In my last blog post, I wrote about how to use mind mapping to discover the reasons you would want to publish an eBook. Once you’ve established that, the next step is to actually write the book — which can seem an incredibly daunting task.
So, I enlisted the help of authors who literally and figuratively wrote the books on writing: Anne Lamott with Bird By Bird, Stephen King’s On Writing, The Artist’s Way’s Julia Cameron with The Right to Write, and screenwriter Robert McKee’s Story. After re-reading each book with an eye on how mind mapping might be most beneficial to the writing process, I came away with one clear answer: synthesizing.
Readers, Scavengers, and Synthesizers
In Bird By Bird, Lamott states that “writing is a way to organize the world in your own head.” I have found that charting that world on a mind map is a good way to begin writing an eBook. While a step-by-step (or bird-by-bird) approach is a linear process to develop narration, description, and dialogue, a mind map helps balance the writing process by taking a non-linear approach to helping you fill in some of the missing pieces.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King states that if you want to be a good writer, you need to read a lot. Using mind maps to deconstruct and re-engineer what you read is a perfect way to combine information in new and different ways. King describes paragraphs as “maps of intent”— almost as important in how they look as what they say. By putting your ideas in a mind map, you can see if your message is balanced. And almost as important as seeing what to include is deciding what to exclude.
Julia Cameron notes that good writers are scavengers, always scrounging for material based on memory, imagination, and fact. A mind map is a useful way to store experiences, thoughts, reference materials, and stories. Screenwriter Robert McKee put it this way: to find harmony, the writer must study the elements of a story as if they were instruments of an orchestra — first separately, then in concert. There’s no doubt that mind maps allow you to visualize both the forest and the trees. McKee believes the biggest reason people write is the thrill of getting the sudden flash of insight when they see how everything connects, to put things together in a way that no one has ever dreamed before. If you’ve ever felt the rush when you’ve linked a pair of boxes on a mind map, in order to complete a thought and put a puzzle piece into place, you’re likely to agree.
Speaking of synthesizers, for good measure I added David Byrne — singer, songwriter, frontman for Talking Heads — to the mix. In his book How Music Works, Byrne characterizes his song writing process as “emergent storytelling.” This includes mapping out words, phrases, and ideas that float together, and allowing patterns to emerge. This flow of combinations and associations can best be illustrated on a mind map as the relevant snippets of information — drafts, notes, and links — become the fabric of your writing tapestry.
Walking for Writing
Several of these writers extolled the virtues of mulling over their work while walking. Julia Cameron uses walking as a way to sort things out. As a cautionary tale, King goes into gruesome detail about his well-publicized accident while walking in Maine. A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology by lead author Marily Oppresso, professor of psychology at Santa Clara University, touts the improved creative effects of being in an ambulatory state.
It works for me. While working on my eBook How to Get Your Money Back From Big Companies, I would take a quick glance at the mind map before my daily walk, and I would compose while I walked, going back and forth between the narrative and the map in my mind. I call that in-between place my “map-u-script.”
By providing me a tool to put a structure in place from the very start, my map was a good place to go back to when I got lost, allowing me to overcome writer’s block by examining alternative scenarios and becoming my own devil’s advocate with opposing views. Visionaries like Steve Jobs and Edward O. Wilson (in his 1999 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge) predicted that in the future the world will be run by synthesizers, people who can organize and present their thoughts in creative, innovative ways.
If this is true, mind mapping is a powerful tool that will give writers a head start on the rest of the world.
To learn more, download Jim’s Writer, Mapper, Synthesizer mind map here.