If we were having coffee, I would apologize for not being around so much recently. Being polite, you would ask what I’ve been up to, and I would say well, nothing much. However, on a flip-through of my journal for the month of April, the following is revealed:
LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED
I was sorting books (yet again) and found:
‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened‘ (Jenny Lawson)
“…she learns that life’s most absurd and humiliating moments, the ones we wish we could pretend had never happened, are the very same moments that make us who we are.”
I often get cold feet about my own blog. I do value it, so could try again with a simple coffee post.
KEEPING WHAT’S MOST PRECIOUS
I want to keep the large padded footstool if possible, and had the sudden impulse to stick a blue Post-It note on it. That reminded me of Frasier telling his father and brother to put labels on the things they most wanted to inherit. The father thought it was a bad idea, and refused, but Niles had great fun sticking labels everywhere.
Looking around the internet, I find a lot of people fall asleep during Blade Runner. I was no exception. When I woke I was very confused… I thought it was morning, and wondered if Mum had got up yet. I couldn’t remember seeing her today at all, or anything else that might have happened. Slowly it came back to me that she had indeed got up, and had done things like set the robohoover to work.
OUT OF THE LOOP
I’m disoriented these days. It’s intensified because small plans are mooted, then suddenly change and I’m not informed, and I find myself working towards something that’s not going to happen, or isn’t going to happen the way I think, which changes everything…. It’s funny how people leave you out of the loop, then look at you as though you’re the bat with crazy ideas.
A SIMPLE MISUNDERSTANDING INVOLVING COFFEE
Mum’s just got up from her nap and is drinking caffeine-free instant coffee. She hasn’t drunk instant for years, so that took me by surprise. I didn’t even realize it was caffeine-free… I just thought it was good thinking on her part to buy a replacement when I was about to run out. I ran out today… so (feeling somewhat cheated) I said “we need more.”
I now have a silver tin, while Mum has the gold. Why does ‘caff free’ get to be gold??
*SPOILER* — ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (A.I.)
Part-way through watching the Artificial Intelligence AI DVD on Mum’s TV while she was napping, which I’m not encouraged to do, I got tired minutes before she reappeared. I turned it off and left the TV on, so all she saw was snooker, which she’s still watching.
I love the teddy in AI… that’s why I bought it. The part of the story that’s painful is how the robo-boy has been imprinted on one human (his ‘mother’) and that’s an irreversible process, even though he’s likely to live a lot longer. If returned to Cybertronics after imprinting, they would have to destroy him. Rather than do that, they abandoned him in a wood with Teddy, and told him for his own safety not to go to Cybertronics or any large group of people.
But was that kind?
At the end of the film, it was easier for the boy to lose her forever while knowing he was loved, than to lose her heart and her mind… even knowing she was still alive somewhere. I didn’t understand that when I saw it before, but think now that I do.
Part of the problem with people now is that they expect perfection. All you need to do is check out one of those B&B TV reality shows… they knock marks off if there’s no TV or they have to share a bathroom, and they complain about dustbin men at 6 a.m.
Then there’s the perennial “there was a small spider in the corner.”
It makes you wonder.
EXPRESSING MYSELF… OR NOT!
I need to be consistent in myself, and that means doing what comes naturally to me. Saying what seems right to me. I’m confused enough without there being added confusion… an alien dynamic.
I run into fears I might overdo emails. After all, people are busy. Or they do all their communicating on diddly little iPod Shuffles. So I delay my responses, cut down a lot, and do so much self-editing that the authentic me isn’t coming though.
BRIEF FLASH OF ENLIGHTENMENT
From my horoscope for April 25:
“Nearly everyone seems on edge today…. Unfortunately, you could inadvertently kick a hornet’s nest if you are careless with your words. Author Pearl Cleage wrote, “Discomfort is always a necessary part of the process of enlightenment.””
Overnight I had a Eureka moment that I’ve since forgotten. I don’t know if it was real or dreamed…
I hoovered downstairs (and the stairs themselves) and polished the tables, and felt tired the whole time, as though doing it was little short of a nightmare! I hope that book about the art of Japanese tidying is right when it says that when you finally get your possessions down to a more manageable level and tidy them away into their designated spaces, keeping the whole house clean will be easier and more fun.
