Every piece of content starts with a blank page.
Some might argue it actually starts inside our minds when an idea is born, but I believe that without that empty page, even the best ideas will stay as they are - just an idea.
But for many people, the process of taking an idea from your brain to a polished piece you put out into the world can be intimidating. We all have great ideas, but how do we translate them for everyone else to understand?
There are a variety of approaches to organizing your thoughts into something usable, but I’m a big fan of a brain dump - a technique that declutters your mind by transferring all your thoughts and ideas onto paper (or a digital platform, if that’s your thing). Externalizing your thoughts lessens your cognitive load and allows you to see your idea more clearly.
A brain dump, however, is only the beginning.
Here is the toth shop process from getting your idea out of your head and into the world.
1. do the dang thing
First and most importantly, you need to actually do the brain dump.
Set aside time (at least 15 minutes) for a good brain dump session. In a quiet and comfortable space, open your notebook or digital document and start writing.
Jot down everything that comes to mind about your idea. Don’t worry about organization or structure - let your thoughts flow until you feel comfortable that your mind’s empty.
In a brain dump, it’s important to not judge or censor yourself. The best nugget might be buried in there somewhere. Give it a chance.
2. step away
Take a walk. Call a friend. Work on other projects.
But after you complete a brain dump, hit pause for a moment. This allows your brain to reset so that when it’s time, you come back to the table with fresh eyes and a clearer perspective.
3. reread & cut the fluff
In any good brain dump, you’ll go down a rabbit hole (or two). That’s part of the process. It’s also part of the process to go back and cut out the fluff - the stuff that might sound nice but holds little weight on its own.
These ideas or tangents don't add anything meaningful to a piece of content. A brain dump allows you to take a step back and more easily distinguish between what can enhance your overall message and what is bogging it down in fluff.
4. reread & organize
It’s time to make sense of your brain dump. If you wrote on paper, go back with a different colored pen to circle/underline the golden nuggets. If you worked on a digital platform, use the highlight feature.
Pull out the zingers, the aha! phrases, the words that clearly capture what you’re trying to say.
Once you’ve got your brain dump narrowed down to the solid, fluff-free content, it’s easier to organize your thoughts into a cohesive outline.
5. do the dang thing, again
Now, it’s time to write.
A solid brain dump produces the meat of any piece of content. That leaves you tasked with going back and connecting the dots – putting thoughts in order, adding transitions to go from one point to the next, making sure the final product is cohesive.
(before you hit ‘send’ or ‘publish’, go through these five final look questions.)
Whether you’re working on your next thought leadership piece for LinkedIn or updating your business’s mission statement, a brain dump is the first, critical step in polishing that killer idea you have to put out into the world.