Looking for a new tool to inspire you? Is your current creative toolbox leaving you wanting? Consider a mind map for writing inspiration.
What do Leonardo DaVinci, Mark Twain, and Michelangelo have in common? These geniuses kept notebooks, and in them, they recorded notes, keywords, and ideas, drew sketches, and connected their ideas with branches of meaning. In other words, they used a technique called mind mapping.
Studies show our brain understands and recalls visuals better than a solid page of writing. A true brainstorming tool, mind mapping sparks creative and inspiration waves while engaging the entire brain.
I began to use this technique to organize ideas about characters and map their arcs, and pretty soon plot points (stemming from characters) started popping up, making for some wonderful character-driven action.
Benefits of Using a Mind Map for Writing
Using a mind map for writing will help you generate ideas and concepts about any subject, trigger and explore different creative pathways, and discover deeper meaning in your project. Mind maps are a way of capturing your ideas which will help you develop steps, balance your thinking, and point out what holes you need to fill. You can even use this technique to make decisions or work out answers to a problem. Use a mind map to explore answers to those questions—both about writing and your life!
So, you’ve probably seen mind maps, but how do you actually make one? Pretty easy, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Experiment and find your own process.
How to Create a Mind Map for Writing
1. Begin in the center of your page (horizontal so you can spread out in all directions) with a thought or question. Circle it (you can doodle around it or draw, or add a photo). Is it an idea for your story? A character? A “world” or setting? Begin with whatever comes to you—one idea or question is all you need.
2. Shoot lines off that main concept and jot down subheads and other thoughts that come to you. Getting even more ideas from your ideas? Circle them. Draw another line and record more thoughts. Do some free association. Remember, this is all about mining beneath the surface of conscious thought so you can listen to your creative soul. Just go for it!
3. Draw any cross-connections you see between your different ideas and DON’T use a ruler. Free-form thinking requires free-form technique.
4. Use different colors (to separate ideas or branches) and images. Symbols and doodles. In other words, make it fun. Your imagination will reward you, and you’ll easily remember the concepts and thoughts you discover.
5. Using pen and paper (a BIG piece of paper without lines of course) is fun, but you can also use mapping software (my favorite is Scapple from Literature and Latte) that allows you to include links to articles, attachments, and information from the internet.
So be like DaVinci, Twain and Michelangelo and try mind mapping. If it works for you, add it to your creative toolbox and mind map your writing to brilliant!
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these creative writing prompts.
Award-winning novelist Kathy Steffen teaches fiction writing and speaks at writing programs across the country. Additionally, Kathy is also published in short fiction and pens a monthly writing column, Between the Lines. Her books, FIRST THERE IS A RIVER, JASPER MOUNTAIN and THEATER OF ILLUSION are available online and at bookstores everywhere. Check out more at www.kathysteffen.com