On Mind Mapping

25 May

I grew up in the hay-day of outlining. Everything I ever had to turn in had to have a formal outline before it would be accepted. I’m not sure what the point of this exercise was, other than (I think) the teachers were taught to teach us this stuff and that is what the followed.
So… I handed in outlines before I handed in papers. NOT before I wrote the papers, I always wrote them first so I would know what would need to go into the outline; before I handed in the papers. It always meant three times the work in a very short amount of time, because I wanted the outline to be very true to the final product. I would write, proofread, and edit the final paper before I ever started the outline.
This was well before either word processors or computers. I always did this either long hand or on a typewriter. We didn’t have a typewriter at home, not one that worked without the keys sticking, so I would have to go to the library every study hall (back when we had those, too) and use the ones in there to try to hurry the work done. It was always an adventure.
But the outline would be true to the paper and the paper would be true to the outline.
I don’t do that now. It seems like too much work to do before I start a really big writing project, to write it first so I can outline it and write it. I don’t just write all willy-nilly, though. I usually start with at least a rough idea of what I want to accomplish in the end and a pretty good idea about how I want to get there. I spend a great deal of time working it through in my head. And on “paper” (either the digital version in my geek toys or the analog version that you need a pen or pencil to deal with) I draw it all out in a mind map.
I’m a very visual person, and very much not linear in my thinking. Mind mapping is a way of outlining that leverages visual thinking over linear thinking. I found some great examples here

from the simple

Simple Mind Map

Simple Mind Map

to the ornate

Ornate Mind Map

Ornate Mind Map

(oringinal here http://www.mindtools.com/media/Diagrams/mindmap.jpg)
They are as flexible and personal as you want them to be. They are as simple or as elaborate as you want them to be. They are yours. All yours. They can reflect the work you have in flight or just reflect what you are thinking. And the best part of them? There are no hard and fast rules! You can expand them, or delete from there whenever you need to. They are a visual reminder of what you have in your head. Not just for your writing (although that is what I use them most for) but for whatever you want to dream out.  It can help you remember where you were and follow your own rabbit trail.
Google them. Embrace them as your friend.
While they are not for everybody, they can be an invaluable tool in your arsenal!

Do you mind map?

7 Responses to “On Mind Mapping”

  1. b.h.quinn May 29, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    I was always taught that mind-mapping is a form of outlining. We would use it to come up with ideas for essays or to figure out how to support our thesis. The only time I’ve ever outlined something written was to take notes from dense textbooks, so I think outlining after writing may have missed the point, at least the way I was taught.

    For essays, I’m definitely not an outliner, but for my stories I am. If I don’t know where I’m going, then it ends up a muddled mess. To each their own.

    • alicorndreams May 30, 2013 at 6:13 am #

      I guess technically it is a form of outlining. I don’t usually think of things that aren’t “traditional” I… A… 1… a form of outlining. I mind map my stories… Everything else, I tend to wing it!

    • b.h.quinn May 30, 2013 at 6:36 am #

      We needed to outline our essays, but they didn’t really care which form we used, and we were taught different types. Their goal was just to make us plan our essays.

  2. kyaniteshaman May 27, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    I have a mind mapping app on my iPad, but don’t use it much. I like outlines, because it helps me organize my thoughts, in a way which mind mapping doesn’t do. But I seldom use either of them any more (*shamefaced embarrassment*).

    • alicorndreams May 27, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

      LOL… It’s all good! Everyone has the tools they need and the tools they use. The ones you don’t use… you get rid of (or mothball to take out and tinker with later).

  3. kbeck13 May 26, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    I’m learning to mind map and have found it to be helpful in coming up with new ideas or getting through a snag in one of my stories. I’m not that good with it yet but I suspect that’s because I’m new to the game.

    • alicorndreams May 26, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

      I’m not as creative as the fancy one, but I do use mind mapping a great deal, and it does help. You will get better and make it more your own the longer you use it. I tried, for a long time, to do it the “right” way (the way some books and articles suggest… but it’s too much work to remember some of the contrived rules some people have put into it over the years. .
      Good luck, and (if you find it useful) with time you will make it your own!

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