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 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:
- 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.