Sometimes in the IDEA stage and often in the GATHERING stage, you have so much material available that you don’t know where to land. You need a map of the territory, a way to see connections and find patterns, or to find the most promising areas to develop. So you create your own map.
We call this technique “Mind Mapping.” Essentially, you lay out areas of interest or events, and draw arrows to show what causes what.
Suppose, for instance, that American women decided they’re fed up with preparing Thanksgiving dinner and would rather watch football. What would happen? This map explores possible consequences:
You can draw a mind map to figure out why something happened. This one explains why, despite excellent planning, I ended up in my chiropractor’s office after building a backyard fence with my son:
We saved some critical decisions for later (thickness, bracing, how many finished sides), which resulted in more stooping and bending than we expected, which took a toll on fingers and knees, the kind of thing that makes chiropractors rich.
You can also use mind mapping to explore a lot of material to figure out which part to focus on and write about. Let’s use adopting feral cats as our subject:
You could ask which of these consequences of adoption most interests you, or might intrigue your readers, or fits a publication you’re aiming at, or promises rich material. Then you select part of the map and write about it.
[Ever make a mind map?]