Mind Mapping: 4 Steps to Break Through Writer’s Block


By Judith Jones
Guest Blogger

Frozen. Choked. Blocked.

Jenna was sitting in front of her computer, tasked with writing a draft of an announcement that would come from the division executive. Her company was making changes, and this was the biggest change initiative yet. Her head was swimming with information — a shift in strategic direction; skills assessments for some employees; a voluntary early retirement program; restructuring the hierarchy; moves from high-cost to lower-cost locations for next year.

She sat staring at her screen. The clock was ticking and the deadline was looming, yet she couldn’t write even an outline.

She was blocked.


Jenna’s experience is common. You’ve probably felt stuck like this at some time in your business communications career. You know if the frozen feeling is left unchecked, your creativity is hampered and your productivity is delayed. Not good.

You have to take an action to break the log jam. One action is mind mapping. It’s a proven technique to release a choke hold on your thinking and get yourself working.

There’s been a lot written about mind mapping. There are certified experts, books, workshops, and sophisticated software. If you’re interested, do a Google search; there are many reputable resources.

But for a business communicator, who is stuck and struggling to write a first draft, a simple approach to mind mapping may be all that’s needed. That simple approach is what I’ll describe here:

• STEP ONE: Grab your tools. Plain, unlined paper, preferably something bigger than letter-sized or A4—-but if that’s all you’ve got, it will do. Plus, some pens and pencils. Feeling daring? Kick it up a notch and add crayons and markers.

• STEP TWO:. Turn your paper so that it’s landscape orientation. Write the central idea in the middle of the paper. This is the topic that you want to develop, and it serves as the hub for all your contingent ideas. In Jenna’s case, her main topic might be the change initiative.

• STEP THREE: Write related ideas inside bubbles all over the paper. Connect them to the hub with lines and squiggles, and decorate them with dots, dashes and doodles. As you draw, you might feel some concepts are more important than others. Make them stand out. (See how handy those crayons and markers can be?) You get the idea. You keep on writing and drawing. You’ll know your mind mapping process is working if you have to move bubbles around, expand labels, add more arrows or lines, and even if you have to replace your central topic label with another label. There’s no right or wrong. This is a process to express thoughts.

• STEP FOUR: You’ve exhausted your thinking about the central topic, and guess what? You’ve created your mind map. You’ve turned the bowl of information spaghetti that was inside your head into a visualization that you can use. By reviewing her map, Jenna could gain insight into what messages needed to be announced now, and which could be covered later. This allowed her to organize her outline, which gave her the confidence to prepare her first draft.

As a business communicator, you’re bound to feel like you’ve hit a writing wall from time to time. When you do, remember mind mapping as an easy-to-use and effective technique to blast through the blockage.

Try mind mapping the next time you’re stuck, and let’s hear how it worked for you!

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judith2Judith H. Jones is a communications leader, who helps senior leaders convey messages to employees and helps employees engage in conversations to make meaning of the messages. Judy is part advisor, consultant, strategist, planner, writer/editor, interviewer, storyteller, creative thinker, social media maven and communications coach.

Judy loves to work on business/function transformations, reorganizations, new business strategies, and new employee programs. That’s why she’s got a lot of experience in Change, Internal, Executive, and HR Communications.

Most recently she was with AIG as the head of HR Communications. Prior to AIG, she was the executive director, employee communications with The New York Times.

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