“Those items that bring you the most joy, such as your divorce certificate, should be kept in your power spot. Every house will have its own power spot. To find yours, close your eyes and joyously chant: “Where’s my power spot?” If the answer does not come to you then you aren’t chanting joyously enough.”
A little while ago my iMac failed… or rather, one small component in it failed, which means the whole 27″ 30.5 lb weight of it (and some of the software on it) is scrap. I used to paint in that corner; create and maintain databases, organize my photo collection, back up my iPad, listen to music…
I haven’t been there since the iMac failed, and have felt confused and disgruntled ever since. I got a new computer but haven’t turned it on. I don’t know if it will run the software I’m used to running, and the thought of installing it all over again makes me not want to go through the process at all. However, without that resource, I don’t feel ‘me’ any more.
It’s time I addressed that, and brought my ‘power spot’ back into play. Today.
HELPING THE GRASS GROW
The hill out the back gets manure put on it annually. You go out into the garden and it’s suddenly reeking. I have thought a few times the cats were overdoing it…
BOOKS AND HAPPINESS
A while ago when I suggested buying Sharpe books on Kindle for her birthday, Mum said no, she can’t concentrate enough on reading.
More recently, I took a pile of books downstairs to go to charity, and some time later thought “that’s funny, the pile looks smaller!” I peeked in Mum’s room, and she’d taken a book (The Vital Spark) and put it in her book rack.
That made me happy. 🙂
She’s also finished a slim library book by Ann Cleeves and bought herself a Kindle book.
It all makes me happy and I feel calmer. Also, today it was sunny. Rather cold, but the sun was gold on the trees and blossoms… just lovely.
I’ll miss it here.
My Christmas tree has turned itself off. Since this is the modern age and the consumer has to do what she is told, the transformer uses a timer setting you can’t change or override, which usually means it turns itself off during Christmas Dinner.
I tried to be elegant by restricting the decoration to a scheme of deep blue, silver and white baubles, but the baubles don’t even match… different sizes, different shades… it looked uneven, like a water-stained ballgown. So I threw the rest of the box of baubles at it… all colours, all styles. Didn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a single bare twig now, but it looks livelier, sparklier and less like I tried to do something and failed. The red baubles in particular seem to bring focus, unless it’s just that they’re distracting you from the rest of the chaos.
What I take from that is that things you throw together can succeed better than something intricately planned. There’s far more energy and joie de vivre when everything’s included, not just the specially chosen. Chaos and order…. you’re merely a part of it, repeating the experiences of generations upon generations of others in your own unique way. You retell the human story.
In your own life you get to ‘do over’ a lot, though occasionally you have to accept the loss of something that plummets from the tree… such as a friendship fragmenting into a thousand glass shards. You may wish it had turned out differently, but that particular bauble has now gone.
Now and then, however, the bauble disappears into shadow and you search around cautiously, trying to find it without cutting yourself. A little while goes by before it finally comes to light, amazingly still intact.
Some baubles break, others go missing for a while but survive. At times you aren’t sure which, and have to step carefully.
I expect you are sitting at the other side of the screen, frowning at my chaotic ramblings. You likely have a mug or glass at your side. I don’t know what you’re drinking… coffee or tea, or maybe hot chocolate, or beer or water. Or Bovril. Chicken Bovril is nice… I like that.
Probably you’re wondering why you’re reading this… you could be doing something nicer, such as weather-stripping the house, leaf-blowing the snow or cleaning the drains. It’d be more useful, but doubtless you’re the efficient sort who has done all that already. So you’re stuck.
I wonder where you live? Maybe New York in an apartment high up, and the lights sparkling all over the city? Or a cottage on thunderous dramatic moors, with a sluggish internet connection? Or across the road from me, even? Can you see me waving out the window? No, well, that’s all right. I wasn’t waving… my curtains are closely drawn.
