Mapping My Mind

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.


Karen Walker said...

This is great, Sharon. I used to use this tool all the time, but I'd forgotten about it. Hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday and happy new year!

Charlotte said...

I do mind mapping by hand, which always works well for me. It is a great tool, either done on the computer or by hand, and sometimes I forget about it, so thanks!

Also, I visited Los Alamos for the first time in October and was fascinated by the place. It really does sit on top of a mesa! The museum there is amazing, at least the part about the Manhattan Project. My late mother-in-law was an archivist for the Manhattan Project shortly after the war.

Pat's Place said...

Thanks for the nudge to get back to my writing. I have delayed way too long! I think I will try mind mapping. Hmmm! Do you think my LEFT brain can get around that??

Sharon Lippincott said...

Karen, I'm happy to remind people of tools they've forgotten Hopefully it will once again serve a purpose for you.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Charlotte, I also like to map by hand on occasion. There is something far more intimate and flowing about it.

How fascinating that your m-i-l was an archivist for the Manhattan Project. I've read several volumes of history about it, and find it fascinating to learn what was going on behind the scenes back then. We moved there in 1951, but I wouldn't have been aware of much beyond my own yard before that anyway.

Actually, the town and labs occupy several mesas, and you can drive miles to get to something you can see less than half a mile away as the crow flies.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Pat, anyone who can paint the gorgeous picture you do has a strong right brain. You may do your best mind-mapping with markers or crayons on a big sheet of paper.