Starting out as a freelance journalist – how to de-clutter your brain with mind maps

 

BY SAMANTHA MOOLMAN

Using mind maps to help your writing career

So, you have decided you want to become a freelance journalist and you’re raring to go. In order to choose a direction, you need to learn how to de-clutter your mind with mind maps.

 

You might feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and don’t know where to begin. You might be drowning in a sea of countless writing opportunities that you can pursue, but you can’t decide which one is right for you. Without a clear-cut vision, it’s difficult to start making money as a writer. My suggestion? A little introspection…

 

Find out what do you want to write

 

Ask yourself this: Why do I want to write? What are my reasons? What are my priorities? Really think about you – why do you want to become a writer?

Now consider which answer best describes you:

  • I need to write to make money.
  • I need/want to work from home.
  • I want to pursue a career in journalism.
  • I want to tell people about a subject I feel passionately about.
  • I want to write about anything, as long as I can write.

You may have other reasons for wanting to write besides having a career in journalism or writing to make money. Whatever they are, write them down.

Considering these types of questions can help you keep an end-goal in mind – a light at the end of the tunnel for when you’re feeling disillusioned, stressed or lost. Write that down too. An end-goal will give you purpose. It will guide you towards a plan of action.

 

Where do you belong in the Writing World?

Once you’ve thought about what you want to achieve with your career in journalism, it should be easier to figure out which of the many facets of the writing world – be it an industry, field or publication – suits you best.

Do you have more than one possible field of interest?

 

Create an Affinity Diagram to De-clutter your Brain

Create a mind-map and brainstorm ideas for articles in each field. Laying your thoughts out on a page helps to de-clutter your brain. I create an Affinity Diagram whenever I feel overwhelmed.

An Affinity Diagram is almost like a mind-map, just a bit more systematic in its approach (which helps type-A personalities like me put my thoughts in order). It groups your ideas into common themes which leaves you with a visual interpretation of where your affinity lies.

I found the concept on Mindtools.com which describes the purpose of an Affinity Diagram as follows: “When you cannot see the forest for the trees, an affinity diagram may be exactly what you need to get back in focus.”

Basically, it’s a glorified Pros and Cons list. (Please visit the site to get a detailed ‘how-to’ if you’re interested – these kinds of tools really are helpful.)

 

Using a Mind-Map

Just to be clear though, I’m not at all suggesting that you should choose only one field out of the many possibilities you have. You’re capable of much more than one field of interest. And as a freelancer, you have the freedom to add a lot of colour and variety to your day job.

I simply feel that putting your ideas to paper and organising them with a mind-map, Affinity Diagram (or any other method that suits you) will help you to prioritise your writing. This is important, because it will give you an idea of where to begin, what topic to begin with, what to write, and who to start writing for.

 

Research Publications that Could Publish your Articles

It doesn’t help to just work out why and what you want to write. You also need to find out who would be interested in your work. Do research on the possible publications that could publish your articles. Is it for magazines? Online journals? E-zines?

Use Google to uncover the myriad online options. Visit a library or good bookshop. Spend an hour or two browsing magazines and niche magazines. Gather information like contact details of editors, general content in the publication, style, tone and average word count of a typical article.

Once you know what publications are available, and whom you want to target, it is much easier to match your style and topic to a publication.

So take some time in the next couple of days to think about what you want out of your writing career and what you need to do to achieve it.

Now that you are a freelance journalist, you know that you should de-clutter your brain with a mind-map and put your thoughts to paper so that you can start working towards your end-goal with a clean slate.

Once you feel ready and focused, keep an eye out for my next blog entry about top paying markets in the freelancing world.

 

Photo credit: Flickr.com_Chris Gladis

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