Just what is a mind map?
If you are looking for a tool that can revolutionize the way you write, deal with writer’s block, brainstorm your blog content, develop characters, or even build worlds, consider learning how to mind map. Although traditionally used by students as an alternate way to take notes and recall large amounts of information, mind mapping can be used to enhance all areas of your life, including your writing. So, stick with me as we ask “What is a mind map” and “How can mind mapping help?”
Who Started It?
The mind mapping process was the brainchild of Tony Buzan. A tool for organizing and managing information, it has been used by people of all ages as a way of enhancing their cognition. Mind mapping was originally designed as a hand drawn process using blank paper and colored pencils to tap into the brain and imagination.
But mind mapping like everything else has evolved over time, and although some still choose to use pen and paper, many mind mappers use software to manage large concepts or broad topics visually. Mind mapping is continually changing how our visual brain capabilities are used and developed.
What is a Mind Map?
Non-linear visual method to capture words, tasks, concepts around a central idea or theme.
- A way of storing and prioritizing large amounts of information
- Powerful visual method designed to tap into your brain’s potential
- A process for studying subject material as well as for reviewing and recalling it.
- A visual summary or overview of a topic or idea using a combination of images and words
How Do I Make a Mind Map?
The mind mapping process can be manually drawn with paper and pencils or using a computer or web-based mind mapping software program. If you commit to it, you can also teach yourself mind map thinking, also known as “thinking linking,” as you go about your day.
Start with a blank sheet of paper rotated lengthwise to give yourself enough room to expand out in any direction. In the center of the page, place an image or a single word that describes your topic. From the center word or image, expand outward adding main branches, one word per line, to the center word.
Continue adding levels of branches outward. Branches should be the same length as the word. Curved lines rather than straight lines simulate the beauty of nature and keep your brain engaged. Using images, icons, drawings, and color in your mind map is more exciting for your brain than straight monochrome lines. Mixing colors, different sized words, and lines intrigues your brain and helps you to stay focused and concentrate.
Benefits of Mind Mapping for Writers
The process of creating a mind map engages both the analytic and artistic areas of the brain which generates more ideas and a prompts your brain to find additional meaning in your center idea or word. A picture is worth a thousand words and using a mindmap complete with color and images can help writers with:
- Writer’s Block
- Unleashing Creativity
- Book Summaries
- Plotting a Novel
- Character Development
- Problem Solving for Characters or Plot Issues
- Story Outlines
Why Mind Mapping Works
Mind mapping is an instinctive method that employs all five senses to simulate the natural way our brain thinks and responds to cues. When one bit of information meets another, ideas form. The intersection of information triggers the brain to make virtually endless associations in all different directions.
Per originator, Tony Buzan, mind mapping is a process that “reflects externally what goes on inside your head.” The brain thinks by making associations and the branches on a mind map reflect this naturally, freeing you to explore the unending potential of your brain. The process uses images, words, color, logic, and spatial awareness to help you understand and recall things more easily.
Tips for Mind Mapping:
- Mind mapping becomes easier and faster the more you practice
- Spend time mind mapping as a regular part of your mind mapping routine
- Use symbols or icons to categorize different types of ideas
- Stick to short keywords or phrases on each line
- When mind mapping, practice turning off your internal editor, that voice that says start over, it’s not good enough, erase that line, etc.
- Use plenty of space throughout your mind map.
- Varying the thickness of your branch lines coming from the center
- Emphasize or draw attention to specific thing by varying word case, size of words, or using different colors or font styles
Free Online Mind Maps and Other Tools:
For inspiration and to see some examples of completed mind maps, check out this Mind Map Gallery of “best practice” maps from users around the world.
Find thousands of mind map templates and download them for free from Biggerplate Mind Map Library. You’ll find mind maps created by people across the globe used to enhance their life in personal, business, and education areas as well as others.
Procrastination Buster Mind Map by Jane Genovese is great for identifying and eliminating distractions so you can complete projects. Use it to break projects into manageable chunks, for time management, setting goals, or handling setbacks or mistakes.
Creative Intelligence Mind Map by Emily Burton to learn about creativity and expand your brain power and life experience to better connect with world around you. Enhances senses, brain boosting, methods of creativity, expanding knowledge, and originality. Covers characteristics of creative learning and furthering artistic abilities.
Software for Mind Mapping:
- Freemind is written in Java so it may not be as user-friendly as others but it is cross-platform and thus one of the widely used free mind mapping options available. Features include the ability to expand and collapse branches and hyperlink between branches.
- Mindmap is a free web-based mind mapping software with a pretty useful storyboard feature in the MindMup 2.0 version. Create your mind map and then use the storyboard feature to drag pieces from the mind map to create slides
- Personal Brain works for Windows, Linux, and Mac. Check out the free version of this commercial software. With the integration of an event calendar, your mind map can take on aspects of project management.
Once you’ve answered the question “What is a mind map?” for yourself, there is no limit to the free tools that are available to help you learn to use this process. Customize your mind map for your life or writing process using free software, mind map galleries, and template galleries for inspiration.
Mind mapping is a technique that develops over time and the more you use it, the more you will get out of it. I highly recommend you consider using mind maps in all areas of your life, including your writing process. The more you mind map, the deeper and more expansive results you will get.