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Save a Mind, Create a Map

The other day while working on my book, it dawned on me that I ought to write a post on mind-mapping.

Have you ever done mind-mapping?

In simple terms, it’s the creation of a diagram to visually display information.

You start in the middle of a page with whatever you wish to map: a topic, issue, problem, question, project or whatever you want. Then you brainstorm, tossing out thoughts, ideas and related information to flesh out your mind map.

Brainstorming itself initially referred to a free flowing group discussion to address a challenge or solve a problem. Nowadays the definition has broadened to mean the process of capturing thoughts on any topic, whether working with others or by yourself.

Just so you know, I absolutely LOVE mind-mapping.

I mind map to brainstorm ideas for anything from identifying the perfect birthday present for a friend to topics for future articles or blog posts.

I use mind-mapping to plan writing projects including my non-fiction book, novel work-in-progress and some short stories in the works.

Often I’ll map to take notes while listening to an online webinar, watching a teleseminar or in a meeting.

As a writer, my preferred learning style is primarily visual in nature. If I’m attempting to learn something new, I like reading words and then looking at a diagram or drawing, in that order. I listen closely to ensure that any auditory instructions synchronize with what I’m reading, but for me, written directions take precedence.

I’m also a copious note-taker, grabbing information and jotting it down in chronological order, row after written row. If a speaker jumps around among topics, introducing new ones and then returning to an earlier one, it drives me nuts because I want to put all related info in one place.

Mind-mapping is slightly different. It’s more spatial in its approach. I like that I can group related information together, or link ideas that are in some way connected. I can see patterns or relationships where previously I didn’t.

The main reason I use mind-mapping?

By combining visual and written display of information, I’ve found that it actually opens me up to being more creative.

When I use it for planning projects, one idea tends to lead to another and another, often in rapidfire fashion. It unleashes my creativity.

It helps me ‘see’ my project: where I’ve got conflicting details, a weakly fleshed out character or a storyline that is out of balance. It can cue me visually to more fully develop certain plot aspects or remind me where I need to do additional research. I can find weaknesses quickly and correct them.

Another reason I mind-map?

Because once an idea or thought is out of my mind and on the map, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

I can’t lose it. I won’t forget it because I don’t have to remember it. I can toss out all those little scraps of paper where I’ve scribbled a note to myself about plot structure, chapter order, story arc or character motivation.

And if I’m in the middle of mind-mapping I don’t panic that I’ll miss anything. I can just write a word or two for each point and move on to capturing the next, comfortable knowing I can always go back and fill in the blanks.

So how do I mind-map? There are various online software options, but I happen to use MindMeister.

It allows you to do online what you’d normally be doing with a pen and paper. They give you an array of templates to choose from, or you can start from a blank page. As your map grows, it’s easy to edit, add or delete info and move parts around.

Even better, its use of cloud storage means that your maps don’t take up space on your hard drive AND can be accessed remotely anywhere in the world, from any computer or internet-enabled device (e.g., I-phone, I-pad).

I signed up for MindMeister’s Basic plan which is absolutely FREE and allows me to generate a total of three maps. (Be sure to look for the Basic option, usually found at the bottom of the page showing price and benefits of the paid options. If you’re being charged, then it’s not the Basic membership.)

If and when I decide I need more maps, I can upgrade to a paid membership for a small monthly fee. The paid membership options allow for sharing ideas and working collaboratively on maps. I haven’t had the need to do so yet, but it’s good to know that I can should the need arise.

I’ve recommended mind-mapping in general and MindMeister in particular to lots of people, including my Son (outlining papers at university), Daughter (class notes, planning her own writing projects), and members of my Writing Group.

Then I opened an email I just received from MindMeister.

Knowing that good news travels quickly and people are more apt to consider checking out something new if they receive word-of-mouth encouragement from those who aleady know and use a product or service, MindMeister is offering an enticement to current Basic members: a free map for each person referred who checks out the site and signs up.

How do they know if you’re referred by me? There’s a code in the MindMeister links in this post that link to my account so they can keep track.

Don’t you just love when serendipitous moments occur?

Let me be clear.

I’m NOT selling anything here. MindMeister didn’t ask me to write about their mind-mapping software. I’m not receiving money from MindMeister.

I’m finishing a post I’d already intended to publish. I’m sharing a tool that I find incredibly useful and believe you will, too. I’m also suggesting that if you’re interested, sign up for the free Basic membership (limited to 3 maps) and play around with mind-mapping to see if you like it.

If you sign up, I get one free map. That’s it. No more, no less. (Yes, they actually offer those with paid monthly memberships some sort of small value cash incentive for suggesting MindMeister to others, but that’s not me.)

I use mind-mapping. I love MindMeister’s free Basic membership. I’m betting you might, too.

 

 

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