• Adele Pargeter

Mind mapping madness

When was the last time you picked up a pen and began scribbling all over a blank piece of paper? That’s all I did throughout my five years at university. Lecture after lecture, scribble, doodle and create.

I’ve always been a doodler, the kind of person who would much prefer to write down the notes in a meeting on a notebook than my laptop. I like the process and the creative freedom. I like the fact that I can freely use arrows to join concepts and move around the paper in a much more creative manner than if I was working in front of a computer screen.

I like wall calendars that I can write all over and I screw my nose up at anything technical when it comes to organising family life. Give me a pin board, family calendar and notepad any day of the week. Give me organised visual chaos, rather than technical organised chaos.

I like to tick things off a list and scribble out my mistakes for the whole world to see. I’m happy to have notebooks filled with, only I know what, in every room of our home.

I’m old enough to realise now, that this way of doing life and organising my work and home, isn’t necessarily the norm. In fact, I’m learning that most people much prefer digital organisational tools. Those university days of doodling endless notes with lines, arrows, circles and asterisks are still with me. But they are not with us all.

Rather than write a list on paper, lots of people prefer to use their ‘Notes’ section on their phone. Rather than writing out a weekly to-do list, many prefer to use their phone calendars. Rather than writing down their ideas before typing, many type out their ideas before typing. Go figure!

My husband has tried many times to convince me to come over to the ‘dark’ side and to share our online calendars, and to create a joint family calendar. This lasted one whole week. I hated checking my phone for updates and I was missing the act of writing stuff down. I’m officially old school and I’m very proud to own this label because I think it’s a BIG part of my creative self.

When my children ask me for ideas about a story or poem they are writing for school, I grab a notepad and start mind mapping with them. Big circles wrap around big themes and lines join smaller concepts and characters. I’ve always done this, but I’m discovering it’s not necessarily the norm.

Initially my children thought I was drawing pictures and my eldest thought it was extremely unsightly. She immediately went to draw bullet points because the diagrams were too much for her. Over time however, I’ve noticed she’s begun to adopt a similar story planning method.

Mind mapping is an extremely useful technique that supports the creative aspects of our thinking. It enables our brain to bounce ideas around in a non-linear manner which effectively enables us to develop creative ideas and concepts. Thoughts are developed more naturally through associations and triggers, and the stimulation of various creative pathways enable connections to develop and ideas to flow.

I have always viewed my scribbling and mind mapping similar to conversations. I am the master of awkward conversations, perhaps this is why I find this creative method such a comfortable fit. When we converse with someone, it isn’t always linear. Ideas don’t always flow seamlessly from one topic to the next. Conversations don’t always make complete sense and sometimes we have to stop ourselves from saying something that doesn’t really fit in that moment.

Mind mapping is similar, in that you are allowing the messages from your brain to immediately be processed, and this action simultaneously makes room for and draws connections with other topics. As each new idea is jotted down, another concept pops up, and so on. A bit like unwrapping a web of ideas on paper and then turning this creative mess into something structured and more orderly.

So, when those creative juices aren’t flowing, or the story is stalling, grab a pen and paper and start mind mapping. Identify the big themes first and connect these with smaller underlying themes. Write down absolutely anything and everything you want to include in your piece of work. Nothing is off limits.

How we develop our ideas and strengthen our creativity is completely individual, but there are definitely methods that are more conducive to creative fluidity, than others. Find what works for you and nurture this, because there really isn’t a right or wrong way when it comes to fostering creativity.

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