Zen is all about paring things down to their very essence, to only that which is necessary, nothing more, so you can achieve enlightenment. How can you achieve a zen-like state when writing? The answer is the ultimate in simplicity: create a mind map to outline your content before you begin writing.
To understand the value of this technique it is first important to understand the process of ordinary writing. Most people simply begin writing by doing a brain dump of whatever comes to mind. Next, they attempt to edit and organize what they have written, but this tends to be problematic. The structure of your writing tends to be buried within the sentences and paragraphs that you are putting together. It’s almost impossible to see. You have little or no sense if you are completely covered your subject or if there are pieces missing. More importantly, it’s hard to tell if your writing contains any extraneous elements that could be eliminated.
In contrast, mind mapping software enables you to create a visual outline of your writing before you start to assemble sentences and paragraphs. It’s much easier to see the structure, the skeleton of your writing in visual form with topics and subtopics representing the main points and supporting point of the article or other writing project you’re working on. And that makes it much easier to determine what needs to be added or clarified, what points can be consolidated or simplified, and what doesn’t fit and can be removed.
Significantly, as you refine your article mind map, you can easily play “what if” with it’s contents, rearranging topics and even entire sections if your map at well. Move a topic to a new position in your mind map. Does that improve its clarity and meaning? Then keep it. If not, click your program’s undo button, or simply drag and drop the topic back to its old location. This complete freedom helps you to optimize the content of your visual outline – so it contains all of the essential elements, in the right sequence, but nothing more.
The bottom line is that mind mapping software enables you to quickly reach clarity on what a complete skeleton of your article should look like. When you reach that point, most programs enable you to export your mind map to Microsoft Word, where you can then put flesh on the bones, confident in the knowledge that a well thought-out underlying structure will result in a superior article.
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