Mind Maps: a Quick Way to Beat Writer’s Block

Writer’s block might mean you haven’t written for months, or maybe you just haven’t figured out what happens after the body is found to have tentacles as well as arms and legs. Either way it’s fairly certain that if you write regularly you will get blocked quite a lot of the time.

a simple example of a mind map

An easy and helpful mind map.

One way to get over being blocked is to make a mind map. There are lots of different ways to make them, but here is an easy one to start you off.

If you have used mind maps in the past and they didn’t work for you, have another go. Keep what works and change what doesn’t.

Here are some guidelines

  • Work on a blank page, preferably unlined, preferably large
  • Use a single colour pen to start with and work quickly
  • Start with a single idea in the middle and work out from there in any direction
  • Circle every separate idea as you write it
  • Write ideas down as soon as you think of them
  • Don’t think too hard about anything or cross anything out
  • Use arrows as you go to join items, showing which ideas gave rise to which others
  • Stop when you have something substantial to write about

Review your Mind Map

Once you have something to work with, go back and have a closer look. You might want to add something new or expand on the ideas you like best.

  • Use different colours to group related ideas or emphasise any special points
  • Use any symbols, lettering or underlining you like. Find what works for you
  • Write down questions or research you think of in empty spaces on the mind map
  • Keep the mind map on hand until the writing project is finished

Mind map example

A single mind map can be large and generate many writing prompts, but the image shows a simple example I made specially for this post. I wrote it first with pencil on paper which took only a few minutes.

The starting thought was “owl”. No particular reason, just the first word that stuck in my head. The double circle shows it is the starting point. You can see my thoughts went in two directions, one was a cute kind of owl and the other was a  predatory killer.

You can see my brain wasn’t much interested in the cute version, but the darker version had some potential — the sugar glider family who loses a loved one to a night hunting owl. Notice my first thought was that the owl might kill mice, but it changed to the more beautiful and interesting sugar glider who I already know lives in family groups. I’m not going to write about owls and sugar gliders, but when I use a starting point suggested by a real project there is nearly always lots of good material to work with.

Remember the circles and arrows

The circles and arrows help a lot, they are not just for show. Make sure you use the arrowhead to show direction, not just lines. This reminds you later what your thoughts were when you made the map.

Mind Map Software: downloadable or on line

A mind map with pen and paper is quick and easy, generally giving up useful ideas to get you writing again. You can buy software to make mind maps if you like. This article by Write To Done gives a range of choices. I have not used any of them because I prefer to mind map on paper, so I offer the link as a starting point for anyone interested.

I learned about mind maps in a creative writing course where my very first mind map led to my very first poem. I’ve liked them ever since.


Any tips on using mind maps?
Leave a comment and let us know.

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About Jude

I live in Tasmania where I write poetry and walk with my dog.
This entry was posted in Inspiration & Ideas, Planning & outlining, Writers Block and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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