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Brainstorming Technique: Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is amazing!

I have been using it for over five years for all sorts of things, anything that requires my brain to recall information, thoughts or feelings I have about a topic: to do lists, journal entries, even this blog post.

Also called Clustering, Mind Mapping is a brainstorming technique that utilizes visuals and nonlinear processes to explore your ideas.

Mind MapWriting in the traditional top-to-bottom, left-to-right, linear way is well suited for the left side of the brain; it is structured, organized, and inevitably how people will read your work, but sometimes it can be too rigid for the creative process. Sometimes, the right side of the brain, the creative side, needs room to go wherever it needs to go, even if it’s illogical, nonsensical or just “feels right”.

Mind Mapping can help you put words down on the page without premeditated thought, which is what the initial drafts are all about (write from the gut, rewrite from the head).

By not having your conscious mind involved, you can reveal thoughts and feelings you have about a topic that you didn’t know you had. You can explore.

Plus, if you’re a visual person, like I am, you can see your notes and remember where you’ve put things based on the visual patterns that your gut developed, naturally.

Here’s how to do it:

Mind Map NucleusBeginning with a word, phrase, topic, name, anything you want in the middle or “nucleus” of the brainstorm, simply connect any thoughts or feelings you have regarding the word, topic, name, etc.

Jot down whatever associations your brain makes and circle them. (Why circles? It feels more fluid and organic, I don’t know why – some sort of subconscious soft spot toward circles versus squares or triangles. Try it, you’ll see that circles feel better.) Write your associations down wherever it makes the most sense in relation to other circles, even if it seems completely random.

At times you may feel dry of associations or stuck, If this happens, just relax and trace over the circles and lines you’ve already made. By doodling, you keep the creative side of the brain active and the logical, critical side of the brain from interfering.

Eventually, your thought process will naturally come “full circle”, meaning: a feeling or thought you have about what’s in the nucleus will take a life of it’s own, leading you from opinion to opinion, feeling to feeling until you return to your original thought, and thus, a circular pattern is revealed.

It’ll spring up like an “AHA!” moment (“AHA! I’ve found what I want to say about this topic.”) and all these random little lines and circles and half thoughts are part of one well-structured, fully explored thought. Like I said, it’s amazing!

After using it for a while, you’ll come up with your own symbols and visual language and you’ll learn if you like to use pictures or color to further the representation of your feelings. Personally, I prefer to stick with a black-ink pen and whatever paper I have available – the larger the better because I tend to start with big circles and run out of room real fast.

If you want more information on Clustering or Mind Mapping, there are volumes upon volumes of resources that I have not explored, but as a writer, I highly recommend Dr. Gabriele Rico’s book Writing the Natural Way – where I first found this process.

I hope that helps!

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