Whenever I begin a photography project, I start by writing down all of my ideas. These ideas unusually inspire other ideas. Sometimes the ideas combine, and sometimes none of them work out. Nevertheless, I store all of my ideas. They are great for looking back through whenever I need inspiration.
To make brainstorming anywhere and everywhere possible, I try to keep a small notebook on my person at all times. Ideas happen everywhere, but there are a few places where it happens frequently such as hiking, at RUF, at church, and even in class. So I try to keep a pocket notebook on me all the time. Of course, I have an iPhone where I can write notes, but I feel like it has too many distractions. It's too easy to flip to Instagram and forget what you were going to write down. There's also something special about writing with paper and pen, it allows for a smoother flow from thought to words.
After writing down my initial ideas, I'll pick my favorites and plan out how I would execute them. This includes what I would need, what the work would say, the ideas behind it, and how much effort it would take. The next step is to ask "is this worth it?" If so, I'll go for it. Most often this process takes a little while so that it can marinate. I let it just float around in the back of my head for a day or two at least. Then I'll do a bit of final, detail oriented brainstorming before I stark cooking up the project.
Since I organize my life in lists, that's how I brainstorm. I'll write out a list and expand on it one way, then eliminate the weakest ideas so that I can expand on the strong ones. This process usually takes up several papers. I try to do all of the thinking on the paper, I'll write down an idea even if I think that it probably won't work out. This way, I get to make a lot of progress and if I get stuck I can just pick it up later. Writing, re-writing, and expanding lists also helps me to pick out the very strongest and most practical ideas.
Even if the project goes nowhere, it's always great to look back at my old ideas to see how far I've come.