Archive for Blogging

6 Reasons to Use Mind Maps for Your Next Blog Post or Presentation

I’ve been writing for publications since I was 15 years old and spent a large part of my career working for newspapers and magazines, in addition to the blogging I’ve done. And in the last year, my approach to writing has been revolutionized by mind maps. In fact, my entire creative thought process has increasingly been driven by the use of mind maps.

I wanted to share how I use mind maps, some things I’ve learned and why I am using it more and more for everything from rough drafts of blog posts to outlines of presentations and big projects and campaigns.

In a nutshell: mind maps have helped me crystallize the creative thought process and made it easier, faster and better to communicate my thoughts and ideas.

In my old way for writing or blogging, I would open up my text editor or WordPress and start typing out some ideas and maybe start on a rough outline of points. And keep polishing on it until it became the final draft I published.

But here’s a step by step workflow of how I use mind mapping now:

I open Mind Node Lite for Mac (which is free, basic and awesome). I start by giving the main bubble a title or topic to go by. I don’t try to come up with the final headline here, but just something to start the creative process.

Then I start visually adding all my ideas and thoughts that flow out of that starter topic (or headline) without regard for how they fit with each other. My goal here is just to get some thoughts on the subject out of my head and onto the screen  … it’s my visual brainstorm, a shotgun blast of thoughts and feelings about the subject.

From experience I know this is such a critical time as my energy and excitement about the topic is sparking all kinds of memories, experiences, quotes, ideas, etc … and I want to take full advantage of this creative time. In the past it’s often been wasted or that energy severely waned by staring at random lines that are hard to organize in a blank text editor.

Once I’ve spent some time just exploring the subject as deep and thoroughly as I can, I start reordering, sorting, organizing, tweaking, clarifying, adjusting refining all those thoughts into a more cohesive flow. Sometimes this means pulling the big points into subpoints on other topics where they fit better. Or deleting things altogether.

This phase is often during the time that I start realizing WHY I’m writing this. So this is the step where I start honing in what I’m really trying to accomplish with the project, post or presentation and why I’m really hooked on mind mapping. I can see it all together and optimize it for my mission.

For example, as I was doing my mind map for this post, I start a main idea that read: “Why am I writing this? What am I offering?” Then I made a subpoint that answered that question: “I’m showing how doing mind maps for everything from blog posts to marketing projects has revolutionized my creative process … making it easier and faster and better to communicate.” Very conversational. And you’ll see some of it above.

Here are some reasons why I love mind mapping and you should consider it too:

  • Get quick visual brainstorming blast of ideas — Then I can easily sort and organize them better once I’ve got my initial thoughts out
  • Get a very, very rough draft started fast and easily — Staring at my text editor and a blank canvas is tough, but once I start getting everything out, it’s been a great jumpstart for me. I find I start projects faster and have fewer creative roadblocks.
  • Get a quick outline going of major points for presentations — Then I start fleshing out and organizing the subpoints and talking points for each.
  • Clarify what I’m doing and why I’m doing it — Once I’ve got everything out I can review visually and refine my communication goals.
  • Get inspired more than just opening a blank text editor (or the WordPress post screen) — Yeah, it’s probably trivial to you, but I like the different colors … it feels more inspiring and creative than black, white and grey. With every mind map, you have a first prompt — the main topic bubble.
  • Turn it into a Minimal Viable Product to test — I recently just released an idea on business plan ideas for freelancers as a mind map PDF  itself to see if it warranted a bigger blog post or webinar (which it did). The PDF got downloaded about 200 times in a day … and now has over 600 as of the writing of this post.

After writing this post using the mind mapping method, the old way as I remember it feels unnecessarily laborious now. That’s not to say I don’t use the old method from time to time. But it seems clunky and uninspiring.

Try it out and let me know what you think! (Or if you have already been using mind maps like this, let me know what you think in the comments and if you have any other tips to add.)


My New Blog Welcome Video

We built a video studio for iThemes and, to be able to roll out new classes and try to put a “face” on what we do … and I decided to do a Welcome video for this blog … here goes!

