Let’s say you’re writing a non-fiction book. You have a great message that you feel will help your readers. And you’re in touch with a lot of what you want to say.
You’re feeling somewhat overwhelmed, though. How do you organize it?
I think the following is going to encourage you, giving you a sense of direction and control.
Moving beyond the filing cabinet mindset
Filing cabinets were invented in 1886 by Henry Brown (impress your friends and peers at the next gathering!). This obviously helped to increase organization and efficiency of information on paper.
We actually still use something of this approach on our desktop or laptop with hierarchies of folders and files. We’ve just digitized everything. So in terms of organization and efficiency, if these are the tools we are using to write our book, we’re still in an “old school” mindset. We have everything separated into categories and probably don’t see the relationships between things.
We think and learn associatively. We learn something new based upon something we already know. There is a flow to our thinking. Our brains think beyond our filing cabinets – whether they are metal or digitized.
Mind mapping helps you see your thoughts and their connections
Another approach is to use mind maps to graphically show how we are thinking. Mind mapping started in the 1970s. You have a central idea or thesis in the middle. Then you draw topics radiating out from the central idea in specific branches.
For example you could create a basic mind map of a book with the central idea or message in the middle. You can then circle your main message with chapter topics. Then you can develop further chapter sub-topics connected to each chapter.
This helps you to see your thoughts and concepts. It can help with brainstorming and idea generation. You can focus on the big picture, capturing and developing thoughts to support the message.
Mind maps are visual and you can begin to see the connections of meaning between ideas. This is better than an information hierarchy within a metal filing cabinet or the digitized version of folders and files in your software.
The basic mind map described above, though, is still an information hierarchy.
It’s how we naturally think
The human mind will never be replicated by technology. But there are now tools to help us organize our thoughts and resources. And the key is to organize and visualize in a way that more closely aligns with how we naturally think.
Instead of organizing and visualizing our thoughts in hierarchies with sub-categories, if we could organize our thoughts in a more connections-based way, it will more closely harmonize with our thinking.
It is more like a webbing of connectivity.
This is what we see in ecosystems, the physical makeup of our bodies, and of course our brains. As we organize and visualize our thought in this way, it will generate more creative thinking than we could have imagined.
A more dynamic mind mapping software will visually/digitally reflect the connections and webbing in our thinking. It provides external support to what is going on in our brains. And it will create connections and pathways to the digital files we use.
It could provide new levels of self-discovery and insight, helping us to get our thought structure in shape. And it’s way more stimulating than digging through file folders, either paper or digital.
Take a look at the free version of Personal Brain. You can use it as a tool for blogging, research, articles, and books as well as for personal organization and task/project management and more. There are other mind mapping software programs too.
Mind mapping which more closely resembles how we actually think is what we want. It can empower us to develop and organize our writing, taking it to a new level.
See ‘From Filing Cabinets to Digital Thought’ by Shelley Hayduk in The Atlantic.
Questions? Want to get in touch about your project?