I started using mind maps in the 80s when I was reading Tony Buzan’s books on the brain and memory. The key bit of information I can impart to you from everything I’ve learned about the brain and mind mapping is to know that your brain’s pathways are unique.
Your way of thinking about things may not be reflected in any of the models or teachings you see in the world around you. That’s why it’s important to relax and be playful with the process of mind mapping. Your best outcome is when you discover something new that works for you.
My mind mapping impulse goes back to elementary school. I was chronically bored in class. I started spending my time writing a series of numbers on a sheet of paper. 1, 2, 3 etc, but I was placing the numbers randomly all over the page. Then I would start connecting the “dots,” basically, taking my pencil and making a line from number to number, following the sequence without crossing over any lines. I would end up with a labyrinth-looking image full of curving parallel lines. I was giving my brain a chance to doodle while the teacher droned on about a topic I had mastered the year before.
People with forms of autism or Asperger’s syndrome may find great relief in allowing the organization of their brain to appear on paper. I knew from early experience that I do not process things in linear terms. Expressing my mind in these different modes helped me feel connected to something as a “different” child.
My brain follows curving story arcs and needs blasts of color and organic images to make sense of things. My journal covers are mind maps which can provide a touchstone for the process I am in at the time.
The Big Book
I started doing collage as a teenager, using all sorts of resources to create stories of images for myself. In my 20s I created a huge book to keep my mind maps in. It sits on the shelf for years at a time, but I do have some mind maps of novels I’ve worked on, concepts I wanted to understand better, and memory-maps that are collages of things I want to remember and put together in a pattern of some sort.
In addition to memory-maps where I bring in bits of my life connected to past and future,
I mapped out the characters for a novel,
wrote everything I knew about electricity on sticky notes,
explored the relationships of numbers,
and brainstormed sustainability parties.
Around that time I also began to write in mirror image. This is another way to give your brain a new route and discover something hidden. I have many pages of journals filled with mirror-image writing.
Today I often make a mind map to relieve the stress of having too much on my mind. My maps show me what I am struggling with, what I need to focus on, and where the joy is.
Try using the concept of simple sketching as a mind map. If you like to doodle, take it a step further and create an image story. Label things and draw lines of relationship from one to another. Make up your own icons. My journals are full of little faces, smiling, frowning, or showing confusion.
Focal Points Help Organize
Most often I will write a focal point in the center of the page, and then write all the different things that are on my mind about that focal point. It’s interesting how well these things tend to fit on one page. Our brains are good at working within parameters if they are clearly marked.
Sometimes a pattern of color is as informative as any arrangement of words and shapes. I made this collage during a turbulent time and it has given me some sort of information for over fifteen years. Mind maps don’t always point to a destination.
After looking at this series of possibilities for mind maps, does your brain have something new percolating in there?
What would make a mind map work for you? Are you willing to experiment and play?
Would you share your mind map with me?