Mind Mapping Resources and Wrap-up

Two weeks ago, we kicked this series off with an introduction to mind mapping. There we learned what mind maps are and how to make a simple one. Last week, I took the series one step further and showed you how you could apply mind maps to various aspects of a single project from brainstorming phase to project wrap up. Today, I'm going to get to the fun part that I'm sure all of you have been waiting for. The books and applications (online and desktop) that can help make your mind maps appear polished and professional. I'll give you my thoughts on each item listed here and hopefully help you form an opinion on what techniques you want to try. Of course, you may just want to stick with paper and pen... and that's fine too. I know that depending on where I am at, I sometimes want to use an computer based application for my maps; while others, I want to use my moleskine and pen set.

Mind Mapping a Project from Start to Finish

Last week I introduced you to the concepts of mind mapping and all the ways that it can help you brainstorm ideas. Hopefully, you've given mind mapping a try and have seen just how many new ideas or connections you can make in a relatively short amount of time. This week we're going to put mapping techniques to the test by taking a project idea and seeing just how many ways we can apply mapping techniques throughout your project from initial brainstorm stage to the final wrap up.

Now I know that my focus tends to be more "writerly" based (only because I spend most of my days writing and designing technical documents for various audiences) so I've decided to try and pick a project that could be more fun... like website redesign. So imagine you are a web designer working on a website redesign for a client. They have given you free reign on the project and unlimited budget. However, they want it to pop and wow visitors and need it within two weeks time. What are you going to do? Ideas swim in your head but nothing seems to jump out at you. Your stomach sinks and you wish you were in back in bed, daydreaming the answer. Seeing that you just arrived at work, and cannot really go home to dream more... you grab a large blank paper and write down the word website in the middle and circle it. It's time to make a website.

Creating a Web of Ideas: An Intro to Mind Maps

Every now and then I get an itch to redesign my personal website domain. Usually this gets spurred when I see some new eye catching web design and I go, "Oooh, shiny." and then wish I could apply more modern designs and graphics to my own home online. I end up breaking out graph paper and project cards and start listing new site structures and what things need to go into my site. Of course, every time I do this, I don't get any further than that. However, a few weeks ago, I saw yet another spiffy design, and out came the hipster. This time, instead of grabbing more than one card, I pulled a single card out and gave it a title. Then, I wrote down SOM (the nickname for my domain) and circled it. From there, I listed sections, tools, colors and anything else I wanted to put into my web space. I successfully created a mind map; the first one I've done since high school.

For the next three weeks, I'm going to discuss mind mapping and how you can apply it to almost every aspect of your life. This article briefly introduces the mind mapping concept, how to make one, and when to use them to get the most bang for your buck. Since I enjoy practical learning experiences, next week we'll go into the details of how you can use and create mind maps throughout an entire project from inception to publication. In the last installment I'll get into online and offline tools and some good book resources to help you jump-start mapping your life.

Have Art, Will Travel

There are some days when I don't want to stay at home to make art. Sometimes, my friends and I like to gather at each other's homes and make an art day out of it. Usually surrounded by mass piles of paper, magazines, glue sticks, chips and dip and good tunes, we craft and journal the day away. Traveling with art, for me falls into two categories based on distance: short trips and long weekend craft gatherings. And when you travel with art in mind, the first place you need to start preparing for is how you're going to carry all the knick and knacks to your destination. Usually, this means a bag.

I start my travel kit with the container because I tend to go overboard with picking all the things I want to carry with me on trips. Therefore, by starting with the bag first, I can pick and choose just the right amount of pens, paper and other things I love to craft with. Now, I've gone traveling with art using nothing but an old recycled plastic bag, but I've found that it's not very good to carry paper measuring 12x12 or small jars of paint that get lost in the small corners of the bag. Which is why I have a two dedicated bags that I use when I want to carry more art than just my journal, a few pens and my tarot deck. These bags were made for paper-based scrapbooking, but I've found that they work well with any sort of art, as long as you're willing to get creative with how you view the pockets and features.

Journal Prompt: Hire a Muse

I've started writing my way to my 2007 goal of keeping a hand written journal since January 1st. Every day I've tried to write a little something and so far it's been pretty easy. I'm trying to steer away from the whole writing about my day gig but that's not always happened. For three days, however, I focused my entries around this little exercise. And now, I invite you all to do it as well. Get out your journal and your pen... it's time to hire a muse.

