Perhaps you are working on a book or other big project. You want to get all your ideas out of your head so you can work with the material. Managing the contents of our books can be a real challenge. There’s so much to say, and we often wonder if we’re adding too much, zinging off on a tangent or making any sense at all.
Many people will recommend an outline, which makes sense. Most non-fiction books start from an outline, making it easier to fill in the table of contents with your writing.
But most of my clients don’t start there. Why not? Because an outline is an orderly, linear thing, and most of us don’t think in orderly, linear ways.
Use a mind map to visually lay out your ideas in one place. At a glance, you will be able to see the whole of your book, course curriculum or presentation. From the mind map, you can generate a list of prompts that you can free-write from.
Use mind mapping to:
- outline the contents of your book
- develop the contents of your courses
- expand and distill your ideas on your topic for your blog or guest posts
- plan your editorial calendar by month, quarter or year.
Here’s a mind map here of a talk I developed. I brainstormed the premise and ideas around this topic. You can see it’s messy, but that’s okay. The content is out of my head and onto paper and I can start writing, using each bubble as a prompt to get started.
Four ways to mind map
Try it for yourself, using mind mapping to generate a list of prompts. Here are a couple ways to experiment with that.
Method one: Simple piece of paper or notebook.
Method two: Gather sticky notes and a blank wall or large piece of paper.
Method three: Use index cards. You may use several different colors, in order to color code different types of content that are in your book. Red for explication, green for example stories, yellow for exercises.
Instructions for mind mapping your book’s topic on paper
I don’t use a mind mapping app because it’s just so fun and easy to use an analog process. I prefer the spaciousness that I feel when I am not looking at a screen.
Here’s my go-to method for developing writing prompts for my book using a paper mind map.
Get a piece of paper. You can get a large one or just a piece of printing paper. In the center of a page, put the basic premise of your book in large letters. It’s helpful if you have a working title, but don’t fret if you don’t. If you are using sticky notes or cards, simply lay them out as you write ideas on each piece.
Now, brainstorm different things you want to say. There may be several large categories, each having its own bubble that comes off the central bubble.
For each category, capture the ideas you have for that category. Each idea has its own bubble, sticky note or index card. Don’t worry too much about organizing your ideas now; just get as many of them out as you can.
You can see from my mind map that the content isn’t completely organized. That’s okay. The organizing will come later, after I’ve drafted most of the pieces.
From here, I often move each item to an index card. This creates a deck of writing prompts that I can use to write from. The index card/sticky note process allows you to move your ideas around if you find they belong with a different category than you originally thought.
Keep playing with this until you are out of ideas. Go take a break and come back to see it anew. The mind map can be a living document that grows over time.
Inquiries for greater understanding:
- What do you notice about your content?
- Which categories have the most ideas?
- Which ideas or categories feel most compelling to you?
Let this settle for a week or so, adding to it and moving things around until you feel you have most of your ideas on paper and where you want them to be.
Use mind mapping to get your ideas on one topic onto the page. This is a fun and non-linear way to gather your thoughts.
Final thoughts on mind mapping your book ideas
Write from each prompt until you’ve exhausted your ideas. This may take several writing sessions before you feel complete with the prompt.
Remember that writing from these prompts is simply drafting or capturing your ideas. The writing will be rough, messy, and unorganized. It will feel incomplete and perhaps incoherent. Don’t fret! This writing will also be raw, real and fresh. It will have your voice and your conviction on it. It will be material that you will revise, edit and sculpt into something you can share with the world. But don’t get ahead of yourself with word smithing and perfectionism, either in developing your prompts or free-writing from them.
Writing prompts can be simple. Don’t overthink them. The best part of free-writing is the surprises that emerge when you step aside and let your pen lead the way. Writing prompts can help you dive in and swim past the inner critic to write anything, anytime.
- Map your ideas on paper.
- Take the most juicy ideas and put them into a list or on index cards to use as prompts.
- Mind map each idea until you know what you want to say.
- Use each idea or bubble as a free-write prompt to get your thoughts onto the page.
What will you mind map now?