my big creative year : mind maps

Mind mapping and I go way back….. I first used it during the couple of years or so I spent trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, pre – this blog, pre – ann wood handmade. It helped me feel my way through, sort and evaluate ideas and then figure out steps to begin, to make stuff happen.

My brain is not a good place to keep things – ideas chase and distract me, things get lost, when my head feels cluttered I get overwhelmed and unhappy.


Getting stuff out helps me keep moving forward. My notebooks remain my most important tool for capturing ideas but for looking at the whole picture, making complex plans or experimenting with possibilities I find mind mapping incredibly useful. And I enjoy it – which matters – it’s fun, fun is good, fun gets me to do stuff. I use software or sometimes just pencil and paper – each have their advantages, the premise is the same for both:

Organize thoughts around a central idea.

Topics, sub topics and related ideas radiate out from the central idea and then branch off into increasing detail. That’s one of the big benefits for me – details go where they belong and I’m less inclined to become mired in, or overly focused on them. I use shapes and colors and lines and size to define or highlight ideas. I see connections and intersections, relationships and priorities that I might not otherwise have seen if I was working something out in my head or making a strictly linear list.

I started a new mind map this weekend. I’ve got a wicked summer cold, laryngitis, zero energy and large sections of me are covered in calamine lotion (unprotected walk in a swampy forest) – I’m wretched and itchy and generally poorly so I took to my bed on Sunday and played with Xmind all day – it’s free unless you want to get super fancy and I love it. It looks snazzy and you can add hyper links, images, reminders – all sorts of useful stuff. The image below is the beginning of my map (it has gotten much bigger) and I blurred some stuff out so as not to spoil any surprises.

mind map
My central topic is broad – my plans for the second half of 2015 – products, artwork, marketing, workshops, blog stuff – all of it. I’m just getting started and it’s already helping me generate new ideas and have a sense of direction and priorities for the rest of the year. I start messy and inclusive, brain dump style – and then refine – wether I’m working on paper or a program. As my focus gets clearer I start to add action steps. I love the structure around my ongoing projects and it makes space for new ideas. It’s not a to do list but it helps me build meaningful to do lists. Excellent and entertaining use I think, of an entire Sunday in bed.


  1. Laura Poulette

    This look super helpful and fun, thanks!

  2. This program looks amazing! I have use for it right now in my life. I’m going to try it. Thanks so much for letting me know.

  3. Thanks for the idea! I tend to write “to do” lists which gets discouraging because it’s not the right format. I just started scribbling ideas – yes, lots of links to each other and I can see how creativity can pop as you do this!

  4. just what I need RIGHT now. feeling grumpy and confused. looks like a great way to tease out what is causing the frustration. thanks, thanks, thanks.

    hope you’re feeling better. sounds lousy.

  5. Camilla La Mer

    Hi Ann!
    Thanks for the mind mapping post! Im a big fan of this process as well!!!

    I am wondering if you might consider sharing the list of book recommendations
    you received a few weeks ago…I know I sent in two. I’m assuming you got others!
    I would love to see them sometime!!!!

    Hope you feel better soon!!!

  6. Denise L.

    Ann, you are so wonderfully helpful! I keep trying to start my art life in fits and starts and I think this could really help this old lady.

    And regarding your illness. Did the cold come on before the swamp trek, or did it occur after? I’m just wondering if you’re having an allergic reaction to whatever bit you and Dr. prescribed antihistamines might help? In any case, praying for the best healing ever for you!

  7. Feel better Ann. I have the same cold. It’s wiped me out. I started zinc too late in the game…
    Thanks for the xmind recommendation. I’ll try it.

  8. Hello
    I am new to the business and starting a new business on primitive Halloween. My new website is called Scarecrows Nest, but is not up online yet. Right now the only one up online is Inspirations of Nature on Etsy.
    I am really interested in the owl called ” Giles “. Do you offer a pattern on these type of owls? The one you do offer is not quite the same shape and missing the legs.
    Thanks so much for you help in advance.
    I was a copy artist for a designer in Loveland, Co ( Tapestry Tent Designs ) where I painted mural paintings on needlepoint canvas for 14 yrs. They went out of business and Susan Roberts has her line of designs now. I am looking for something different to do. I have collected over 50 designs from designers to make and sell with their permission so long as credit is given. I would love to add Giles to that collection.

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