Mindmapping: An Effective Idea Generation Tool for Writers


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Buzan Mind Map

I was collaborating with a colleague the other day, and I sent him a mind map of some of the ideas that he had asked me to sketch out. Aside from the ideas contained in the mind map, he commented that I was really good at mind mapping. I was surprised at first because I really do them rather unconsciously now, but it occurred to me that this might be another one of my hidden strengths–something I’ve gotten so good at that I’m not aware of it because it comes effortlessly and naturally to me.

Since he identified it as a strength, and since the practice of mind mapping has served me so well since I first learned about it in a college creative writing class, I will share how I use them and how you might try them to see if they don’t help to unlock the hidden gems stored up within your conscious and unconscious mind.

Concepts such as spider web diagrams, and idea sunbursting were already in practice for hundreds of years when author and mind/ brain/ memory expert, Tony Buzan copyrighted the term “mind map” and prescribed a set of rules governing how they should be constructed. Buzan and several others have written books about mind mapping, and I have listed a few in the ‘resources’ section at the end of this article.

As this article des not pretend to e an exhaustive treatise on the topic, it is my intention to share with you how I use mind mapping as a writer to help spark creativity, and generate ideas around the topic that I am writing about at the moment.

When the idea for this article came to me, I scribbled this mind map out quickly on my whiteboard, and then transcribed it to the computer using a free, online mind mapping program called, bubbl.us.

Mind Map for Writing

Basically, what I do is get out pens, magic markers, and colored pencils and the biggest piece of paper that I can find and I write the main idea for what I need ideas for in the center of the paper and then I draw a circle around it. Radiating out from the circle are the related ideas and radiating out from those ideas are all of the sub-ideas and tangents that spring to mind as you go along.

Sometimes you might take a related idea and do a mind map that focuses in on that thought or concept going as deep as you like. Can you see how as you write each new word another one springs to mind? I love mind maps because for me they really get my creative juices flowing and my brain cells popping to come up with new ideas to capture.

I like to move quickly when I am making a mind map. I know it seems cumbersome to start on paper and then transcribe the whole thing to the computer, but that’s just my process. Maybe if I had an iPad, with a touch screen that might be a different story. But for now, my mind and my hand work best with pen and paper or marker and white board for capturing ideas in the moment.

OK, so let’s apply this to writing. If you look at the mind map I created for this article you can see that I wrote: “Mind Mapping for Writing” in the center and drew a circle around it. Then I have lines radiating out towards the other related ideas for how mind mapping can help fuel the writing process.

Using the tool of mind mapping can virtually ensure that you will never have writer’s block again. If you get stuck for ideas, whip out a sheet of paper and start doodling a mind map. They are so organic and they free the creative side of your brain to draw connections and even come up with some innovative ideas.

Now, I invite you to try mind mapping the next time you are getting ready to start a writing project. Take a look at the resources below, try some free software, or just get out your colored pens and pencils and create one on paper. But once you try this fabulous little technique you will quickly see how effective it can be for generating ideas for writing.






The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential

By Tony Buzan and Barry Buzan

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