I believe I have a continuous flow of ideas, memories, and thoughts running through my mind, and this is probably why I find it difficult to sleep and, unfortunately, begin working. Sometimes I'm just too distracted to remember, but mostly, I've used a technique I learned along with essential planning principles and tools from Anthony Pangilinan, from his Time Management & Prioritization training program. Then again, years later, a modified version,from a writing class conducted by columnist Barbara Gonzalez. Below is how I put these principles together to help give my mind some rest, save ideas that could otherwise just evaporate and stay lost forever, and go beyond staring at a blank wall:
- Write all ideas down immediately. Have a notepad or whatever gadget you're more comfortable with, handy. I get a lot of a-ha! moments and ideas when I'm in the shower (don't ask me why) or upon waking, so a notepad is really what works best for me. Then focus on the task before you (the shower, getting up, going back to work...). As someone once said, "free your mind; write it down".
- Mind map. This is, so far, the best technique I had ever learned, as far as planning and getting started on anything, including writing a story. A mind map helps develop your ideas, gives you an overview of an entire project, plan, story, etc. When in a writing rut, a mind map always helps me find my story hook and get beyond that. Without it, I find myself staring at a blank monitor with a blinking cursor. This technique also helps me take down notes during an interview. Whatever, it works better than long lists, is more attractive to look at, and doesn't take too much sheets of paper. Read about mind map at http://www.mind-mapping.co.uk/make-mind-map.htm ,and check out https://bubbl.us/ and http://dabbleboard.com/ for digital versions.
- From the mind map, develop action plans and plot against your schedule or to-do list; develop the story outline and start writing. Do something about the idea or thought bubble.
- Keep this map visible. Post it on your board, work station, frame and display it, save it on your computer desktop. Just make sure it stays visible. We need to be reminded sometimes. Often, even more ideas spark from the sight of the mind map.
- Assess periodically. If it's a goal or mission, begin the next time period's planning with what had not be accomplished before. If it's for a story, project, or campaign, keep the map until your mi