A few weeks ago, we were all sitting around the table, enjoying a glass of wine and some rare quiet time (the kids were asleep and my husband’s buddy was over). I started describing some of the projects I had started and happily handed over, and how once I’ve created a project I rarely feel a deep attachment to it. I enjoy creating something, running it through once or twice, and then handing it over for someone else to run.
In a Facebook group, I challenged a question about “impossible dreams” with the answer that there are no such dreams. Everything is possible (barring the laws of physics). The question poser came back with a story about an 81-year-old non-athletic person who wanted to become a professional basketball player, saying that would be an impossible dream. I responded with the following:
“…if I continue to be the way I am now, or the way my grandmother was at 82, I would start a new recreational basketball team for people aged 70+. I’d hope to get enough interest and find a coach willing to volunteer to train us. Then I’d hope to grow the team enough to compete. It’d be an amateur competitive team, but a competitive team nevertheless. Because it is a unique idea and we have an aging population in Canada, where I live, we could even receive some sponsorship from the many businesses that cater to older adults, meaning that we’d be close to a professional team.”
I have lots of ideas running through my head. Within the last week alone, two different people have told me that I’m a “real ideas person.” I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment, a criticism, or just a generic observation. Either way, those people are right. I really am an ideas person. I have ideas all the time – sometimes too many of them. The problem is, they don’t necessarily come at the right time, and my brain tends to get jumbled up with all of these ideas I’d like to try out, but end up never really starting (or more accurately, I do start lots of things, but tend not to finish, because I take on too many projects at once, and end up with several half-finished projects). Up until very recently, I thought that having so many ideas and being a bit of a scatter-brain was a bad thing. Then I discovered that I have a real knack for making connections.
My brain is firing on so many different cylinders most of the time, that it automatically makes connections where others might not see them. For example, I can help a parenting writer pitch an article to a mechanic’s shop while still building authority in her parenting niche – and getting paid for it.
How do I do this? Two words: mind maps.
I love mind maps. I use them for everything, both in my personal life as well as in my business. These mind maps have helped me to turn what I once considered a downfall into a majorly useful part of my life and business. I can now take all those ideas that float around in my brain aimlessly, and put them into a neat package that actually helps me to get more done – and help others do the same.
There’s many reasons why mind maps are absolutely great for anyone, but particularly for people working in the creative field in general, and writing in particular. My personal love of mind maps has to do with how my brain works. I’m what they call a scanner – someone who has myriad interests and really can’t settle on just one thing to do for a week, let alone a lifetime. My blog is a pretty good example of my many interests: I don’t follow the general rule of finding a niche – I just write about whatever my heart desires. It’s not the best way to run a blog, but it still gets people to buy my stuff and to refer me to their friends for my actual business – freelance writing and editing.
One of the main reasons I love mind maps, other than their awesome practicality, is that they look like a snapshot of how my brain works. Here’s an example:
This is a mind map I made for a writing colleague. She needed ideas of companies to contact for health-related articles. Granted, not all my mind maps look like this. I spent 16 years in the health industry, so I can think of a lot of things to put on a mind map with health at its centre.
Mind maps help me organize my often scattered thoughts, and as I continue to write those scattered thoughts down, more thoughts come to mind about things I could write about.
I’ve now created mind maps not just for myself and my own blog (each section of it, in fact), but also for colleagues and clients. I use the mind maps both to brainstorm clients to approach as well as for posts on my own blog, and finally, to come up with content marketing ideas for clients. Using mind maps helps me to always have at least a topic in mind to write about, if not an actual headline.
I’ve become so infatuated with mind maps and able to create so many ideas from them, that a few colleagues have suggested I should write an eBook of my mind maps (well, there’s an idea… I just might)!
Here’s how to create your own mind map to come up with content.
Write your niche or main topic/theme in the centre. I like to put a cloud around that theme, but you could just as easily use a circle, square, or any other shape. Now think about anything that could be even remotely related to that centre topic. Once you run out of ideas, pick one section and start writing anything remotely related to that section, and so on. You can simply write a word/topic, or you could write ideas for the actual headlines or general ideas for an article, like I did here for a client:
Using mind maps is an essential part of my creative process, and it provides me with enough ideas to be able to churn out content for both my own blog as well as for the clients and publications for whom I write. I highly recommend giving this method a try, if you haven’t yet done so.
Do you use mind maps in your creative process?
About the Author
Mariana Abeid-McDougall is a writer, a wife, and a homeschooling mom to 3 young kiddos in an adventurous family. Our family doesn’t fit into any neat boxes, and if yours doesn’t either, come embrace your dreams with us at www.marianamcdougall.com.