesaver to a creative, especially when you have a group of people involved, but even when it’s just you throwing ideas around yourself. I talk story ideas and details out with myself all the time, and they always bear fruit for whatever I’m working on.

Don’t feel pressured every day if you don’t know what you want to write about or which direction a story needs to take. The possibilities are nearly endless and you’ll find the right one with a quick brainstorming session.

So here’s a question. When you sit down at your desk, or wherever you write, what’s the attitude with which you approach the work?

Are you coming at the day’s words as one who really doesn’t want to be here, but knows they need to get something done, so you show up begrudgingly and jot down a hundred words just to say you did it? Or do you attack the page, firing off a thousand words in thirty minutes?

Margot Fonteyn said, “My attitude has never changed. I cannot imagine feeling lackadaisical about a performance. I treat each encounter as a matter of life and death.”

Now, I’m not saying you should go to THAT extreme when you come to work every day, but whether you realize it or not, your attitude when you sit down to do that day’s work has a huge affect.

I’ve got this day job–night job, really–that I hate. And it shows every day when I get there. I’m always in a grouchy mood, wanting to be anywhere but there, and the waves of disgruntlement and discontent radiate off me. I get my work done, but that’s all I do. If the line is down for a minute, there’s just as much chance I’m standing there, silently waiting for it to start up again as there is I’m doing something productive like cleaning my area or changing the trash. Because I just don’t care. I want to care, I’ve tried to care, but I just don’t. And that attitude comes through loud and clear.

But when it’s time to write every morning, man I’m ready to go. I’m smiling inwardly, my spirits are high no matter how exhausted I am from the night before at work, and I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be. That love for the work, that fire to get started, it comes through loud and clear as well.

And that carries over to every part of the process. No matter how slowly a story is coming along, or how mangled I feel the plot is, whatever the problem that’s keeping me from finishing this damned story already, my attitude is always positive because I know that, eventually, the plot will reveal itself, the twist will untangle itself, and no matter how stubborn a character or situation can be, there’s nothing better in the world than sitting at my computer, writing fiction. Even on a bad writing day, that’s still better than anything else I had planned for that day.

And on the good writing days … ho boy, that’s when the clouds part, and God smiles down on me. And I really feel a lot of that is due to my attitude about the work. At my old fast food job almost 30 years ago, they used to tell us to smile, even if we were taking an order through the drive-thru speaker, because the customer outside could hear your smile. At the time I thought it was a bunch of crap, but time, and doing work I love doing, has shown me that, yes, your attitude about the work comes through in the end product.

So when you sit down to get started every day, don’t let the bills, the spouse, the kids, the day job, the everything else get to you. Shrug it all off and just do the work you were meant to be doing, the only work you ever truly loved doing, and do it with a positive attitude knowing that, at least for these couple of hours, or however long, all is right with the world.

Are you plotter, or a pantser? A sitter or a stander? Do you type your stories or dictate them? Would you believe, in this day and age, there are writers, Clive Barker, for instance, who still write their novels longhand, and do an edit when they’re inputting it into a computer?

And they’re absolutely right in doing it that way. So are the writers who wouldn’t dream of writing longhand. So are the ones who dictate their work into their phone. So are the ones who write while walking on a treadmill desk.

They’re all correct in their approach to writing, because they’re doing what works for THEM.

I know how confusing it can be, when you’re starting out, to figure out what works for you, and you’ll try a dozen different methods before landing on the ONE. And I’ve been through many of them. I’ve written longhand, I’ve plotted and pantsed. I’ve never written standing up, but I’ve often taken walks and thought about what I was going to write. I still haven’t dictated my words, and I don’t see that happening. It’s just not how I work. But if you want to try it, that’s your choice.

You’re going to go through a number of different approaches, and every time you learn of a new way, you’re going to want to try it. That’s an excellent idea. Try them all. But never insist there is only ONE way to write, to compose, to paint, or whatever. There are as many approaches as there are art forms and every one of them works for SOMEONE.

So don’t feel hindered by one way of doing things just because that’s how “best selling author” does it. That works for them, do what works for YOU.