Writing challenges and how to overcome them
There are many challenges you might run into as a content writer. Some of the most fearsome might occur when you sit down and want to start writing. You have a topic in mind, you have done some research on what others have written, and if you are a professional, you have also used some keyword research tools and know what is trending. Now you are staring at the blank screen, and (a) you have no idea how to start, or (b) there are too many ideas circling in your head, and you still don’t know where to start. Luckily, some tools can help you.
The simplest, the stupidest, and the fastest
If you don’t want to think and the topic is rather dull, you can try some emerging AI-based text generation tools. In that case, stop reading this, ready your wallet and jump to conversion.ai, Frase, MarketMuse, ExtySolutions, Predis.ai, or another of the numerous tools of various quality.
For those who want to think and produce high-quality, original, and valuable content, two great thinking tools can help you brainstorm ideas and structure them logically: mind mapping and concept mapping. Let’s look into them.
Simple but powerful
Mind maps are a simple yet powerful tool for outlining thoughts, topics, and ideas more freely than just classic bullet-point lists. You start with the main subject or idea in the center of a page and link subtopics or related ideas around it, branching out into more depth as needed. Their visual and non-linear nature boosts creativity and greatly supports brainstorming. You brainstorm and structure the ideas simultaneously, so once you finish your map, you can turn it into an outline of your text and start writing. As you write, looking at the map keeps you focused and organized.
Mind mapping helps you not only brainstorm but also reach clarity in your writing. Mind maps are simple and easy to use. But what if your thoughts are more profound and the topic more complex? It might then be quite hard to find a way of logically linking the thoughts and ideas together so that the reader understands them. It would help if you thought hard about the relationships between the concepts in your mind. You need to identify the key concepts and consider how you will introduce them to the reader. And that is where concept mapping gives a helping hand.
If you like to think
Concept mapping was initially invented as a tool for representing how people understand things. They are in principle similar to mind maps in terms of their visual nature, where you draw concepts as bubbles and relationships as labeled links between them. The difference from mind mapping is in the idea behind it. Concept mapping is a tool for thinking about relationships between concepts. A concept can be anything you want to talk about – an idea, a thing, a thought, a fact, or just about anything. Therefore, concept maps are a great educational aid. And what is the goal of your post? That’s right, it should educate the reader!
Apart from being a more complex tool enabling you to express more profound thoughts, concept maps give you even more freedom than mind maps. And more freedom means more creativity!
How to concept map what you want to write
Let me show you how I use concept mapping to kick-start my writing. By the way, I have, of course, created a concept map to write this very article.
Find your focus question
Step one: come up with the goal of your post. It is similar to the central idea in a mind map; only in a concept map, we define its topic with a focus question. It is the question that your article should answer. In this case, it could be „How can concept mapping help you write content?"
Brainstorm & select key concepts
Step two: start selecting key concepts. These are the concepts you want to write about. How to find them? The first clue is the focus question. The one mentioned above gives us two initial key concepts: concept mapping and content writing. We start from there and continue coming up with related concepts we might need to answer the question and provide enough context for the reader to understand. For example, we want to introduce the problems of content writing where concept mapping helps. That would be writer’s block and idea or information overload. Next, the concepts of mind mapping and brainstorming will help us explain concept mapping. The core concepts of concept mapping are then the concepts themselves and the relationships between them. Next, we will want to write about how to concept map. And so on.
Important thing: don’t structure the concepts yet. Just place them on the map as floating bubbles in a similar way as they float in your head.
Step three: start organizing the concepts. Place those closely related close to each other and gradually order them from top to bottom according to how you want to introduce them in the text.
Step four: interlink the concepts. Of course, everything is related to everything, but try to select relationships meaningful in the context of your focus question. You don’t have to link everything. Start with those relationships that seem clear to you. If you don’t know how to connect some concepts yet, leave them floating around. They will serve as a reminder of a possible direction that you may use later.
Step five: when you added all connections that seemed meaningful, you are ready to start writing. Keep the concept map visible and open a text editor next to it. Focus on the relationships first and try writing a paragraph about each one. As you write, new ideas might keep coming. Write freely, but keep checking the map to ensure you are not drifting too far away from the original focus question. If a new idea seems essential and relevant, add it also to your map. It will help you with reviewing your text later. In the end, you might even include the map as a figure in your text. It might help the reader to get an idea of its content quickly.
Best way to learn: practice! Find some hands-on concept mapping webinar that focuses on writing. If you like my approach, feel free to join the Concept Mapping Academy or read more in my e-book .
Next step in the evolution: involving AI in brainstorming
Notice one of the critical steps in concept mapping (and mind mapping) is coming up with concepts meaningfully related to the core topic or focus question. However, you might still get stuck there or forget some key concepts essential to make your message clear. Luckily, there are projects like ContextMinds that suggest you related relevant ideas as you are concept mapping. It uses general knowledge from sources like Wikipedia, and it also learns from concept maps created by you. Therefore, it suggests you not only generally related topics but also your previous ideas that you had in the context of what you are writing now and thus serve as your personal knowledge base or thought management system if you like. You might also decide to share your ideas with the community or just with your colleagues inside a private workspace.
The concept mapping process in ContextMinds remains the same; only at any time, you might check the list of top related concepts brought by the AI. If you like some, you drag it into your map, and the suggestions get updated immediately.