Watch Out for Mind Mappers

Mind Mapping
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.

Early Mapping
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.

Later I gave up the numbering. My brain moved my pen through more freeform squiggles.
black ink squiggle on white paper

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.

Stories emerge in elaborate doodles – even if I don’t know what they mean. Psychologists have fun with these things.
abstract shapes in blue and orange

Story Arcs
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.
collage with rose, dog, elephant, and circus girl

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,
vertical group of sketched images
I mapped out the characters for a novel,
images and words mapping out a novel
wrote everything I knew about electricity on sticky notes,
blue sticky notes all over a big page
explored the relationships of numbers,
colored numbers in a circle pattern
and brainstormed sustainability parties.
a page of notes on sustainability parties

Sometimes I build a map just to talk to myself.
memory of a meeting

Mirror Image
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.
journal page

Stress Relief
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.

Patterns are fun for the brain. This one is okay.
page of the word okay

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.

Here’s the earliest icon of emotion I can find, from a 1976 journal:
cartoony sketch of girl in love

To plan my series of clay turtles during my pottery years, I took time to map them out clearly.
page of pottery journal with drawings of turtles

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.
journal page of 2004

I use color to decorate my maps more than to show relationships or to categorize.
A current mind map for my Kindle publishing, BABS and the Directory, fiction writing and marketing.
black display board mind map

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.
colorful dots

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?

Suzanna Stinnett

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3 Responses to Watch Out for Mind Mappers

  1. Pingback: Mind Maps - Life Elements | Dorothy LaRue

  2. I really appreciate you sharing your mind mapping techniques and some of the fun maps you’ve created, Suzanna. Your process, and your creative output in general, are an inspiration. Thanks for the good work you’re doing! I wrote about my beginning steps as a mind mapper, and reference you, here:

  3. P.S. Have you thought about doing an ebook/kindle book on your mindmapping process, Suzanna? It’s innovative and could be helpful to people….

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