Unblocking With Mind Maps

FreeMind 0.9.0 RC4 - Mind Map with User Icons
Image via Wikipedia

´╗┐´╗┐With a good plan, an article or blog post practically writes itself.

There has been a deathly hush on this blog for a few weeks now, broken only by the tumbleweed of the odd visitor bowling through. Since making a decision, for a season, to concentrate on a couple of fiction writing projects I seem to have lost the ability to churn out blogs and articles that require a bit more research and a different sort of attention. It has brought home to me the broad difference between essentially factual and fictional writing.

When writing from the imagination, in spite of having a vague idea where things need to go or end up, the author experiences many surprises and cannot predict the outcome. Like remembered dreams, plots and characters continually bewilder me because I know that they arise from my own mind but I am as surprised to see them as anyone. Getting used to this kind of writing has its own kind of thrill but I have fallen down when I have expected to be able to take the same approach to non-fiction. It is a very different discipline – of course, silly me, anyone could have told me that.

A simple tool is unlocking things for me again.

I have not posted on this blog for a long time because of the overwhelming amount of things whirling around in my brain and my utter inability to get a handle on it and work it into any shape.

Enter: Mind Mapping

Around New Year I always give some thought to identifying priorities and threads to follow in the coming year. Sometimes I work through a list of questions I ask myself at such times. This year I opened up a nifty piece of Mind Mapping software called “Freemind” (it’s free); and started storming ideas and organising them into nodes and branches. Wow! In ten minutes I had 2011 mapped out on a single page. Since I had the application open, I started to get down a few ideas for articles I have been meaning to write. Suddenly, everything seems manageable again. With a good plan, an article writes itself painlessly … sweet!

I always hated doing “spider diagrams” at school because they were something that we were supposed to do and I was against that in principle (the “supposed to” bit, I mean). Subsequently, attending training days and work related meetings where some appointed “scribe” would have to put our pointless ideas on a flip chart in spidergram form has done nothing to improve my taste for them.

Mind Mapping, invented by Tony Buzan, is so much more than a spider diagram, however. In its truest form it uses as much colour and visual signage as possible. It hangs on simple keywords and it adds the possibility of multiple branching or hierarchies that enable the representation of vast amounts of conceptual and material information for any purpose. As a system it is intended to imitate neural pathways in a way that is supposed to be really intuitive for the brain.

Where it has saved me today is by helping me to get unblocked. Paralysed by information and ideas? Unable to settle into any one of the hundred things calling for your creative attention? Pull up a page and sketch out a plan, make a mind map, and get something on paper. It feels great.