I will never forget 2004 – it was the year I did not remember doing anything else but write.
My business partner, Karen, and I had launched MetaVarsity early on in this year and we decided that the only way to get ourselves to write the course material was to set a date for the first class and go for it. In this case the line in the sand was the 8th of May. We were lucky to be supported by an amazing group of first students who loved what we were doing and signed up with full faith we would deliver. And then it was time to get to work. While we had a detailed schedule of the what would be covered in each class, we had to stay ahead of each week’s class by researching and writing furiously. The pages were literally still warm on the morning we taught them.
While this was a daring and ambitious approach, we quickly realised that our process of collating resources and writing material was just not effective. The flow of the chapters was just not working and it was a huge effort to get all the complex resources to work together. This was of course in spite of the copious cups of coffee and late night Chinese takeaways brought to us by Karen’s ever supportive husband Brian. It was time to re-evaluate our approach.
Having worked with mind maps as a tool in my career, I could kick myself for not having thought of it sooner. They worked. For each section of the course we took a piece of paper and as we were researching materials we mapped out key pieces of information and their references onto the mind map. Once all our research for that section was done and we were happy with the flow and structure of the section, the writing began. What became apparent was something I had not anticipated – that when I started writing the section I almost did not need the mind map. The structure was already in my head. It was almost as if the act of doing the mind map actually got the mental index right, an external process ordering the internal one. This process helped us to write over 400,000 words of course material in a remarkably short space of time.
I have since then used mind maps as a key part of my writing process, fiction and non-fiction alike, as well as when I do talks or interviews. If you get the information right on one page it will flow when you start putting words down. I have since then migrated from paper to a tool called FreeMind. This is an easy to use and free mind mapping tool that makes the job a whole lot easier. Google FreeMind and you will find quite a few sources to download it from.
Do you use mind maps when you write? Or do you have another technique that helps you get your thoughts in order?