by Karen Ball
A couple weeks ago I boarded a plane headed north to Idaho for a trip I’ve taken 9 times. At the end of that flight waited a group of women–Brandilyn Collins, Robin Lee Hatcher, Sunni Jeffers, Tricia Goyer, Tamera Alexander, Janet Ulbright, Sharon Dunn, Gayle DeSalles, Francine Rivers, and Mama Ruth (Brandilyn’s mom)–who have become so much a part of me that I can’t imagine life without them. Writers and lovers of words all, we gather every July to brainstorm each other’s books. And oh! What a time we have. This trip, this time of fellowship and creativity, is such a gift.
One I almost never received.
When the group first invited me to join them, I was skeptical. Why would I want to go on yet another trip just to sit with a bunch of writers I didn’t know that well and help them write their books? After a couple of years, though I finally gave in and accepted the invitation, albeit grudgingly. It only took a few minutes in the company of these amazing women to know my preconceived notions were not only wrong, they were so far off the mark as to be ludicrous. Now, the trip that I didn’t want to add to my oh-so-busy life is my favorite trip of the year! Because what I’ve found isn’t just a place to brainstorm together, though we do a lot of that. It’s a gathering of hearts and minds and spirits, a place where we pray for each other, a gathering to laugh and create and let our imaginations run wild. Most of all, it’s a place to serve each other.
As I thought about the trip this year, I realized that’s what true brainstorming is. It’s serving others, letting God use your imagination and creativity to spark ideas in others that they can then run with. It’s giving, opening yourself up, sharing with abandon, and delighting in the ways God uses us to bless and inspire others.
Over the years, as I’ve talked or posted or blogged about our brainstorming sessions, many others have asked how we do it. How do we, in an industry rife with egos and paranoia about stolen ideas, with envy and jockeying for position on the bookshelves (be they brick and mortar or digital), brainstorm together effectively? More than that, how do we do it in such a way that’s it’s a blessing and a delight, year after year?
Well, I’m going to tell you how. But first, I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever considered putting together a brainstorming session or retreat with other writers? If not, why not? If so, and what’s holding you back. And if you’ve done it, how did it go?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!