The writing process isn’t always a smooth road. Like any good story, it often contains a few twists and turns.
Writer’s block is a common antagonist for many writers, shielding you from your creative potential as it forms a mental barrier in your mind – one that can sometimes feel impossible to break down. Thankfully, mind mapping is there to help.
Mind mapping is a versatile technique that can help you not only overcome writer’s block, but aid creativity within your writing process. So, no matter how you choose to tackle your work, you can take away the stress and focus on the important part – the words.
What Is Mind Mapping?
Sometimes referred to as a spider diagram, a mind map is a visual thinking tool used to capture ideas and information. Mind maps utilize a unique combination of keywords, images, and visual-spatial awareness to enhance your brain’s creative thinking power. Simply put, mind maps allow you to take the interconnected trains of thought in your brain and capture them in one place.
Proven to boost memory, creativity, and productivity, mind maps reflect our natural thinking processes by using radiating branches that are designed to encourage our brains to make associations between ideas and explore our unrestricted imaginations. When you stop to think about how your brain works, you probably find that one idea sparks another, until you have a whole web of interconnected thoughts in your head. Mind maps work by capturing this process, ensuring nothing gets forgotten.
How Can Mind Mapping Benefit My Writing Process?
No matter what you are working on, writing requires a great deal of creativity and imagination to bring your ideas to a colorful reality on the page. As our most dominant sense, our visual experience is the main way that we make sense of the world – so it’s only natural to use a visual thinking tool to explore our ideas.
Mind maps are great for building the bigger picture, so try using one to outline the structure of your next book, feature article, or blog post. Use the main branches of your mind map to identify the different areas of your content, then expand on each area further. This provides a useful way to develop and organize your ideas and clearly see the areas you need to develop. By piecing together related elements of your writing in this way, you will be able to draw connections between them, improving the flow of your ideas. Mind maps will give you the confidence in knowing that all of your ideas are stored in one place, where you can easily get a bird’s-eye view of your writing project as a whole.
When getting started with a mind map, pair images with words where possible. Using visual stimuli will help to aid your cortical skills while keeping your creative juices flowing. Our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, so they can help you to quickly and easily draw associations between your branches and generate new ideas.
As a writer, you know the power of creativity can help launch a piece of writing to the next level. But sometimes, even the best writers need a tool to help them uncover the great ideas locked inside their heads.
Tapping Into Our Childlike Creativity
When we think about imagination, the perceptibility of children is something to behold. Kids’ imaginations are never-ending sources of creativity and inspiration, as they begin to explore and question the world around them. However, as we grow up, our life experiences begin to shape the way we view and tackle challenges. As a result, we naturally start to build up barriers in our mind around what we think is achievable.
When using a mind map during your creative brainstorming sessions, try to remove any mental barriers and capture every idea that comes into your head. There will be plenty of time to organize these later and eliminate any ideas that don’t work. By allowing your mind to capture every thought (no matter how "out there" it may seem), you can clearly see where different sparks of inspiration have originated from. Make an effort to challenge your thinking processes, so you can unlock your ability to come up with unique and creative ideas and solutions.
When your inspiration is on a roll, you’re likely to have ideas pouring in from every angle. Using a mind map means that no idea is left uncaptured – so, unlike the way a vivid dream can soon become a hazy memory, your sparks of inspiration won’t evaporate into your subconscious.
Overcoming Writer’s Block
Writer’s block can feel like an impossible wall to pass through. Trying to force ideas to come when you’re experiencing writer’s block can easily result in stress and spending wasted minutes writing and deleting sentences in frustration. Thankfully, there are lots of handy ways to help improve your focus as a writer. When you’re struggling to put your ideas into words, capturing them in a mind map means you can think about the bigger picture, rather than forcing yourself to construct the perfect sentence structure. This will help to broaden your thinking and engage your mind in limitless possibilities, rather than focusing on the finer details at this stage.
As mind maps typically use one keyword per branch, this allows you to draw greater connections from each thought, helping to focus your mind on the most important aspects of the problem you’re facing. Making use of colors and images will also help to stimulate your creativity and imagination when you feel like you’ve hit a creative brick wall.
Giving Yourself a Break
We all know that creative ideas can’t be forced. It’s important to listen when you feel like your body is telling you to take a step back. Fortunately, mind mapping is a great way to give yourself a break and engage your mind in a focused daydream. A focused daydream is the process of taking a step back from your research topic to switch off. During this time, your unconscious mind will incubate the knowledge you have gathered, allowing innovative solutions to float to the surface of your mind when you come back to tackle your work.
Try mind mapping in a different environment to where you typically do your writing. Stepping away from your desk and heading out to the garden, or to your local coffee shop, will help to give your mind a fresh perspective to tackle your challenge from a different angle. Once you have your mind map filled with all your thoughts, you can then come back to this for reference when you feel your writer’s block beginning to lift.
Get a Second Opinion
Whether you’re a solo author, a feature writer, or you work within a content team, we all know the phrase "two heads are better than one." So, be sure to harness the creative brainpower of those around you. While it’s important to hone in and focus on your writing individually, the power of teamwork goes a long way when developing your ideas. Utilizing the power of mind mapping software, you can easily share your mind maps with friends and colleagues so they can contribute suggestions, building on your ideas while keeping them stored safely in one, collaborative space.
With all the technological advancements in our midst, mind mapping has stood the test of time. Combining this traditional method of note-taking and integrating it with the digital tools we use every day, it enables us to further enhance our daily creativity and thinking processes. As writers, we often have to maintain a weighted balance between our creativity and the organisation of our workload. Mind mapping is a powerful and adaptable technique to help writers capture and explore their creative ideas, then put structure behind these to get their writing off to a flying start.