Mind mapping, or what I like to call mind dumping, is the process of getting ideas out of your head and onto paper to be able to see them more clearly. If you are a visual learner like me, this process is invaluable.

In this instance, we’re using mind mapping to help you get a clearer vision of the next step in your writing process. While writing, it is extremely important (and difficult) to quiet your inner critic who may be telling you that you need to insert the paragraph you just wrote in another section six pages back. This is not the time to censor or edit, you’ll have plenty of time to edit and re-edit later. But while writing, getting your thoughts and the words down on paper in as pure and unaltered form as possible is the goal.

By now you may have several pages of writing done. Now is a good time to introduce some order to your writing. Using the method of mind mapping, write down all the central themes of your book. In this short video, I share with you my mind map from my book, It’s Taken Me All of My Life to Find Myself, where I color coded the themes that were closely related.

Keep it simple. Make it fun.

Those closely related themes were then grouped together and subsequently became the chapters for my book. From there, all future writing could be done with a focus on which chapter it would neatly fit within. If you find that you have a critical piece of writing that does not fit organically and comfortably within your pre-established chapters, simply create a new chapter on your mind mapping poster.

Next: How to organize your chapters and start the editing process.

It doesn't matter how fast you're going, so long as you're headed in the right direction.

Writing involves the mind, heart, spirit and a dose of the unknowable – that element which is not quantifiable, nor tangible, but is nonetheless present. Call it grace, call it magic, or you can call it Benny. Whatever you choose to call it isn’t as important as knowing that it exists and can help you manifest your dreams.

When you begin a writing project, you typically have some idea of what you are trying to capture in print. While you may not have the entire concept worked out, you’ve got a good idea of how you should begin, some loose ideas of what the middle, meaty parts will be, and how you plan to wrap the whole thing up. Sometimes, as you’re working, new ideas about the direction to take your writing may suddenly pop into your head. You may tell yourself, “No, that’s not where this is going,” but my advice is that you allow yourself to be open to these quiet whispers. By the same token, if, as you’re writing, the work seems labored and unfulfilling and you have never experienced moments when you've shifted into Flow or felt joyful and inspired, you might want to reconsider whether you are writing the story that you should be telling.

When I started my first book, it was about a young boy living in a gang-filled environment and the struggles that he encountered trying to not let that world suck him in. I always planned for it to have a happy ending – he would get out and end up triumphant – but first I had to capture the struggles that he endured. While flushing out the main character and trying to mentally place myself inside his head and his life, I found that the story’s dark subject matter kept me mildly depressed. Finally, I decided that that story was not the one for me to write, so I pivoted and wrote a book about Black Girl Magic instead.

Don’t be afraid to begin again if you discover that the path you are heading down is the wrong one. Trust your intuition and know that to let go of something that isn’t working does not mean that you have failed. Rather, it simply means that you’re creating time and space for something that will allow you to tap into that unknowable realm, the place where real magic happens. I know when I experience those moments because I first feel it viscerally in my gut, which, in those moments, seem weirdly wired to my tear ducts; Shonda Rhimes describes it as a ‘hum’. However it makes itself known to you, trust it and allow yourself to be guided.

It’s the end of May, and today when headed outdoors, I wore my winter coat. Lately, I never know what to wear and end up being alternately too cold or too warm. I thrive in sunshine, and these cold, grey days are really getting me down. But in the words of Neneh Cherry, “Somedays are better than somedays.”

Hopefully, by now all of you brave souls who are on this journey with me have experienced Flow, however fleeting. It would be wonderful if every time you sat down to write, the words just poured from your soul so that you had to literally pull yourself away from your writing in order to attend to other important aspects of your life. Sadly, that is not the case.

Some days you sit and stare at a blank page or a blank screen and ideas and words elude you. You got nothing. Nada. Moments like these can leave you feeling discouraged and wondering to yourself, “What the hell am I doing?”

Blue is the color that she feels inside...

Try not to despair; this is part of the process. Sorry, maybe I should have warned you about that sooner 😐. When you get stuck or feel uninspired, the thing to do is just keep showing up. Everyday. Just as you promised yourself at the start of this journey. Commit to putting your butt in the seat and giving it your best effort, rain or sunshine. As simple as it sounds, that is one of the things that separates the dreamers from the doers – even when you think you got nothing, you show up. Because even when you think you are not making progress, each actual attempt is more fuel and sustenance that you’re feeding your subconscious mind to use to continue working on your project long after your writing session has ended. And slowly, increment by increment, day by day, your story starts taking shape, and you begin to see that you are actually doing this thing!

Each day, give it the very best that you can on that particular day – some days you’ll have more to give than others. Trust the process, and just keep showing up!

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