Why you should try this magic bullet for writers

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If you’re looking for the secret formula to making writing easier, it’s time to give mindmapping another try…

I was speaking at a conference several years ago and talking about mindmapping. (If you don’t know what mindmapping is, check out one of my previous columns on the subject.)

I spotted one tall, skinny guy in the middle of the very large hotel conference room, smiling and nodding his head vigorously. I could also see a few rather grumpy faces – people who looked either disappointed or disbelieving. A few even looked angry! I moved my eyes back to the smiling guy. I didn’t want to be derailed by the folks who were smouldering.

Immediately after my speech, the smiling guy raced to the front of the room. He pumped my hand and thanked me profusely. “I read your column about mindmapping several months ago,” he said, “and it totally changed my style of writing. It made it so much easier.

One of the grumpy people also nabbed me. She didn’t think mindmapping would work. It seemed too easy, too inconsequential. I took her to the lobby and I remember sitting with her, for about an hour, explaining how the process worked and trying to persuade her to give it a try.

I have no idea whether she ever did – given her attitude, I suspect not – but I wasn’t going to give up easily. Mindmapping is the closet thing to a magic bullet for writing that I’ve ever found.

I spend a lot of time thinking about mindmapping and I often wonder why it works like a charm for some people and completely flummoxes others. Here is what I suspect:

The people who don’t like it value their analytical minds so highly that mindmapping seems like a betrayal. Perhaps their reasoning goes something like this:

…I have a good brain and if I think things through carefully, and methodically, I should be able to come up with a reasonable way of approaching this writing job…

…Stories and articles are by definition organized and linear so the process for their construction should also be organized and linear….

…Mindmapping seems too undisciplined, too haphazard. Surely a logical outline makes a lot more sense…

It’s true. We all count on our logical brains for a great many resources. They help us with spelling, grammar and basic arithmetic, with tidying our houses and cooking dinner, with doing the work our bosses want us to accomplish.  But they can’t do everything.

The thing about mindmapping is that it gives us access to another part of our brains. The deeply creative part. The unconscious part. The inventive part. You can be blown away by the material a mindmap will generate because it is so unexpected. (The story about my speech – at the beginning of this column – came from my own mindmap. I would never have remembered it otherwise!)

If you’ve been reluctant to use mindmapping, or if you’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked for you, then I urge you to give it another go. Simply turn a piece of paper sideways (landscape fashion) and write your idea or your angle in the centre of the page. Draw a circle around it.

Then write the next idea that springs into your head. Draw a circle around that one too. And keep up with this “brainstorming” until you know what you want to write. (If you’ve signed up for my free newsletter, you will have received a very useful free booklet on mindmapping when you registered. If you haven’t signed up yet, all you need to do is enter your name and your email address in the box underneath my photo at the top of the page on the right.)

But don’t put mindmapping in the same “must do” category as losing weight, discovering exercise or quitting smoking. Instead, view it simply as another tool you can put into your writing basket. Just as sometimes you might go for a run (without becoming “a runner”), or bake a cake (without becoming “a baker”) or try a meal without meat (without becoming a vegetarian), you can also produce an occasional mindmap without becoming a mindmapper.

We all need a reset once in awhile. Let mindmapping reboot your writing life.

Have you ever tried mindmapping? How does it work for you? We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)