Tuesday 22 September 2020

Mind Map Your Story (or anything else) - Heather Dyer

Allowing your ideas to branch organically promotes divergent thinking; the mind thinks ‘wider’ that it might do if you were making a list or writing in a linear way. This can give rise to new and unexpected connections. 

There are all sorts of ways to use mind maps:
  • Taking notes in a lecture or from a weblog or podcast, or book
  • Exploring an event, process or a concept – for example, ‘moving house’, ‘sand dune erosion’, or ‘haiku’.
  • Structuring a piece of writing or coming up with ideas to write about. 
  • Performance. For example, if assessing a teacher, you could write down the areas for assessment beforehand – or the performance categories red, green and amber (for improvement) – before branching off each one according to your observations. 
  • Designing a presentation. You could even show the mind map as a PowerPoint slide, to introduce the presentation or sum up at the end.
  • Explore a character, chapter or storyline. 

How to do it?
  1. Write one central word (or better still, draw a single image representing it) in the middle of the page. Then branch out, writing one associated word along each branch.
  2. Draw a thick line for the first words that come off the central image, and thinner lines for more remote tributaries.
  3. Branch again and again; the only limit is the number of associations you can make.
  4. Tony Buzan recommends using colour, but I’ve never bothered.
  5. Importantly, allocate only one word to each branch – even if you want to write a phrase.
    For example, I recently drew a mind map to explore potential income streams. One of my branches was ‘school visits’. But breaking this into two words on two branches, allowed more connections to arise. As I drew a separate line for ‘school’, universities and home-schooling groups suddenly occurred to me. Then, as I drew the line for ‘visit’ I realized I could offer virtual visits as well as real visits.

Other ideas:
  • If your mind map is getting too crowded, one of the branches could start a separate mind map of its own, thereby drilling deeper and expanding further.
  • Mind mapping can be done as a way to collaborate. It can be useful to do individual mind maps first, collaborate to create a combined map, then separate again and reflect further.
  • Try prioritizing quantity over quality. Choose your central word or image, then write at least five words branching from it. Write another five from each of these five. Try another five, if you can. How far can you go?
  • When you’ve finished your mind map, try connecting random pairs of words and seeing if any new connections arise.

Heather Dyer teaches Writing for Children for the Open College of the Arts, and provides writing and publishing advice through The Literary Consultancy, The Writers' Advice Centre for Children's Books, and privately. If you’re ready for feedback on your work-in-progress contact Heather at heatherdyerbooks@gmail.com. 

For further information, see Heather's blog at Writing for Children: Creative Inspiration for Children's Authors.


Penny Dolan said...

Thnaks for the reminder of an activity I've used in the past but that I could use more deeply right now. Looks around for that extra large pad of paper . . .

Anne Booth said...

This is excellent and very helpful.