I noticed last weekend, while reading some of DailyWritingTip.com’s archives, that most of the entries focus on writing as if it were the product and not the process. It’s true that I see a well-written letter, memo, or blog post as the end to the expression process’s means; however, it cannot be forgotten that writing itself is means, and sometimes the end is not communication. Journal-writing, for example, is not usually meant to communicate anything, since most of us keep our writing to ourselves. No, a journal entry is often a means of processing the day’s events or for dealing with feelings that need some kind of structure or organization. If you’ve ever screamed into your pillow because you needed to get it out without bothering anyone, you know exactly what I’m talking about: There is no audience, but that doesn’t mean the scream did no good.
A very good friend of mine came up with the idea, many years ago, of using brainstorming mind-webs for coming up with gift ideas. I’ve never liked the mind-webbing style of brainstorming for my own writing (there are many ways of brainstorming, and I find free-writing to be much more effective for the way I think), but I had to admit it was a heck of an idea.
The idea works like this. You put the person whose gift you are brainstorming in the middle of a sheet of paper. Think of maybe four or five interests or personality traits that come to mind. Then, for each of those ideas, think of a few categories of gifts that might work for that interest or trait. For example, if the person is interested in cooking, you might come up with a category like Fun Ingredients. Click the thumbnail image below to see what I mean.
Then, for each category, think of a few specific gifts that might belong in that category. For example, for the category Fun Ingredients, I came up with flavored olive oils, truffles, and saffron. Truffles and saffron are very expensive ingredients, and a lot of people might love to cook with them if they had the chance, but many hesitate to spend that kind of money. The thing is, as a gift, they are great ideas: You are buying something someone would LOVE but would perhaps never buy for him- or herself.
Often, you’ll come up with the perfect idea before you even finish the map! If the mind-web leads you nowhere, put it away and try it again another day without looking at the original. This works very well.
My birthday’s in the beginning of January, if you’d like to try it out on your favorite English teacher!