Robert: Where do you start, and what do you do? You have this thing you do called “mind mapping.” Is that often where you start with a writing project?
Daphne: Yes it is. Mind mapping is a very interesting technique. I didn’t discover this until after I had done most of my own research on writing. When I heard about it, I thought it sounded too phony to be true, and I dismissed it.
Then, in this online forum I belong to, I saw more and more mention of it. I thought, “This is really crazy. I guess I’d better give it a try.” I posted a note and said, “Can someone tell me some more about mind mapping?” A bunch of people wrote back and said, “There’s really not much to tell.” That made my heart sink because I thought it sounded too easy, too simple.
Robert: Sometimes, the best things are really simple.
Daphne: Exactly. Mind mapping was invented during either ancient Greek or ancient Roman times. Basically, you take a piece of paper and turn it sideways, so it’s sitting in front of you, landscape fashion. You take the subject you want to write about, write it in the middle of the page and draw a circle around it.
Robert: That’s the title of your article, in some cases.
Daphne: It may be, but I don’t want people to feel that it has to be. You just pick something that is enough to get your brain going on this particular subject. It may or may not be the title.
After you’ve written it in the middle of the page and drawn a circle around it, then whatever else pops into your mind, you write elsewhere on the page, draw a circle around it and draw a line from it to the central phrase. If your next idea comes from a secondary circle, then you can draw a line to that, write another phrase and draw a circle around it.
I don’t spend too much time fussing about which idea is a parent of which child because I don’t think that’s so important. The idea is to just get whatever is in your head onto the paper.
Robert: Say I’m thinking of writing an article about web marketing. In the middle, I’d write “web marketing.” The first idea is that we need to have good design. Then we need content, so I’d write another circle there.
Then I think, “How do you get found on the web?” That’s another one. Another is building a list. This is something I obviously know about.
From design, I can talk about some of the rules of design. I can talk about colors. All of a sudden, I have the middle topic and four main things, and then other things start to pop up all over the place. Before long, I have the main content of the article, but it’s not organized in any linear way at this point.
Daphne: That’s the purpose of mind mapping. It’s not meant to be organized.
Robert: Its purpose is to get those ideas out of your head.
Daphne: I sometimes describe it as “vomiting onto the page!”
Robert: That’s a good image!
Daphne: Some months ago, I was contacted by someone who works with copywriters. He had heard me talk about mind mapping the same week he was approached by a book publisher and invited to write a book.
He desperately wanted to do it, but the deadline was about six months. That is a very short amount of time for a book. He was also trying to run his business at this time.
He really didn’t know if he could do it, but he had heard my little blurb about mind mapping and thought, “I’m going to give that a try.” He started his mind map. Because it was for a book, it was very big. I sometimes recommend to people doing mind maps for a book that they get a piece of butcher paper, not just 8.5-by-11, and pull it over the dining room or boardroom table, someplace very big.
He did this mind map. All of a sudden, the word “pancakes” popped into his head. He wrote down the word “pancakes” because I had emphasized how important it was not to let these words get away, even if they seemed irrelevant.
Within about five minutes, he had decided that pancakes were going to be a central metaphor in his book. They were, and it worked well. He got the book done within the timeframe. He was thrilled with how mind mapping worked for him. This excerpt is from one of my Expert Marketing Interviews in the Action Plan Marketing Club.