Terrance Heath

Free Yo' Mind ... With Freemind

Filed By Terrance Heath | March 24, 2012 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: blogging, organizing

Mindmap.jpgI thought I’d lost my mind until I made a map of it, and was amazed at what I found in there! OK. That’s just a silly way of saying I discovered “mindmapping.”

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Especially in British English, the terms “spidergram” and “spidergraph” are more common, but they can cause confusion with the term “spider diagram” used in mathematics and logic. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.

Actually, I re-discoved it. The difference is, I get it now.

As a writer, my ADD is both an asset and a liability. It’s an asset, because it’s easy my brain to work in “associative mode.”

It’s also just the way my mind works, in a kind of perpetual “associative mode.” I can’t think of just one thing at a time. That is, I can’t think of one thing without also thinking of how it relates to something else. How it plays out in my blogging is that I read something, and immediatly think about how it relates to something I read before and/or posted earlier. Once that happens, leaving out those other threads feels like an incomplete picture to me. So I end up with longer posts that link all over the place, or series of posts.

It’s a liability, because I have trouble organizing my thoughts. I know what I want to say, and how I want to say it, but my thoughts can get a bit scattered. It still all makes sense to me, but not necessarily to anyone else.

At first, I fell back on the kind of basic outlining I learned in school. I used tools like OmniOutliner and Carbonfin Outliner to help me gather my thoughts. They worked pretty well for a while, but lately I’ve found that they lend themselves to a very linear style: Main idea leads to supporting idea, supporting idea leads to subsidiary idea. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

The thing is, I don’t think linearally, and I tend not to write that way either. Earlier this week, I started another outline but soon realized it wasn’t going to fit what I wanted to write. I remembered trying out some mind-mapping software a year or so ago, but went the outline route instead. I think because I saw the mind maps as too “disorganized,” with all kinds of bubbles and connections. The part of my brain that still wants to fit into a non-ADD world screamed, “That’s not how you’re supposed to do it!”

Well, “the way you’re supposed to do it” doesn’t always work for me. So I decided to give mind mapping another try. I downloade Freemind again. Even though it was the program that scared me away before, it met one of my major qualifications: It has to be cross platform. Between work and home, work in both Windows and Mac OS X. Freemind being a Java application, works the same on both platforms.

After trying it again, I realize it met another qualification: Ease of use. I picked on the keystroke navigation in minutes, and just about everything else was just as intuitive. It’s so simple to use, but so customizable that I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface in the few days I’ve been using it.

A testimonial on the Freemind website called it a “second brain” and it really is that. I’ve mindmapped several posts of mind, and I wouldn’t show anyone my mind map and expect it to make sense to them. But it makes sense to me, helps me make my thoughts make sense to someone else. Does that make sense?

The only thing that could make a program like this better is if it were free. Oh wait, it is.

Seriously, if you’re a writer or do any kind of work that requires you to organize information, you owe it to yourself to give this a try.

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