So many things to do. I get confused and find myself standing still, looking over my shoulder…
…oh yes, I meant to change my wall calendar to December before it’s too late and the whole month blows over. What IS that, exactly? A warrior hobbit? I wish I could flip back to October, to that nice angry dragon. I could, really, but that would be cheating, and I won’t have got full use of the calendar. I don’t know why I got it — I never write anything in it.
Kind of like my blog.
I’m getting the déjà vu sensation an awful lot lately. I keep thinking I’ve read things before. I even feel I have written things before. Have I already written this blog post, word for word, and posted it maybe nine years ago? Bits of it, then? Or perhaps I’m catching glimpses into a closely parallel universe where I’ve done all this stuff alrea… but that is such a depressing thought I shied away from it. It’s bad enough to have done all this once, but twice…?
Do you remember reading any of this before; does any of it ring any bells? No, not this bit, but I have a funny feeling about my drawn curtains. Perhaps they’re the portal. Close them, shutting out the real world, and in swims the fantasy world… sorry, the parallel universe. That’s just the real world twice over, so it’s no wonder I hate the idea!
In this chaotic universe, anything can happen.
If that’s true, then perhaps it’s not a parallel universe, but a repeating one. We are doomed to retrace our steps over and over till we get them right. Don’t you get the feeling that most of the time absolutely nothing changes, and we just make the same mistakes over and over and over? Every so often someone thinks a little deeper or sees something a smidgeon of a different way and improves everything just a fraction. Even if it’s an incremental change by one person, it could have a remarkable effect on everyone else, like lights going on all over… and suddenly the latest round of existence is a whole lot better than the one before. And so it goes.
This has been difficult to write. For the past little while I’ve wanted to… no, it doesn’t feel like a ‘want’, it feels more like a ‘very much not want’, like I don’t even want to be here. I’d rather go back into space and be a simple star again, spinning a little, perhaps, whistling a happy tune, burning up any asteroids that wander too near. Who decided I should sit on this earth with an increasingly labouring heart, to blog, question why and… and edit?
Sometimes there’s good stuff, like… cats when they’re sleepy and purry and not killing things. Bears when they’re sleepy and furry and don’t have a headache. Family when you discover how to get along and aren’t torturing each other.
It’s a chaotic world, though, at least to our limited senses. You get both the nice and the nasty together, like the soothing sun on one level and icy deeps on the other. The velvety blue with hornets or jellyfish hanging in it. The yin and the yang and the sweet and the sour… you never know which it will be; can change so suddenly.
Or simply end.
And, after a long pause, like a bonus song, start up again when you weren’t listening any more, and go on for what seems like forever.
There’s a touch of blogger’s block going on here.
A couple of days ago a friend happened to mention it’s a good trick to write for yourself only, not for any particular audience, and to avoid editing as you write.
Today I’ll just write and see what happens.
Yesterday my sister replaced the broken old cat flap. When I checked it out, My boy cat (blog name Samson) sat bolt upright, ears straight up, staring brightly at me, one eye slowly closing in a quizzical wink. It looked like he was saying, “Well? What do you think?”
You would think he had bought and fitted it himself. And I was reminded of someone. Every so often I’ll look at him and be bothered by the feeling he’s like a character on TV, but I can never remember who. Eventually it hits me… it’s Toothless. Never anybody else. Just Toothless.
I don’t have Toothless in mind already and say “Toothless is like Samson”… I don’t do that. I can never remember who I’m being reminded of, but the resemblance… something in the expression and posture… is strong.
Although mostly silent, Samson seems to be communicating with every fibre of his being. He’ll sit and stare intently at you, and the minute you turn and catch his eye, he leans forward and his face is absolutely radiant.
Nothing cheers you up quicker. 🙂
My mother is unwell; eating very little these days. For supper last night she had three breaded scampi and an onion ring. Today she managed a poached egg on toast. When I brought a plate of food the other night, she courageously drew herself up to meet it. I said she looked like a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, about to eat something with sixteen legs.
Christmas will be a puzzle this year, as I’ve not been getting out to shop. I feel there’s not much time left online either. Still… As the citizens of Whoville found out in The Grinch, Christmas is Christmas all on its own. We still have our trappings… a six-foot silver tree, lights and decorations. The cats with their 3D superstar impressions. Sisterly visits. There will be turkey, roast potatoes and bread sauce on the day.
