Gigster Insights – Using Mindmapping to Cope with Writer’s Block

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I’m a blogger, so writer’s block is a regular thing. I’ll have a great idea, I rush to the computer, grab my cup of tea, and I get comfortable on my chair while I wait for my screens to open. Then, before I even get a title down, I run out of ideas. Sometimes it’s just the act of writing the title that kills the moment, and other times I just can’t even think of a creative way to get the first paragraph going.

For those who aren’t bloggers, I think the issues are the same when you need to write for other reasons. I’ve also found myself staring at a power point slide that way. I’ve started at my half-baked Facebook comments, that way. Likewise, I’ve found myself unable to write a get-well card, a class essay, and a witty on-liner for an advertisement. Sometimes we just get stuck, no matter what it is we need to write.

We’ve all been there.

However, I now have a method that seems to overcome this, and I wanted to share it with everyone. It’s a stream-of-consciousness exercise that is based on the concept of mind-mapping. I never found mind-mapping useful for much else, but when I’m stuck writing, it seems to unclog my mind and get me going. It was a technique I found by chance on another blogger’s post: Mind-mapping your Way out of Writer’s Block, although I implement it a bit differently for my needs.

Mind-Mapping in a Nutshell

Mind-mapping is different from creating an outline in that it is not linear. The lack of linearity allows your mind to come up with more ideas and directions. This is why it works to get out of writer’s block. By not being constrained, the mind is free to explore other directions that seem to work their way around the road-block and allow the writing process to continue.

The psychology behind this I actually quite fascinating. Our minds are capable of thinking in multi-dimensional directions and tangents. This is different from the way we typically think on a much more conscious and focused level. So when we are stuck on a problem such as writer’s block, it is typically just on that one direction. When we get our needled stuck in that one direction we tend to put more energy there in order to overcome it. In the process, we shut out all the other directions, and in so doing, the way around the problem we are actually stuck on.

This is my layman’s explanation, but there is actually real science behind it. Anyhow, I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but suffice it to say that mind-mapping helps us write down those ways around the block.

Here is How I use Mind-Mapping When I Write

I start by writing my topic in the middle of a piece of blank sheet of paper. Then you write down as many other things you can think of that relate to that topic. The trick here is not to limit yourself, but to write anything that comes to mind. Even funny thoughts, disturbing thoughts, and just plain flighty thoughts. Anything can become relevant because it may lead to other thoughts that actually become important threads.

Technically, you’re supped to draw bubbles and arrows etc., but I skip that for now. The reason is because I want to capture as many other thoughts as I can. I even prefer to use a ball-point pen because I believe that I can write faster with it than with a felt-tip pen or pencil. No erasing either! Before long, you should have a full sheet of paper.

Now I take a very short break. I finish my cup of tea, stare at something out of the window, or I stand up and stretch my legs.

Then I sit down and start adding the bubbles and lines that are part of a normal mind-map. As I draw the bubbles, things start to come into focus and relationships become apparent. Then I cross out a few things that seem too far-fetched or irrelevant. Because of our thought processes, the bubbles and lines will for clusters. I then number each cluster. That’s it.

Each numbered cluster becomes a paragraph or section of what I need to write about. If what I have to write is very short, they become just a sentence or a phrase. I then sit down in earnest and start to write in the order that I numbered them.

Conclusion

It seems strange that this should work. Why doesn’t just a linear approach work just as well? It does, but not when you get stuck. With a mind-map, I often even forget why I was stuck, or even that I was stuck at all. Ultimately, we are tapping into our own mind’s ability to do more. We are augmenting our consciousness. It is both awe-inspiring and empowering top know that we can do this.

What is even more interesting is that it works for long writing assignments as well as very short ones. Because of the decreasing attention span of our audience, it becomes more and more important to be succinct in how we write: 160 characters or less. This is especially true in advertising, where we typically only have a few seconds of attention to convey a message. Mind-mapping allows us to write more meaningful, pithy captions that still encompass everything we want to say.

Next time you are staring at a blank screen or piece of paper, try a mind-map.

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