How to Build an Idea, Quick!

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Need to force yourself to start that essay?

Want to make a good start on your coursework the second it’s announced?

I’ve got a good way to get the creative juices flowing.

It’s a quick way to throw an idea out there before you do any detailed research. No matter how much you end up using, the idea is to wrap your head around the work in a way that practically prepares you.

Spend 10-20mins writing out what you *think* you want to say in the essay. That’s it. Forget the need to back up your point with references. Don’t worry about getting it “right”.

Just let rip on your initial thoughts around the topic.

Don’t worry about how strange it sounds when you get the words down. The words may turn out to be rubbish. But that’s not the point of this exercise. No judgement here!

The aim is to have something written. It’s a start.

There’s something magical in firing up the mental process, even when you end up submitting something completely different.

And that’s okay. You may decide to discard all of this later down the line. But for now, this is a great route to building an idea quickly. Much better than fearing the blinking cursor on a blank white page. There’s no time for that when you’re jotting down the first ideas that come to your mind.

Your initial point of view is all that matters:

  • What is your take on the subject?
  • Does one view speak more to you than others? Do you want to look in several directions?
  • Does the whole concept confuse you?
  • What other feelings do you have? What interests you about the question? Where are the open-ended thoughts?
  • How does this reflect on what you’ve already been learning in the course/module so far?

When you do start the detailed research and assessment, you can see how your hypothesis compares with your findings. You can compare your ideas now with how they started off.

The point is, you get started with an idea that takes you no time at all to create. You form an argument that gets you thinking. And it saves you time further on in the process.

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Armed with this quick start, you may feel like you’re on a roll. Raring to go, it shouldn’t take you long to write down even more thoughts to bolster up your idea.

When you are full of inspiration like that, crack on for another 20-30 minutes and draft a simple outline:

  • Think about how you would marry up the argument with the essay.
  • Write a potential introductory paragraph.
  • Attempt a conclusion based on your initial thoughts.

It’s unlikely your final draft will look like your first thoughts, but this is a chance to see how realistic your view feels. Your first steps into further research will soon tell you when you’re onto something.

Finally, note down a few points you want to explore in the main content of the essay. This will be a good starting point for finding references and supporting material.

In no more than an hour or so, you may be well on the way to a solid framework. No more starting on a blank page, and no more overwhelm when considering where to begin.

As your confidence builds, you may find this method a good one to return to. That hour can get you several hundred words and a prepared mind.

That’s why, even if you scrap most of the content, the process spurs you on.

From an essay title to a potential idea and a few words. It’s surprising how much you can get done in such a short space of time.

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Why does this work? Because you either:

  • …know what you want to say and don’t know how feasible it sounds until you write it up in draft.
  • …don’t know what you want to say and need to create a something based on a little guesswork and hope.

The worst that can happen is that you’ll end up doing something else entirely. No big deal, because the process doesn’t take long at all.

And anything positive you get out of it is a bonus. Worth investing the small amount of time and effort it takes.

The more confident you are about the content, the more likely you’ll find some gold straight away too. What’s not to like?

Next time you’re given some coursework, I bet it’ll feel good to have some ideas, an outline, and maybe even a few hundred words written practically straight away.

All this before you’ve put another research-step forward…