Become an Expert and Authority

It’s funny how things work or happen … so I need to work in the back story before getting to the headline.

Back story: I started using blogging because I wanted to share opinions, thoughts, and experiences with others. There was a void. My number 1 strength is Learner, so I eat knowledge for breakfast. I love diving in to learn new things and to stretch myself.

Blogging was my addiction for 6 solid months as I built a blog and my reputation with it. I literally ate, dreamt and breathed my blog.

In the process of building a successful blog, I became somewhat of an authority on the matter. I actually started getting people who wanted to pay me (rather well) to help them with their own blog.

OK … back to the headline …

So here’s my advice … become an expert and authority on/in something.

Invest yourself in a niche area or subject, master it, engulf yourself in it … and people might eventually want to pay you to help them understand it … or do it for them … they might have you speak to their own audience about it … they might even fly you to Phoenix to talk to a group of people about it.

So … how do you get started in becoming an expert?

Dive in. Just start. Somewhere. Anywhere. Take the first step. Buy a book. Listen to a podcast. Read a blog. Google it.

I have this quote memorized: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

So just get started.

I have this theory that a lot of great ideas, plans, strategies and businesses never get started because people don’t even take the first step.

So then the question is … Once I’ve started how do I build an audience?

Yes, your mom will indeed be your first reader and only reader for a long time.

Be content with that.

You build an audience with respect and credibility. I think they might be intertwined actually.

But really, ultimately … you start by writing about something you are personally interested in and passionate about. You do it for yourself, primarily.

If you don’t, it’s synthetic. People will see through it.

I wish you good luck establishing an audience if your primary motivation is to get people to listen to you. I’ve seen people try to do that … they invariably ask about RSS scrapping services that is really called content privacy and theft.

There isn’t a shortcut here, sorry …

But after that (writing for yourself and your mom about a topic that you are passionate about), you build an audience one by one.

You start with your mom. She’s your biggest cheerleader anyway. She’ll tell 1,000 people about it anyway.

You talk intelligently. You hone your ideas, your presentation. You focus and rehearse your point of view where it flows naturally. You become a master of your own ideas.

You also read the book On Writing Well. You follow and study outstanding bloggers.

Along the way, you might think about some of the guerrilla marketing ideas I pursued (and learned from others) for helping people looking for your subject find you online.

Do that … and at some point, people will start following, subscribing, calling, requesting …

Penelope Trunk’s Excellent Blogging Tips

Penelope Trunk is one of my all-time favorite columnists. She’s a former client, so I had the privilege to speak to her on a number of occasions as I helped her maintain her gigantic blog.

Anyway, she did a Q&A about blogging and I found this quote to be especially relevant …

Find a very popular topic and then write at the very edge of that topic. If you write in the center, that’s where everyone else is and it will be hard to present something that is unique. If you write at the edge, and throw in stuff not totally related to your topic area, then both you and your readers will find surprise in that intersection of the new stuff and your topic.

I started my first blog over two years ago. I started it because I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences in my career field with others. For the first year, I blogged like crazy. I used every experience I had as blog ideas. To date, that blog has about 700 posts now and we’ve got advertisers (yes, I actually make a little money from it now) and even an editor.

Because of my blog, I got quoted in our state’s newspaper, people in my field found out who I was, and it helped launch my freelance consulting and design business that eventually turned into iThemes.

That first blog was … one of the best career tools of my entire life.

When people ask me about career advice, I tell them this: Go get a domain name and a blog, and start talking about your niche, industry, field, whatever.

Even if you don’t have much experience, talk intelligently about it. Follow other bloggers. Link to their posts. Comment on their posts. Eventually, you’ll have something great to say.

But there is most likely a big void in your niche industry. And I’m not talking about general topics like “marketing” … I’m talking about “marketing for plumbers” or “non-profit marketing” …

Someone needs to fill that space. And it might as well be you.

Three Great Posts for Blogging

Been doing some catching up on my feedreads and found some great links related to blogging …