I Should Be Writing

I’ve been interested in mind maps since the early 1980s. There’s something creative and empowering about allowing a private world of ideas to take almost any shape I like on paper or screen.

These days I mostly mind map using software such as the open source tool, Freeplane, an alternative to FreeMind, which I’ve also played with.

Freeplane& is proving to be helpful when reviewing lessons in the craft of writing fiction. For example, take this folder containing printed pdfs of weekly tutorials from Dr. John Yeoman’s Writers’ Village Academy.


(Yes, that’s a Kindle in its black cover.)

Sometimes I like to leaf through the paper notes at home, though getting to the root of the material by doing the writing exercises is an ongoing challenge lol!

And then there are occasions when I’m out and about, and choose to review the pdf files via the GoodReader app on a tablet device.

I’m comfortable with both these options.

The mind mapping fun looks like this. I take each week’s printed lesson and create a mind map of the key points as I understand them. The maps are arranged by weekly date order for that month’s enrollment in the course. There is also one master map that lets me click through to a specific month and week.


Here’s a pic of the master map, followed by another showing the partly expanded June 13 map.

In the master map, a red arrow indicates a link to another map.

I prefer to have separate maps to reduce the risks of screwing up a map because of a software bug or my fat-fingeredness.

In the 201306 map below, you can see the branching structure of the lessons. For example, in the main branch, 201306-story-open (which is a reminder of the lesson’s topic, and also the name I write on the first page of the printed lesson in the ring binder), there is a main key topic snafu (an acronym) in green that has been clicked to show five related sub-topics (in red).


If I have learned this lesson well then these keywords will prompt additional recall of their meaning and significance. However, should my learning be found wanting (and it often is) then I can click on the small circle shown at the right side of each keyword phrase, and this action expands any additional sub-branches.

Can you see where this is going?

My goal is to have the lesson content learned well enough so that I can deepen my understanding of writing craft by getting to the unconsciously competent stage of skill development.

One thing I have found from experience is that I do not like clicking and unclicking on branches to test my understanding. I get bored quickly and the fingers get fatter!

So, since both my writing and studying time are limited, I confine my mind map reviews to the often nonproductive time-sinks of commuting. I first fully expand a particular week’s or month’s map and then save this as a jpg or pdf.

Now I have a file whose dimensions are several multiples of my smartphone’s screen size. Perfect! No matter how crowded the carriage I can move around the map image, revealing and hiding keywords/answers, using just my thumb. No clicking required.

Of course, the quotes and tutor’s feedback are not in the map. If I wanted that level of detail then I could just open the pdf version or the ring binder.

Alternatively, full creativity avoidance syndrome might manifest with an urge to begin adding all those items into hundreds of Anki flashcards. Ahhhhh!!!!

But no. I should be writing.

2014-12-22 Update:
I’ve now completed mind mapping all of the lessons in the course. Now to put theory into practice.