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Summary:

I didn’t say that mind maps don’t work — in fact, I have a big post with all kinds of resources on data and information visualization, and mind maps make up a chunk. However, although mind mapping helps many folks explore topics and ideas, it just […]

mindmappingI didn’t say that mind maps don’t work — in fact, I have a big post with all kinds of resources on data and information visualization, and mind maps make up a chunk. However, although mind mapping helps many folks explore topics and ideas, it just didn’t work for me. I had tried a few apps, and they just took too much time and effort to be of use.

Moving to Pen and Pad

One weekend when all the kids were sick, I sat on my comfy bed with my laptop. Growing tired of my Internet fiddling, I closed the laptop and pulled out the notepad that I keep in a bedside drawer, where I had jotted down a blog post idea before going to sleep the previous night. I also grabbed a ballpoint pen. I added bullet points to expand those thoughts. Since I was already at it, I figured I might as well keep on thinking of blog ideas and captured about four pages of notes.

Getting the Ballpoint Pen Rolling

This put me in the mood for more writing — with paper and pen. Something prompted me to keep exploring more ideas for my blog. During this process, I discovered my big mistake with past mind map attempts: using software. No matter how fast I could whip up a shape, cut, paste, type — the process felt tedious. Pen. Paper. Brain. For me, these work best for mapping out ideas. In 15 or 20 minutes, I had created seven maps. They could lead to at least 25 solid posts!

Creating More Maps

My first map took a high-level approach with “Writer” being the center of the map with four subcategories: “writing,” “marketing,” “business” and “editing.” Expanding all of them filled the page, so I began a new map on subsequent pages making central themes out of the following:

  • business
  • marketing
  • blogs
  • supplies
  • social media
  • the act of writing

All these appeared in one of the earlier maps. When I identified many ideas for a single category, I gave it its own map so that I had lots of room. The maps and branches grew from there. This process helped dig up ideas faster than I ever could sitting in front of a computer. It also sparked more ideas than I could just sitting and contemplating writing topics; there’s something about seeing them written down on paper.

Those circles and branches held magic. They compelled me to add more. I probably could’ve filled 10 more pages, but I had to rip off my writer uniform to reveal the mommy one and fulfill my duties in saving the world, or, at least, comforting my kids and getting them to bed.

So, I’m a geek who loves her apps but prefers mind mapping by hand. It works. If you don’t use mind maps because you find mind mapping software cumbersome, maybe it’s time to try the good old-fashioned pen and paper route.

How do you come up with ideas for blog entries and articles? What process do you use?

By Meryl K Evans

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  1. Pen and paper is best for mindmapping, but I need to bring in some tech organization around the brainstorming and managing the maps. So TABLET PC it is. You should give it a try if you can. Best of both worlds!

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    1. I don’t have a Tablet PC, but I have a tablet. I tried using that and it just doesn’t feel natural like writing on paper. Maybe plain tablet surface has something to do with it as I don’t think it’s the same as Tablet PC surface.

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  2. I can see what you mean. My moleskin notebook and fountain pen were my best tools at one point. Happy mapping! Organization for the too-creative, and Creativity for the too-organized!

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    1. I agree about the Moleskine notebook but a one colour fountain pen, no, Mind Maps require colour to be truly effective. A page of monotone notes is monotonous and uninspiring. Using a tablet and a PC or MAC takes getting used to, I agree and there are times when tapping away on the PC is not appropriate. I strike a delicate balance between notebooks and digital mapping, both give me satisfaction and enjoyment as well as immense creativity.

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  3. We just featured an article on the art of mind-mapping in the October issue of Experience Life — love this concept! It’s definitely a great way of generating ideas, and improving creative thinking, planning and problem-solving abilities. For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to the article: http://www.experiencelifemag.com/issues/october-2009/whole-life/map-your-mind.html

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  4. I myself have been trying to be more open to using technology and different apps, but nothing is the same as writing on paper. The same goes for reading. I am an old fashioned 19 year old.

    For my blog ( http://www.crazy0122003.wordpress.com ) I still if I do not have a topic try to write down thing I have not yet wrote about. Sometimes i just type the main ideas of my blog into a bing or google search but i do my most productive blogging when i use ideas I have written down for days when I am drawing a blank.

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  5. [...] – Mind Maps: Get Blog Ideas FastSeptember 21, [...]

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  6. Wow. A Blog entry telling us how to create blog entries.

    I think my head might explode.

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Care, Business Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

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  7. No wonder you are having problems thinking – you have fallen for the common trap of thinking a bubble chart is a Mind Map – go to http://fuzz2buzz.com/en/mindexchange/browse-grid
    as these are real Mind Maps – worth exploring and finding out how to apply the technique and get the most out of your brain

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  8. [...] PC to stimulate the creative process for writing projects. Our friends at WebWorkerDaily recently extolled the virtues of pen and ink mindmapping for writing projects and they are absolutely right about that. Mindmapping is a great free-form way [...]

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  9. I agree with Jennifer: REAL Mind Maps are not the same as concept maps, bubble diagrams and visual maps. Mind Maps are very specific in their structure, in particular the one word per branch which is a MUST if you are to achieve the maximum from your maps.

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    1. Gagan unfortunately thats NOT Mind Mapping it’s concept mapping and the two things ARE different.

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