It’s my week to write a Wiley essay, and as I was planning it, it hit me: I can write a Wiley about how I write a Wiley!
All kidding aside, there’s a very useful tool called a Mind Map that can help with anything from what topic to pick for an essay to where to go on vacation to what are the critical issues the Board of Directors needs to solve in the coming year. Let’s walk through one together!
This is a Mind Map that I drew up this morning as an example of how to do one; it focuses on “Wiley Wednesday.” See picture, below:
The first thing to notice is that the focus is at the center of the drawing, which starts out as a blank page. In this case, it’s “Wiley Wednesday.” When I’m writing these for actual use, I do not switch colors because it causes too much distraction from the process; I used different colors here to illustrate different trains of thought.
The key thing, and in my opinion the most important thing, to remember about Mind Mapping is that it’s Brainstorming (I capitalize that since I’m using it in this context as a topic). Brainstorming is about idea generation, it is not about idea selection. As such, ALL ideas go into the hopper, not matter how applicable. You never know. You might throw the idea “Zombie Movie Monster Mash” into the hopper and it sparks four new, solid ideas right on its heels.
Once you have your focus, just relax a moment and breathe.
No, I’m not kidding. Try it before you argue with me!
Seriously, this is a right-brain task, not a left-brain sequential one. The right-brain doesn’t think in the same way as our cognitive brain, and we need to work accordingly. By this time, you may have an idea or a glimmer of an idea. Great! Draw a line and write it down.
The lines radiating from the focus are the main topics. The lines radiating from the topics are related to that topic. When you’re working on a topic, like “Writing” or “Productivity,” and you get an idea that fits neither one of those two subjects, draw another main line from the focus and start a new sub tree.
You might find, like I do, that a normal letter-size piece of paper isn’t large enough. I like to use large placemats from restaurants, ledger size paper (11 inches by 17 inches), and I even have a roll of butcher paper at home that is fun to use (that’s about 36 inches wide and, well, a roll of paper. How much is there? Well, I’ve had this roll of paper since I was five, if that’s any indication, and I’ve still not used it all…)
Once you have as many ideas as you and, if you’re playing with friends, your group can come up with in a reasonable amount of time (don’t go for more than a half hour at one sitting), you’ve got your idea hopper. And I’ll wager you have a LOT more ideas than you’ve got time, which is always a better problem to have than an expanse of blank paper and no ideas at all.
Now go forth and Map your Mind!