I’ve been avoiding Facebook for most of the year, but decided there would be no harm in checking in with people over Christmas. Was surprised to find some really lovely comments about one of my cats… two pages of them! Perhaps my friend is right when she said you can make Facebook work for you. Check your privacy settings. Choose who you want to interact with, and write about those things that are tongue-in-cheek and fun. Don’t get all serious, angry or political. If you’re not enjoying somebody’s statuses, quietly unfollow them.
Well, perhaps. It still feels to me like we’re shark-bait.
It’s nice to get away from the internet from time to time. Talking of which, I have a lot of DVDs and am in the mood to watch some. I don’t often get the chance to, but when I can, there are old favourites I have in mind.
How to Train Your Dragon
Horton Hears a Who
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Young Montalbano
Master and Commander
Those will be a good start.
*This was just an attempt to kick-start my failing blogging habit. Normal service will be resumed shortly.*
I wrote the following last night, then slept on it. No mind-mapping on this occasion (perhaps it shows). Today the sun is out, news is good and the mood chart heading for lighter values.
I took it into my head to keep a mood chart, for no particular reason, and just now my mood is going up and down like a yo yo. You have no idea the number of different plates we are spinning — each one of us has issues and hopes, ranging from the minuscule (what to do with home-grown chillis) to the mind-blowingly gargantuan (the miraculous Brexit). It’s an interesting time to start the project, but poorly chosen! Writing a blog post when you’re in the depths of despair is never a good idea either.
Half the time I suspect my sole aim in life is keeping myself from thinking too much. Letting your brain get fogged up with useless data or keeping it busy with insignificant projects like mood charts, mind-mapping digital art, databasing your CD collection and writing letters to the world (blog posts)… they’re all just ways of anaesthetizing yourself for a while.
Music makes you happy at times; it’s like your own private cocoon of good beats. Then you go away and get ready for bed, and and it turns on you… wails in your head like a Greek chorus of restless ghosts, and your mood gets very blue. Some songs I’ve learned to avoid because they are black holes of melodious depression.
One I conjured up just now is the opposite of that. Somehow it refuses to be turned into anything quite as miserable, though it’s old, therefore dripping with nostalgia… I relate it to places we don’t live in any more, and to family members long since gone. And yet…
I will keep it in my head for the rest of the night; it’s a tonic! You can have it when I’m done, but not till then.
Sleep is another good way of passing the time — you forget your cares for a while, even if your dreams introduce you to a distorted group of new ones. The best part is just after you turn off the light, when you curl up in the warm with your arm over Little Witness, feeling nobody can get at you till dawn pries at your blinds.
In the period before you fall asleep, you line up your most pleasant thoughts and count them. “These things I shall do tomorrow… beginning with deleting that mood chart or changing it to something different. Then I’ll re-read my latest blog post and see if it’s improved at all during the night.” Sometimes they do. Other times they turn into twisted heaps of rage and and angst, and the best thing you can do with them is put them out of their misery before anybody else spots them.
One thing that’s pretty bad, though, is if you’re reading old posts in your blog and you discover such a sea-change happened when you weren’t looking, and most of your posts have turned into grotesque, windblown skeletons you would rather not know about. As a result, I either avoid reading anything I’ve written that’s older than six months, or I delete these horrors when I trip over any.
Even while we distract ourselves from looking at life too closely, we distract ourselves from our own past distractions. It’s easy to live only in the moment… just sing Mouldy Old Dough to yourself and fall asleep.
In the iPad App Store on Monday, I downloaded this week’s free app — MindNode, a tool that helps set out the groundwork for projects. I love new apps, and it doesn’t hurt when they’re free, but I absolutely adore making plans… probably more than carrying them out. When it comes to organizing in general, my computer groans with deeply-nested files; defolderifying is required when my system proves more of a hindrance than a help. I should probably delete redundant files altogether — those awful old merged fractals from 2007, for instance… I can do a lot better nowadays.
