Remember that resolution I made to complete The Los Alamos Years (working title)? We have an ancient grandfather clock in the living room and this morning it reminded me that the year will fly past in a blur, so it’s time to get my fingers moving.
I began by making a list in my journal of specific features of life in Los Alamos that distinguished it from other places I might have grown up. As the list grew, I saw overlap and interrelationships. Suddenly I realized a MindMap would be a far better way of making these thoughts visible and clear. Clear thoughts lead to clear writing.
MindMeister to the rescue! There are several online mindmapping services that you can use for free. There’s also an opensource off-line one you can download for free, but I haven’t yet explored it. MindMeister is the one I chose today. It’s easy to use, but somewhat limited in formatting options. at least for the free account level.
I did not specifically copy the list from my journal, but used it as a springboard. The map you see below is primitive. I’ll probably move some things around and add far more elements, branching out another layer or two. I’ll add notes. I’ll draw some connector lines. But this is a start, and I share it with you here.
I find mindmapping ever so useful in getting things out in a way I can see relationships. Chronology is not always the best way to organize and present memories, though ultimately you may use chronology as a thread to link clusters of scenes through the overall story.
Most likely I’ll use the mindmap as a checklist to make sure I incorporate these elements into scenes one place or another within the overall story to convey a strong sense of place, time and culture. A few are story seeds, but most are descriptive elements.
If you want to experiment with mindmapping, you can go online, or do it on the biggest piece of paper you can find. Since I tend to run out of space for some topics, I’m partial to digital mindmaps, at least to begin, so I can move branches around, and I’m not limited by paper size.
The best way to master mindmaps is to start making them. They will especially appeal to intuitive, “right brained” people, who will instinctively understand them. If you want more detailed guidance, I discuss mindmapping in The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, and one of my all-time favorite resources on this topic is Joyce Wycoff’s classic book, Transformation Thinking. Joyce encourages people to use markers, draw pictures, and otherwise make their maps visually appealing.
Write now: try your hand at a small mindmap, online with MindMeister or on a sheet of paper. You may be amazed at what comes to mind, and the interconnections you find.