Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Have you ever sat down to conceptualize your game, feel the ideas pour out of your mind resulting in your magnum opus, only to get to the end of your brainstorm and ask the question, "how in the good green Earth did I get here?"
Well, my friend, you just entered a state of Flow. "Flow" is the moment of the creative spark when you double down on your project and lose all sense of time, basic needs (and your wallet!). But, seriously, have you ever started a project at 8 AM and suddenly your friend chimes, "Hey, it's 2:00, you go eat yet?"
That is Flow.
Flow is, and can be used, as an extension of a concept called "mind mapping." Mind mapping is an awesome subset of organization skills that allows you to take the Flow and put it down in a way to be re-arranged and organized into a cohesive map.
In an attempt to corral the Flow, I have used sticky notes on a board or dry-erase boards, but my personal favorite is my cell phone. In particular, I favor an app called "Mindly." It comes with 3 free node paths at the time of this article. Mindly is not a sponsor. I just love the app.
So what exactly does mind mapping look like?
It looks a lot like the picture below when completed. (Yes, they are tiny, so you can't read them, but this gives you an idea of the look and feel of a completed mind map).
Mind mapping begins with a central idea, and from there, you begin to think about "branches," i.e., smaller and smaller components that you define.
As you can see by the tiny dots, I had 4 arching concepts on the main node (the central theme). From there, those split down further and further until I managed to split the atom (okay, maybe not, but I did split the idea!).
Now there is a huge key to mind mapping: DO NOT THINK.
"Wait, what?" you may be thinking as you read this, so bear with me as I explain. You absolutely are thinking as you move through each branch as a concept evolves. What you should not be doing is editing, organizing, creating specialized notes, or limiting/censoring your ideas as you explore. The goal is 3-10 words about a concept and then jump to the next related thought.
Once you have exhausted the idea (try to limit it to 10 minutes per mind mapping), you can go back through to complete a more focused edit and pare down to the best results from the mind map. Spending too much time means your focus is going to be very broad. Not a bad thing, but it will make it hard to re-group everything when you're done. I did this for an hour straight once and then spent 2 hours trying to get it back together. I got frustrated and ended up on Reddit...
This is why I like digital apps (less wasteful), like the Mindly product, over physical planning materials. The drag and drop functionality allows for a much faster ability to reorganize.
CHALLENGE: Here is what I advise you (Yes, you get to participate) to do. A challenge, if you will.
Take anything you have near you, paper, Microsoft Word, an online app, and start with an idea.
Step 1: Find a blacksmith! (Since we are decidedly out of the Dark Ages, that might be a little tough).
Better Step 1: Mind map a blacksmith!
Give your blacksmith a name to start: Dave, Tim, Generathor - anything. And then, ask the reporter questions (who, where, what, when, why, how) to create the nodes (attributes) around your central theme (the blacksmith). Concepts related to or "spinning off from" your attribute nodes can be written off to the sides and connected with a line. Then repeat the process against the attributes until you can't go further.
When you are done, you should have something that looks like this:
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and mind map something else for your campaign, world, or big idea for life!!
Until next time... Keep creating, keep thinking, keep wandering.