Ever had a huge idea come to you with perfect order and timing, so you were able to capture the whole thing in your writer’s notebook (or that file on your computer) without losing a bit of it?
Usually when that big idea strikes I am left scribbling notes on a napkin and always, like a dream you just woke up from and can’t quite recall exactly, something gets lost.
But one day as I was frantically sticking Post-it® notes on my white board and drawing connections with a fat red marker, it dawned on me that there might actually be software that lets a person do all this on her computer (or iPad, Droid, whatever you love). And sure enough there was.
The process is called mind mapping and it is used for everything from project planning to brainstorming, from fleshing out a creative writing idea to getting a complex pile of information under control. Mind mapping is a visual way of capturing, connecting and presenting details of non-linear ideas.
Although the process is simple, the extras and features of some mind mapping apps can add depth and resources that are impossible to do with an ordinary notebook or text file.
The basic steps of mind mapping your idea are:
1. Write your big idea or project name in the center of the page
2. Add sub-topics, the lines will be automatically generated for you
3. Add and rearrange topics and details
4. Add links, emails, icon indicators as needed
Before you know it, you will have something that looks a bit like this:
I have used it to plan websites, a non-fiction book, and parties. I have made maps of our family tree, our adoption process, and visualizing a class I taught. In each case, using mind mapping software was not just useful and fun, it also added a creative element to the process that generated an amazing amount of detail.
If you would like to try mind mapping, here are a couple of apps worth exploring:
FreeMind (free, java-based runs on multiple computer platforms)
MindNode ($10.49 for use on iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch)
SimpleMind (free/$4.99 for use on Androids)
Photo by Ivan McClellan, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Sandra Lynn.