One of the most interesting aspects to a writing project (mine or a client’s) is engaging in research.
I do enjoy assembling pieces of knowledge – the salient facts, phrases, references and endless URLs – some of which go on to become those words, sentences and paragraphs my client is seeking and also paying for.
But just as a large jigsaw puzzle can seem daunting and confusing to start with, I’m often stumped about what to do first.
Of course, there is usually some structure to drape my ideas around.
- Is it a blog post, article, white paper, press release etc?
- What is the maximum word count?
- Who is the target audience?
- What’s the ‘Most Wanted Response’ for the piece?
To help me “find a flow” to the assembled factoids and data, I like to create mind maps as a prompting tool for my unconscious mind. (I know other writers who just start writing and treat their raw, 1st draft as a holding pen for the next edited effort.)
I’ve been into Mind Maps since I first heard about Tony Buzan’s work in the early 1980s. And I recall using chalk and blackboard to create some early ones for my sixth form physics students. Man, I’ll bet they were baffled!
These days I use a software mind mapping product (MindGenius) for a lot of my business processes and projects. Seems to work well.
But for writing assignments, I prefer to use old-fashioned pencil and paper. There’s something artistic and fulfilling about sketching mind maps by hand – and not being limited by software design nor by what I term the ‘LCD glaze’ (my eyes tend to tire when mapping on the computer for more than an hour at a time.)
Once complete, I normally put the mind map aside for at least an hour or two. (Sometimes much longer, depending on what else I’m up to, and on the client’s delivery date.)
Then when I’m ready to start typing the 1st draft, I have the map on my left, and occasionally glance at the keyword structure between sentences or paragraphs.
It’s a reassuring creativity system that works for me.
– Mark McClure