Run a small business? Heard about the importance of doing regular content marketing? Of adding value? Of course, you have. The problem is, if you are like me, putting pen to paper can prove troublesome and harder than it should be.
Ironically – given most of us have been writing since we were 5 or 6 (in some form or other) – the task of actually putting words down on a page is often harder than we imagine. From what you should say on a greeting card to someone, to what to say in your latest blog, how to convey the right message on your website or even how to structure that book you have always wanted to write, there are days when writing just does not come easy. Other days you have so much to say, but don’t know how to explain what you need to eloquently.
“There is no such thing as writer’s block, because there is no such thing as talker’s block”
Some people call it writer’s block and will often decide the task is too hard to attend to that day and move to something else. However, for me, ever since I first heard someone quote Seth Godin (“There is no such thing as writer’s block, because there is no such thing as talker’s block”) I realized that if I knew what I needed to say, yet not how, I could solve the problem as often as not, by putting my thoughts in any order down on a page. It was then I discovered the beauty of mind mapping – dumping seemingly random thoughts onto a page and reordering them into logical constructs.
Take the below example; the first/working thoughts I had on writing this particular blog today which I threw into a mind map.
In short, I had 3 things I wanted to communicate:
- That I understood the issue
- That I believe you can use a mind map to solve the issue
- The reasons I believe mapping is a great solution
Breaking the task down
The problem as I saw it was multi-faceted (the issues), yet I knew there were suggestions I could share, and that I would need to back up my preference of using a mind map with some proof points and the references for these. Within 3 or 4 minutes I had the above down and knew I had a start for what I wanted to say.
But – and as is needed with all mind maps – I looked at it more, and realized there were holes and the logic was not there. It needed massaging.
First, I realised for example that “suggestions” was not the right title to help me capture the right ideas, nor was it in a good spot to help order my thoughts.
So I moved it over to the left, renamed it and put it above the advantages which act as my proof point.
Then I realised the advantages I wanted to spell out were light on and needed more depth. I added a number of different research pieces which have been written on the benefits of mind mapping to the “advantages of maps” section to reinforce the points I want to make – namely that mind mapping can help achieve higher levels of creativity and concentration, and encourage people to see the bigger picture and the creative pathways linking disparate thoughts.
Lastly, as I do when all my thoughts are all down, I started identifying and visually linking related content, massaging some of the points I had put down and lastly reordered all the ideas I captured in a way which gives structure and a linear flow to the piece I will write.
Pulling it together
As little as 25 minutes later I had pulled together a pretty comprehensive map for what I wanted to say. I knew the issues I wanted to address and how to preface the blog, I had developed a logical order for the points I wanted to make and could reinforce what I wanted to say with reference to papers people have written on the same topic. At the end, my mind map looked like the below.
With this map, a good cup of coffee and my headphones in, I have then been able to pull this written piece together in a little over an hour and a half.
The beauty of the approach I have taken is that it can work for other writing projects in a similar manner. For a longer piece such as a white paper or book, what I have personally called “suggested approach” could instead represent sections or chapters you want to write on, with sub-nodes on the map detailing the key arguments you want to make within each of those sections.
For a customer email you can work out the issue you are addressing, then determine how to structure a paragraph resolving each of the issues. From there, it is as easy as extrapolating on the ideas and turning them into sentences.
I am certain there are other methods people use, but this is one that has definitely worked for me.