Creativity Training Part 2 – Mind Mapping

Alison Strachan

A guest blog by Alison Strachan

In my last post I concentrated on how we can mentally prepare ourselves in advance so that when we do find time to write, we have already got a few ideas to work with and we can make the most of our creating time.

The next stage of the process can be used by itself, or it can be layered together with the other techniques. Clever writers might even change up the process by doing this step first and drawing on it for inspiration before you begin your mental preparation.

The most important thing to remember is that these tools are not set in stone – the way to get the most out of them is to find what works for you.

Mind mapping

 I am a visual learner so organising my ideas in a visual way makes more sense than taking notes in a notepad or drawing up endless lists. Mind mapping is an excellent way to make sense of the ideas you have, and at the same time you can begin to link together coherent thought processes and arguments that can be referenced at a later time with ease.

I’m going to continue with the original example from last week’s post to show you how I went from asking my brain for ideas, getting those answers, and working them out in a mind map.

Please note that I use SimpleMind Free on my Android phone and tablet but you can install this software on your PC or Mac computer and it is compatible with your iPhone as well. For the purposes of this blog post I downloaded the SimpleMind Desktop Trial software. You don’t have to have the software though, a pen and paper will work just a nicely. 😀

I was asked to write a blog about how I make time to write and while I was keen on the idea it wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a similar post after I realised that in order to have time to write, I had to make time. I knew that I didn’t just want to replicate that post again so I began to think about how I use my time most efficiently to keep creating as much as I can.

After my brain threw a few ideas at me I began to brainstorm them using the mind mapping software:

 Mind mapping

As you can see I have begun to organise my thoughts. It is easy to separate each idea and continue on a relevant thread/argument that can be explored adjacently to each other.

Mind mapping is quick and easy – it helps you use your right brain (creative side) to explore ideas and limit the opportunity for your left brain (logical side) to censor what comes out. This is important because the whole purpose of this is to get as many ideas down as possible.

Links between different ideas can come after you’ve put everything you can think of on the map. Of course these can be created using a pen and paper but that’s what I love about the software on your phone/tablet/computer – items can be easily moved around after you’ve had a chance to step back and review the map. Links between ideas are not always apparent while you are in the heat of the moment.

The other great thing about mind-mapping is that you can have one going that you can take with you anywhere you go, enabling you to be able to pop the ideas on as your RAS feeds them to you, meaning you don’t have to wait until you are supposed to be writing to do it.

Mind mapping can be used for anything. If you are stuck for story ideas, need to rethink areas of your plot, explore your protagonist in more detail or using it to jot research down, it is one of the best tools you can use.

C.S Lakin from her Live, Write Thrive blog explains the benefits of mind mapping like this:

“You can work on your novel on a macro or micro level. You can create a mind map for every major (and even minor) character, for all your main plots and subplots, and for other aspects like historical research and setting.”

Visual Mind Mapping

The next best thing to mind mapping ideas is to use a mind map to collect visual cues. The beginning of my novel is set in the middle of a severe drought so I have collected images of dry, cracked earth, empty creek beds, deserts, brown grass etc to give me inspiration.

I’ve found the best ways to do that is by cutting them out and arranging them on a cork board or by “snipping” them from the internet and arranging them using software such as OneNote. You could even join Pinterest and create a board with relevant images. Warning! Be careful with social media – the benefits of being able to build interest in a project can be lost by the endless hours spent tweeking different boards and searching through other pins.

Thinking about your novel or writing project in a more visual way can enable you to focus on that little bit of extra detail. It might just be that extra something that really pulls your reader in and makes them a part of your story.

To make the most out of any type of mind mapping it is best to look at your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Are you a visual learner, or are you a more logical thinker? Do you have an overly critical inner editor that keeps beating you down?

Mind mapping has given me the ideas and the energy to complete the book I’ve been working on for years and years and after I’ve had a brainstorming session I can never wait to get into it again.

Have you used this technique before? How did it go? Let us know how it went in the comments!


Alison Strachan has been writing for many years. She considers herself an amateur writer, making progress with honing her craft, learning about the publishing industry and finding her voice. She is passionate about the environment, animal welfare and wants to make a difference with her writing.

She shares tips and excerpts of her fiction at Writing My Truth. You can also stalk her on Facebook, Twitter (@writingmytruth) and Pinterest and read the prequel to her fantasy novel here.

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