If your mind goes blank when you try to gather ideas for your essay, it may be because you know too much rather than not enough. Sometimes the mind is so full of ideas from all the research completed, that the student is left spinning in his tracks with a wheel in the ditch. Brainstorming can provide traction.
Start By Freewriting
It’s best to begin with some freewriting. Everything ever learned about paper organization, grammar, correctness, syntax, and the “Elements of Style” is put to the side. The point is just to dig up ideas that lay just below the surface. Don’t predict an outcome. Ideally, do this when you are fresh, relaxed and loose.
Pick up a pen and write down the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem connected to the task at hand. Just reach out and grab the first idea that floats by. Then get it down in the fewest words possible. Include stuff that won’t be used. Don’t take this exercise too seriously. Have fun with it. See an example of this on a single topic at Brainstorming in Writing.
When there is enough writing to get going, go back and select about five ideas that don’t sound all that bad. List these separately. Imagine questions that students in the class might have, and freewrite answers to these. Play with analogies. See if using the word “like” brings up anything new.
Can the list be prioritized? Are there any hypotheses that can be made about each idea? Can any summaries be formed yet?
Now would be an excellent time to bounce these concepts off another person to hear how they sound and to get their reactions and thoughts.
Now might be a good time to take a break and let things percolate. Go for a short walk or take a shower. Stretch. Take deep breaths. Remember that you are well on the way to getting this essay written.
Mind Mapping It All Together
Ready to work again and back at the desk, write down any final thoughts that may occur. Now it’s time to diagram all previous freewriting ideas with the help of a mind map. This is another fun part of this process. Mind mapping helps to generate ideas as well as sort out and develop the ones already unearthed. For a list of available free mind mapping software go to Wikipedia.
Mind maps open up new ways of thinking that are not linear. and It becomes easier to see the big picture. They are made for the right brain – the one that is intuitive, synthesizing and random. Turn off the logical and rational left brain for a while.
First put the central idea in the middle circle. Now add new ideas, action points and strategies that relate to it. Free associate. Don’t judge too quickly. There are no boundaries. Just keep going.
Look for branches coming from the main idea. Each branch is developing branches off that lesser branch. Keep adding relationships and connections. Use images, symbols, codes and dimensions. But each word/image must be alone and sitting on its own line. The software is the guide.
Write the Outline/Write the Essay
When the map seems finished, it is easy to transfer what came up on paper to an outline form. When the outline is finished, it is time to begin the first draft of the essay.
Wrapping Up the Process
In conclusion, the essay was prepared for not by coming up with a hypothesis based on research alone, but by stream of consciousness brainstorming along with freewriting without worrying about how it sounded as flights of fantasy were piut down on paper. Then the downloaded free mind mapping software was set up to create a colorful diagram of the roots of main ideas with subordinate ones becoming branches shooting off from them. With things like brain pills, your essays will flow like a charm.
When this process was complete, it was easy to lift the diagram into outline statements. It then became quite simple to write the outline of the essay and the subsequent first draft. Mind mapping can be used not only for academic assignments but for personal decision making as well.