One of the most challenging aspects of writing is coming up with new ideas for content. We all share that same “hitting a wall” feeling every now and then, and it is always nice to have some strategies to bring yourself back to the creative process of developing new ideas. Of course as we all know, the second challenge we face as writers is keeping it all organized and being able to come up with something creative that flows, all stemming from this one idea that took so long to think up.
Fortunately, there are many strategies to help solve some of these problems, and while every writer has their own preference, one of my personal favorites is mind mapping. If you’re looking for something new to help you with the old problems, this might be just what your brain needs.
How Mind Mapping Works
Mind mappingis not a new idea by any means, and people have been writing about it since 2008. Nevertheless, while mind mapping is generally a “you love it or you hate it” type strategy, every writer owes it to themselves to at least give it a try as blogging becomes more and more complicated, and many still haven’t wandered into this unknown territory.
As you might have guessed, mind mapping involves using visual diagrams for your ideas to help you work around a topic or theme. While there are many ways you can use mind mapping and several tools (I’ll get to those in just a bit), the goal is to achieve the best results for content production. Below explains the two major ways you can use mind mapping:
Outline Your Content
Take a look at the following example of a mind map I did for a travel blog using features available on the Pages program by Apple. There are many ways to create this kind of mapping on a variety of different programs, which I’ll discuss in the last section.
You can use mind mapping for blogging to center a variety of posts around one particular topic. In the simple mind map I created above, the main topic I brainstormed was blog post topics for a travel themed blog project (blue central square). The green squares represent the different categories for the posts. I chose to restrict myself to four different categories, but you could always do more or less. The red squares represent the sources of information.
As you can see, the top two categories, “List Posts” and “Tools,” I plan on drawing my information from online research available; however the bottom two categories, “How-To Posts” and “Research Posts” I want to use case studies, online forums, and interviews as my primary sources of information. Looking at the various topics that I want to write about, these sources of information make the most sense, and will diversify the content on my blog (rather than using one sole source for information).
I find that by laying out the information visually while brainstorming (this took me about 20 minutes to create) I can develop much stronger content ideas. From 20 minutes of visual mind mapping I was able to create 10 blog topics, and this could actually be expanded to even more posts based on the categories I created.
Repurpose Your Content
Another thing you can use mind mapping for is repurposing your content. Repurposing can be used if you write extensively in a particular field, and it’s likely that you can extend your original content beyond the objective you wrote it for in the first place. Think of it like recycling effort—find a post with research and developed knowledge that you have already crafted, and rework it to use for another purpose. While revamping involves going and updating a previous with new information, repurposing involves taking what you already have in its entirety and using it for another purpose with some editing.
Below is an example of one of the travel blog posts I have brainstormed, and how it might be able to be repurposed.
As you can see, I actually merged two of the topics, “How to Navigate a New City” and “Going Where the Locals Go.” I laid out all of the different ways that this content idea could be repurposed for a variety of social marketing efforts, potentially to promote the original blog itself. I felt that merging a How To post with a Research post gave me more material to work with, potentially for creating an e-newsletter or even something as extensive as an eBook or webinar.
The point is that mind mapping allows you to visualize several ways that one piece of content could be repurposed. Of course, not every idea for repurposing will be used immediately, but you can store the diagram for later and when you feel like expanding on a topic or putting the information out there in a different format, this is a great go-to when need to draw on some work you have already compiled (this is why mind-mapping is one of my favorite methods in online content development—at some point you realize that there are endless possibilities to any one blog post!).
I also highly recommend checking out ClearVoice and claiming your author profile. When I did this, I realized there was a lot of content I had written out there that could easily be repurposed. Trust me when I say it’s easier than looking through all of your old files.
Infographics: Mind Mapping for Your Readers
It’s also worth mentioning that mind mapping is not something all-too-foreign in the online world.Why restrict such an amazing visual strategy just for brainstorming? You can create info-graphic mind maps to display on your blog and present information to your reader (Note: as pictured above, info-graphics are also a great way for repurposing content). There are so many different visual ways to present information, and most of us are draw to looking at visual displays of content. When you decide on what you want to write about and the information you have, make an outline and see if it could be easily turned in to an image to aid your reader.
Of course most of the infographics you’re used to seeing look very different than an outline or a repurposing mind map, but you would be surprised and just how often you create one and realize you can easily turn it into something to help your readers understand a tricky subject. You can learn more about infographics here.
Some Tools to Get You Started
I have outlined three ways that mind-mapping can be used, but it is important to mention before I delve into tools that these are just three of MANY ways it can be used to achieve better results in content development.
As I mentioned earlier, I happened to use Pages by Apple (very basic features to create the shapes and diagram layout) to create my mind mapping for this post, but there are several advanced and effective tools and programs to help you with this. Here are some to look into:
- MindNode. MindNode makes mind mapping basic and very user friendly. It was featured by Apple as an “App Store Best,” and is great for a variety of fields—but is specifically great for content development.
- Coggle. Coggle is completely free, and web based! Just sign-in with a Google account of your choice. It is a simple mind mapping tool, but great for beginners.
- FreeMind. FreeMind is also a free mind mapping app built in Java, so it runs on just about anything you throw it at. Being user friendly with a variety of features makes this a great choice for content mind mapping.
- Mind Jet. Available for Windows, Mac, and iOS, MindJet is actually a suite of applications and tools designed to with brainstorming, mind-mapping, staying organized in mind. It also allows you to work with other members on the same development project for easy collaboration.
- XMind. Claimed to be a most popular mind-mapping tool, millions of people use XMind to brainstorm, manage a variety of detailed information, and get their content organized.
There are a variety of tools and methods for mind mapping from simple shape features used in text editing software (like Mac’s pages or Microsoft’s Word) to more complex and detailed software mentioned in the tools section. There really is no limit to mind mapping for getting your content better results. You will be amazed how quickly you can brainstorm with a visual representation.
Have you ever tried mind mapping? What has worked well for you in the past? Are there certain instances where you love mind mapping, and others where you hate it? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comment section below.