The image you are about to see may horrify some and thrill others. Sometimes you approach it anxiously—eager to share exciting news, pass along lessons learned, have festive fun with other bloggers, or brag on your peers’ accomplishments.
And then there are other times (and plenty of them), when life steps in and demands your attention, or you have a headache and can’t concentrate, are nauseous, tired, or a million other reasons that actually mean…I don’t feel like blogging (or writing) today. Your once most-favorite place to vacation has now become The Land of Dread.
The Add New Post Page
That dreaded blank page. What are you going to do about it? How can you turn that blank page into one that’s unblank? You have several ideas—topics sprouting in that fertile mind of yours—but how do you develop them into full blog posts…or essays…or whatever you have in mind? And for the record, this process also works for novels, but of course, on a larger scale.
Mind Mapping: What is It?
Simply put, it’s brainstorming on paper, and was developed by Tony Buzan, an Englishman I’d never heard of before today. I zoned into space without blinking through 55+ minutes of his YouTube podcast and although I’m sure the content was excellent, his delivery was monotonous and dry. It put me in a fugue state. By the time it was over, my tongue was a rock and I couldn’t blink without scratching my corneas.
The concept is as such: you have an idea—a main objective for your post or the direction of your blog—but not much more, so you write it down and brainstorm on items needed to achieve that goal.
Gather the ideas you’ve spun and place them around the main objective. These are your categories. Next, brainstorm on the categories to come up with several sub-categories to attain that specific goal. The idea is: Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.
Perhaps it would be easier to demonstrate. There’s a big problem, though: before this article, I never made a mind map. I saw a better video about making them in an email or a blog post or Lawd-knows-where almost a year ago but couldn’t find it anywhere to review. And I save everything (except that, evidently).
So before proceeding any further, I needed to learn how to make a mind map. And I did—from a nice hassidic jewish fellow on YouTube with the username, Pinnyssuccesthoughts.
His four and a half minute video, with its glottal Hebrew-English dialect taught me more than…well, I fugue-slept through Tony’s lecture, if that tells you anything. Of course, I gleaned information from many other sites, but “Pinny’s” simple diagram and explanation worked best. As a matter of fact, I mind-mapped this blog article:
Educate yourself. It is the first step to achieve any goal. If you walk away with nothing else, may that fundamental idea stay with you.”
Therefore, when creating the map above, I began with Education, wrote it on the right-hand side and circled it in green. Then, brainstorming on “education,” placed my thoughts pertaining to that category around the circle and drew branches to them.
I moved clockwise and went through this same process with “Needs,” “What to Include (or write),” “Provide Links,” and finally “Promote” the blog post.
Seeing as though we’re writers, here are a few more examples of mind maps, created by MyThoughts (via Photopin), on The Parts of Speech:
MyThoughts’s maps are quite professional and very easy to understand. Tap on any of them to bring up larger images in the gallery—links to the original sizes are provided at the bottom of the post, or you can find copies on my Pinterest “Writerly” board.
As you see, mind maps can be created for anything that needs defining and detailing to bring it to a full understanding.
Step-by-Step Through The Mind Mapping Process: “How I Want My Writer’s Blog”
Over the recent months—all things considered aside—I have been disenchanted with my blog: what it offered; what I wanted it to offer; what and how I wanted to write; how to make my voice resound; how to distinguish myself from the thousands of other writers’ blogs in this vast uni-net.
I decided to mind map what I wanted my blog to be. Go grab a sketch pad and follow along!
Once again, we begin with the blank page. Fear not. You’re just about to make your first ingenious move. Find a black writing pen (I use Uniball Vision Elite) and a pack of colored markers, pencils, or even crayons, then spill them all over your work surface. Have fun! The brain responds more readily to colors. Now you’re prepared to mind map.
Write down your main objective and circle it with the black magic marker. Grab a different color marker (in this case I chose green) and make a branch from your main objective. This may not be the correct nomenclature; it’s simply what I call it. The branches basically ask the question: “What is ONE of the things necessary to achieve this goal?” The answer will be your first category: to educate yourself on blogging.
Write down the category and circle it with the same color as the branch you drew (green).
In my case, I really needed to learn how to blog. I came into this online world knowing how to write, but not how to blog…the fun way blogging can be. I’ve tasted it, but to really enjoy it, I needed to educate myself.
Now add your sub-categories around the category—how you plan to educate yourself, keeping time, money, and other factors in consideration.
Step Three—Categories, Sub-categories, and Sub-sub-categories
The ideas you generate (and they’re pouring down like raindrops now, aren’t they?) will sometimes need further clarification, such as the example below. You’ve educated yourself on blogging and have learned you must find a host provider.
That becomes your next category. Write it down—even if you have a blog—like I did. You’re planning your ideal blog, correct? Then act as if you want it, even if it means relocating. Fortunately, I made some good decisions early in the game.
But you’ve run into a snag…there are free blogs and blogs you pay for (a decision that should have been made during the category brainstorming). Write them down, but don’t worry, they both lead to the same junction, which is Create Your Blog!
This is an example of a category, a sub-category, and a sub-sub-category. Before this branch is finished, there will be sub-sub-sub-sub-categories.
Step Four—Finishing Your Branch
When creating my blog, there were many decisions to make—appearance and user-friendliness being the most important to me. The same now goes for my “ideal blog.” I wrote those and brainstormed how to make them happen, surrounding them with pretty red branches heavy with fruitful ideas.
Step Five—Finishing Your Map
Repeat those steps for all the categories around your main objective. It may look hard, but putting this post together with all the pictures was much harder—believe me! The actual mind mapping was fun and creative!
If these diagrams look artsy and difficult to construct and you’re thinking, “But I can’t do that; I’m not artistic,” don’t fret. As with everything else in our writerly lives, it took a number of drafts to get to this point. If you don’t believe me, here is one of many rough drafts:
And if you’re one of those dig-in-your-heels people who are dead-set on remaining Old School (dagnab whippersnappers), guess what a mind map really is? An OUTLINE. Yep, it’s true. Only in a prettier package and easier to follow. After finishing my map, I put it in outline form and came up with the following:
And that’s the skinny on BASIC mind mapping. From my research I’ve seen much more intricate and elaborate maps (and complicated and artistic), but for simple blogging purposes, this should suffice. It should also assist in the development of your characters as well as your stories.
Think about it: your large dry-erase storyboard covered corner-to-corner with a mind map of your next novel. I’ve done similar stuff in the past with post-it notes and index cards—which will never go out of style as far as I’m concerned—but I’m going to mind map the upcoming NaNoWriMo.
Yeah…it’s almost that time again, and I wasn’t going to do it this year, but a friend twisted my arm. It’ll be a much easier book than last year, when I had BIG plans (still in the works, though) of writing the next MG/YA blockbuster series. Ah…to dream.
Hmmm…perhaps if I mind map that whole series…