One of my favorite tools to use as a writer and a speaker is the Mind Map. I’ve been using it for years and years, on paper, but in the last year I’ve also been using it on my iPad with an app called iThoughts.
A Mind Map is a visual diagram of thoughts, ideas, or notes of any kind. It is useful if you don’t always see things in a linear fashion or if you like to use ideas to riff off other ideas. I personally like using a mind map when I start to think about any new project, from a speaking gig to a blog post to a book.
Here’s an example of a Mind Map I created for a talk I gave last November:
The Mind Map is so valuable because I can start with almost nothing and it always turns into a robust document. It seems to match the way my mind works.
The Mind Map is yet another way I’ve found to combat “the blank page.” Even if I have only one thought, or even less than a complete thought, I can use a Mind Map to clarify and develop my thinking and move forward with my project.
For example, I’ve been thinking about new doctors lately. It’s getting close to graduation time (end of June for residents, while the medical students have just graduated) and I’ve been wondering how new doctors and newly trained residents think about the future of medicine and what I, as a life coach, could do to serve them.
I started with just one thought (less than a thought, really, as you can see):
Then I start to put down thoughts. When I do it on paper, I can quickly fill up a page, but the page gets messy—I have to be careful or I won’t be able to read my handwriting after I finish my Mind Map. With iThoughts, everything is legible. I love that!
It’s also easily accessible. And I can copy the central thought bubble and paste it into a Word document and it pastes the entire document in a list form.
So my original idea turns quickly into something more meaty, like this:
Then I continue to jot down notes, thoughts, ideas, resources, even research to do. I find this method of brainstorming very helpful. It’s less intimidating than a blank page and because it’s not linear, I don’t have to make any judgments about each thought. I don’t have to decide if it’s a headline or a supporting thought, a main idea or a side bar. I just get it all down.
When I create a Mind Map, I usually add to it over and over, but I always put it away for a while before I’m ready to write from it (or prepare a speech from it). When I come back to it, I’m always surprised by how much of the work of organizing and writing I’ve already done.
Have you ever used a Mind Map? I’d love to hear your experience (and tips!) in the comments.