Anyone who has ever written extensively, has experienced that feeling of having absolutely no idea where to start. You have your pen and paper, or your computer all ready to go. You look at the blank page or screen and do not have even one single thought concerning the assignment in front of you. Sometimes, the exact opposite occurs and you have so many ideas about what to include in your next piece that they are all jumbled up inside your head like a big ball of rubber bands. It is a seemingly impossible task to separate and organize each thought so that they will make sense. Sure, you may get some clarity by taking a break and getting a bite to eat but if that fails, this type of situation is exactly when a mind map is a crucial tool to organize your thoughts.
What is a mind map?
A mind map is an organization, planning, and discovery tool that is used to generate, visualize, and classify ideas. A mind map can be used for brainstorming, note taking, problem-solving, decision making, and, of course, writing. A mind map is a form of free writing where you just write down whatever words or ideas pop into your head. They may or may not relate directly to your intended topic; it doesn’t matter because all of the information will be edited for the final product. Just let your thoughts flow from your mind, through your hand, and onto the mind map.
How does a mind map work?
A mind map is started by placing a topic in the center of a page. This could be the subject or title of a blog post or an image that represents the subject or title. The next step is to draw lines from the center to each keyword or thought about the subject. You can then draw more lines from the keywords to include more detailed information. Mind maps can be very creative, with many colors and images, curved lines, or really anything that comes to mind. As your thoughts appear, you may want to move them from one line, or branch, to another to keep similar thoughts associated with the same keyword. Don’t worry about including too much in your mind map because you don’t have to include every thought in your final work.
What is needed to make a mind map?
A mind map can be created very easily with a pencil and sheet of paper. Draw a circle in the middle of the paper for your starting point and then draw lines outward from the circle as you add thoughts and ideas to your map. Colored pens, pencils, or crayons can add interest or indicate items that should belong to the same sub-heading.
The same can be accomplished on a whiteboard with dry-erase markers. This method may be preferred when brainstorming with a group.
If you prefer technology to the old-school, pencil and paper method, you could also use a pen to draw on a tablet the same way you would on a piece of paper. An even more technologically advanced way of creating a mind map is to use an online tool. There are several options that offer free, online tools for producing mind maps that are listed below.
3. Mind Maple
4. Nova Mind
7. Visual Understanding Environment (VUE)
The experience of mind mapping can be very liberating especially if you have a lot of jumbled thoughts that keep tripping each other up. Writing them down and pushing them around until the ones that relate to each other are together can free your mind to make decisions concerning what should be written about first, second, and so on. When you having trouble getting started, it can be very helpful to fill in the first circle with the title of your article. This can make it easier to get ideas going for the subsections of your topic.
Still stuck? Try asking yourself basic questions about your topic such as who, what, when, where, and why. Write the answers to these questions as subsection titles in your mind map. Don’t forget, you will need an introduction, which is better to write last, and a summary. Remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect in the beginning. The whole idea is to get your thoughts out of your head so you can see them. It is perfectly acceptable, and in fact, recommended that you add to, delete from, and rearrange items in your mind map. Once you have captured your thoughts with a mind map, you will be in a better place to let them free, in flowing and effective prose, in the blog post you are writing.
From mind map to blog post
Some mapping tools include options to export your mind map in different formats that include pdf or outline form. An alternative is to print it out and pin it up in your work area to use as a reference as you are writing.
Now that you know what a mind map is and how to create one, give it a try. Whether you use a pencil and paper or an online tool, using a mind map is bound to improve your writing process and most of all, the finished product.