I wasn’t feeling particularly blocked. I wasn’t really stuck. But I also haven’t really been feeling like writing lately. So, I spent yesterday evening – my first alone in months – catching up on other blogs and participating in conversations with fellow writers in the Yeah Write lounges. I know, I live life on the edge.
It was lucky for me that I did, though, because it was at Yeah Write that I came across an interesting exercise (thank you, Cyn) designed to prompt post ideas and proposed as a way of unblocking writer’s block: mind mapping.
Mind mapping had originally been part of the 2013 Yeah Write summer series and Cyn helpfully recommended it as one among many useful writing projects facilitated last year.
Mind mapping is like a visual word association game. You start with a word or picture in the centre of a page and then write or draw all the things your brain associates with the initial subject, and then with the new subjects. On and on you go, radiating outwards. Sometimes you run out of ideas quickly, other times you run out of space on the page. The key is to let your mind associate freely, not to judge or try to steer your thoughts in any particular direction.
I’ve seen this technique used before, though never as a way of coming up with writing ideas. I’ve even had it used once on me in a psychology session. Actually, it wasn’t particularly helpful in that situation, which might explain why I’d never thought to apply it to other areas of my life. Perhaps in that case, though, it was the facilitator and not me. I think it works better if you do it yourself, rather than having someone else help you through it.
I didn’t get around to actually trying it this time until this evening but I couldn’t put it off forever; I love new projects! I found my son’s white craft paper and cut off a piece. While he was looking up Hallowe’en costumes, I settled myself on the floor with his coloured pencil crayons and began. I originally had a wonderful (deluded) vision of my son and I each doing one together. That didn’t happen. He was intrigued enough to come over and watch me. And ask questions. And point out things. I almost thought it would be fun to try to work on the same map (that was me trying to embrace his interest, rather than telling him I needed to concentrate). But he wasn’t that intrigued. In the end, I had to wait until he went to bed before I could really focus on the experience.
Am I ever glad I did it! I had fun letting my brain wander and it was exactly what I needed. Although the site I linked to above recommends using colours, I didn’t. They were all in my son’s room and he was supposed to be falling asleep. Instead, I grabbed a black pen and began. I don’t think my brain was in any way hampered by the lack of colour. I focused on the words and the thoughts they gave rise to and simply drifted along in their wake.
I’m not sure if I’m in the mood yet to actually sit down and tackle any of the post ideas that this pulled out of my subconscious, but when I get around to them, I’ll link back to my list:
- Is it self-indulgent to try to actually like my food?
- Just say no to exotic pets (no matter how much I love them)
- Childhood restaurant experiences
- Chocolate martinis and a lost actor
- So… fish, or no?
- That found poem I wrote about mermaids
- Actually, maybe my childhood was pretty great
- My Canadiana: listening to haunting melodies by a Croatian family on an rickety Irish train
- Worst train journey ever and the death of a friendship
- Why NYC makes me happy