Dutton Speedwords lessons and dictionary (compact size)

I have wanted to learn some kind of shorthand for a long time, but learning real "secretarial" shorthand takes years of work. It's like learning a new language, from what an expert tells me.
A little while ago I found an alternative. "Dutton Speedwords," a system developed by its namesake back in the 50s, is an alphabetic shorthand system. I found some quick lesson material (a crash course, really) and a fairly extensive dictionary translating speedword constructions into their plain-english equivalents. I used the latter to make a to- and from-speedwords translation dictionary, and the former I just formatted in a style similar to the DIYPlanner widget set. The lot is presented here in one lump of a PDF, all formatted in the 4.25x6.75" size. I haven't bothered with a screenshot here for two reasons: first, my screenshot utility was only installed on my other computer, which recently bit the dust. Second, a translation dictionary isn't terribly photogenic. That's what this file consists of: pages of instructions, and pages of word translations. Download it and see if Speedwords is right for you!

Usage advice: 

The pages are formatted as regular planning pages, with a front and back to each. I just printed them straight out, which was relatively easy. Then I hole-punched them and put them in a compact binder.

If you want a larger (or smaller?) size, e-mail me at the address given in the file, or post a comment here.

Paper size: 
Creative Commons
Applications required: 
PDF Reader (Adobe Reader, Mac OS X Preview)

Writing Daily: The Embodiment Project 2007

I once thought of the writing life as a way to constantly hone my craft. Picturesque scenes filled my brain: me sitting in my favorite writing chair while candles burned scents, my trusted black spider web mug full with chai on the coffee table. This was how I was going to pass the time in between my best-selling novels, improving my writing. Of course, such a romantic notion doesn't pay the bills; but I do find that more time every day I reflect back upon this simple and romantic notion of writing. Journal writing, for me, is my way to recapture my romantic ideals of writing. Sadly, other than a few random entries here and there in my own online journals (and more recently the occasional scribble on an index card), journalling has taken a back seat in my life. Lately I have not given time to hone my craft; to reflex back upon the things that swim through my head and the thoughts I have about our society. Those careful and chunky snippets of raw writing that characterizes my personality immortalized on paper.

Which is why I've made the decision to spend a little bit of every day next year, writing for myself. Writing to recapture the rawness and the spark that romanticizes writing again. I'm going to participate in Embodiment, a project dedicated to writing a hand-written entry in journals every day for the whole year. I'm even going to attempt to work on my visual journalling style as well during the course of the next year.

Cheer Me On: Writing Buddies

The soft haze of two laptop screens illuminate the intent faces of the writers with soft white glow. Word processors display on the screen as the sounds of furious typing carry out into the room. Occasionally, one writer blurts out a demand for a quick idea to fix the scene they are working on; while the other, pauses in their own work to provide a patch solution before diving back into their own words. This scene illuminates one way that writing cheerleaders work with each other to craft their projects.

No, I'm not talking about scantly clad squads of people holding pom-poms chanting inspiring cheers. I'm talking about those people who through their own act of writing and experiencing a writing life, help cheer you on with your goals and help you attain your dreams. On long writing projects, a writing cheerleader helps keep morale up and reminds you that they're right there with you, writing their own work. And after years of not having a writing cheerleader, I can honestly say that writing is more fun when you have a friend who also sits at their computers with their own writing goals and projects to share in the elation and the depressions of a writer's life.

As a special treat, I asked my own writing cheerleader, iScribe, to share her thoughts and feelings on this subject as we partnered up last month during NaNoWriMo. So, take it away iScribe, please!

Writing Rituals and Totems

One thing I noticed during my time spent in and out of the NaNo forums was a few threads talking about writing rituals and writing totems. Now usually when I write, its in my favorite black chair with Smudge, the black Macbook, perched atop a laptop cart while my feet rest on a soft square meditation chair. I've surrounded myself with a few post-it notes stuck to the writing board regarding a few miscellaneous game ideas. A stack of books sit in the table portion of the tray waiting for me to read or grab one to search for a spark of inspiration. When I am at home, my hipsterPDA also sits up on that shelf, with a trusty pen so I can capture thoughts about my projects or other To-Dos that hit me at the random moments. This setting feeds the ritual that is my writing life.