Mind mapping is my absolute favorite mental facilitation tool. I use it to organize almost everything I'm working on where I need to capture ideas before they flit away. It is my most common planning tool.  And most importantly it is my primary writer's brainstorming method.

Mind mapping has been around for a long time. As far back as the third century. But it was popularized by Tony Buzan in the 1970's.

In my previous life, I've used it extensively for project planning, brainstorming, training and meeting facilitation. I haven't found a better method.

Here's a link on the basics:

Why do I find it so helpful for writing projects?

  1. It's not linear like traditional outlining. You can jump from topic to topic at will so your creativity is not constrained.
  2. Patterns emerge quickly as your mind enters right brain mode.
  3. You can use it for organizing anything. Plotting, planning, research, interviews, titles, characters, scenes, settings, queries, pitching, name it. If you're organizing, planning or brainstorming, this beats conventional list or outlining methods. Once you're done, you can then apply the information to normal lists or outlines.
  4. Associations come so rapidly that the inner critic is put on hold.
  5. The more you use it, the more fluid your mind becomes.

Paper or electronic? You can mind map either way, but paper is much faster. I use printer paper and a clipboard (I keep two on my desk at all times). Looking at my desk right now, I can see at least five maps ranging in topics from a wine group event that I'm organizing this weekend to five key questions I haven't yet answered about a key protagonist.

Once I've completed a mind map, then I'll usually use Dragon Dictate and create a conventional outline or list. It's much faster to dictate than type.

I can't imagine working without this wonderful tool.