Essay Lab Glossary



If a brainstorm warning is ever announced, get somewhere safe and seek shelter immediately. You don’t want one of those brains landing on your head. They’re heavier than they look.

Don’t worry—that could never actually happen. It was just a hypothalamus situation.

Brainstorming is a popular pre-writing strategy that many writers use to come up with innovative and unusual ideas. We haven’t had our coffee yet this morning so we can’t think of one right now, but trust us: they’re out there.

Here’s how you do it: Think of the essay topic or question and make a list of the ideas and thoughts and feelings that immediately come to mind. There are no wrong answers, so don’t hesitate or feel self-conscious about whether your ideas are good or not. In fact, the key to successful brainstorming is to write quickly, without stopping to consider or criticize. Misspellings, sloppy handwriting, grammatical errors—all totally acceptable. Enjoy it while it lasts.

After you finish writing your barely legible list of ideas, you can then evaluate all of the stuff you wrote down and keep the ones you like. Oh, and don’t forget to clean up the stuff someone else would need a CIA cryptologist to decipher.

Now you’re probably thinking, “I know I’m supposed to do it, but I never have. It just seems like extra work. I have to write the essay anyway, so why write this other thing beforehand?” In the time it took you to complain, you could be halfway through your list already.

Trust us—brainstorming helps. You’ll surprise yourself with the new perspectives and unusual ideas you come up with. You will doubly surprise yourself if you jump out of your closet and yell “boo!” We wouldn’t recommend it, though. You might spill something.