Next to watching dog videos on Facebook, staring at a blank screen hoping to come up with blog post ideas is one of my top time killers. And, I know I’m not alone.
Of course I often brainstorm topics to address here on Web Writing Advice, but sometimes the idea bank is a little shallow, vague or dry. Lately, I’ve been using a technique called mind mapping to get even more out of fleeting blog post ideas. I’m finding that by thinking through my ideas more thoroughly before starting to write, that I’m taking less time overall to complete my blogging tasks, which means I’m being more productive during the hours that I’m working.
In a nutshell: I’m wasting less time.
So, what is a mind mapping?
Think of mind mapping as an embellished form of brainstorming. If your nugget of an idea is a scoop of ice cream, mind mapping is taking that scoop and dressing it up with sprinkles, hot fudge sauce and crushed nuts.
Mind mapping allows you to think beyond the simplistic idea you started with and how you can increase the flavor of your post by giving more details, insight or by answering questions your audience might have.
Once you have your mind map, you’re ready to polish off the post. Or, if we want to think about ice cream again (and who doesn’t!), adding the whipped cream, cherry and long-handled spoon is the equivalent of finally writing that post.
How do I create a mind map?
I’m an incredibly visual person. I started my journalism career behind the viewfinder of a camera as a newspaper photojournalist. I enjoy color and making my projects as visual as possible, even when I’m writing text. This makes the process more creative, enjoyable and digestible for me personally.
So, I pull out a piece of paper and my box of markers. Of course you can do this in your favorite word processing program and bypass the need for markers.
I start by writing the most basic idea in the middle of the paper. Then, I think about how I want to address the topic and start making sections, which generally turn into subheadings of the blog post or fuel the introduction and conclusion of the post.
Under each topic, I brainstorm what points I want to make or examples I want to use. Since this is just the initial think-through of the topic, the ideas don’t have to be complete. I usually use a simple bullet point list of keywords, ideas or phrases. Expanding and developing the ideas further happens when I’m actually writing the blog post.
I also start to think about what visuals I want to include with the blog post. Do I need to go take a photo, create a graphic or embed a chart into the blog post? By knowing ahead of time what sort of visuals I want to use, I can better plan how much time I’ll need to actually create the blog post, so I use my time as efficiently as possible.
Creating a mind map helps you fully develop and clarify your thoughts. It gives you time to explore multiple directions, topics and approaches to a blog post before you’ve started writing. I know I hate pressing the delete button, so this technique helps me sort out the weakest ideas before I spend time turning them into complete sentences or paragraphs.
Mind maps guide your writing.
I also use them to guide my goals and projects that have multiple layers or stages. For me, it’s a snapshot at a project I’m about to tackle — whether it’s a 400 word blog post or launching a new website — that I can visit multiple times and tweak before diving in and actually working on the main task.
How to you turn your ideas into blog posts? I’d love to hear about your method in the comments below!
Do you need a reliable writer on your team? I collaborate with marketing and advertising agencies to create content for blog posts, web pages, social media and newsletters. Learn how I can help your clients HERE. ~Angela