Blog Post

Mind Maps: Get Blog Ideas Fast

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?

25 Responses to “Mind Maps: Get Blog Ideas Fast”

    • Hi Tim…I use lined (or ruled) paper because finding a notebook with blank sheets is next to impossible, unless you buy those artist sketch books. Apparently no one seems to think a notebook with blank pages (not loose-leaf, but bound) is a saleable product. And I’m too cheap to order special! So I buy the $1 or less theme notebooks and use those. As for software, there’s some nice stuff out there and I’ve used most of them…but it’s the hassle factor for me. When I’m doing mindmaps, I’m in creative mode and likely away from the computer. Sitting at the keyboard all day every day is stifling to creativity (for me), so going paper and pen to map is a good way for me to snip the cords for a while.

  1. Great post. Like you, I left behind the software tools years ago. When I mindmap I use a pad and pen. People often find it amusing to see me grab a notebook with lined paper and turn it sideways and write across the lines as I diagram. Gives me the secret pleasure of being unconventional.

  2. Right, I think we’re in agreement. Since one individual trademarked ‘mind map’, you’re absolutely right. That said, mind mapping via computers goes beyond pen and paper in quite a few ways (e.g. integration, search, reorganization, collaboration over distance, etc…). Pen and paper is also great for spontaneous, individual idea generation. I use both techniques to plan and write the Mindjet blog. It’s a good topic, I was just discussing it with coworkers yesterday before leaving the office.

  3. Actually, I beg to differ. Concept maps do not have a central topic and typically show relationships between each topic. Not just a line but directionality and often named lines to articulate / clarify relationships. The map illustrated by Gagan is more in line with a mind map that anything else. Now, you can debate whether or not it is a classic mindmap as defined by buzan. Mapping via computers have originated with the pen and paper principles and then extended beyond to allow you to capture not only what is in your mind but also the information that you work with (e.g. in office, on the web, in databases, etc….).

  4. 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.

  5. 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 ( ) 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.