It can be hard to let go, sadly. My middle name should be Squirrel.
As any squirrel knows, sorting resources into careful heaps and folders is calming. It’s an acceptable way of gloating over your hoard while allowing you to feel more in control… so I had hopes this mind-mapping thing would be a useful weapon against the encroaching world. In my experience, plans morph into action surprisingly quickly, leading to greater self-confidence and a lot less of the energy-sapping procrastination I’m prone to.
“Incredible — I sorted that out myself! No dithering for days on end wondering what to do!”
It astonishes you to discover you’re a rational adult and can take on many comers, regardless of their role in life. Usually that phenomenon is attributable to pencil, paper and copious notes, and it’s also why MindNode now lurks on my iPad.
So far, so good.
You can’t, however, be a rational adult without questioning yourself and others, so there are reasons for me to be sceptical as well as hopeful.
First of all, mind-mapping looks and sounds terribly technical and arcane, and you wonder if you’re doing it right, particularly when not learning anything from it. You suspect it’s an attention-seeking gimmick that does the job no better than merely writing lists. Mind maps don’t present with a neat appearance, so how could they be better? They start in the middle of the page and sprawl in different directions… what if you ran out of room and started writing on the table by accident? A mouse could make a nest in someone’s mind map and feel completely at home.
Secondly, I know myself too well! A helpful and instructive tool becomes a blunt instrument in my hands. I bludgeon myself with it remorselessly, then give up, disillusioned and bruised.
It’s one thing ‘actioning’ a highly-targeted plan when there’s a time limit and a specific outcome in mind. It’s another to ‘improve’ myself or my daily life with something like a Chart of Chores or a To Do List, because these tend to be grandiose, pernickety, perfectionist schemes, quickly tired of and forgotten.
Who wants all of their time earmarked in advance, even for pleasant pastimes like watching Blackadder’s schemes on TV? Years ago I created such a time chart in an effort to combat a bad spell of procrastination, but I never tried it out. It’s still in my nested folders somewhere. I could draw up a new one specifying “read blogs at 10 every Sunday morning”, but it’s unlikely to happen. This is real life: I read blogs at different times during the week and could be there for anything from two minutes to two hours. I’m not a robot, and there’s no point trying to programme myself as though I am one.
iNotRobot. Depressing but true.
There’s a To Do List app in my arsenal, but it wasn’t at all long before I deleted it. For the right kind of people it’s excellent, and they doubtless use it the right way. I, on the other hand, use it completely the wrong way, so for me it wasn’t working. There’s something about being told what to do that makes me dart like a spooked squirrel the other way — even if the person telling me to do it is me.
Before discovering the app, my usual organizational methods included (and still include):
- Lists — I love lists
- Spreadsheets and charts
I don’t use the iPad’s Reminder app as it’s never worked for me… too limited, or so I thought when I tried it. I can’t remember much about it now, but a lingering impression is that there were only so many items I could add to a page. I would tell it to alert me to something, and either the alert wouldn’t arrive, or I’d be uninterested and ignore it when it did.
By ‘journaling’ I don’t mean bullet journals, which I haven’t yet tried — I mean ordinary ‘dear diary’ journaling. This has surprising strengths which I should probably go into another time. The gist is that you start with a problem and enter into a conversational spiral, one thought leading to another… ending up fairly consistently with an idea of what will work and what won’t. Sometimes when you re-read, you pick up on things you forgot, which is all to the good. It’s like an old-fashioned ‘text’ version of problem-solving mind-mapping, no neater than a pictorial mind-map, and though I’ve filled out most of my thoughts fairly satisfactorily, you are left with a mass of text you might never read again. Unless you type your diary on computer and remember the keywords you used, you’d find it difficult to search for a particular event or idea.
That said, I love journaling, and wouldn’t stop for all the tea in China (or anywhere else in this globalized world). Mind-mapping should be just my cuppa, shouldn’t it, even if I don’t have carte blanche to waffle on?
To get to grips with my use of the MindNode app…
This isn’t intended as a review or how-to page, and I’m not going to focus on the technicalities of how to use it, but I’ll just comment that it’s easy for beginners — you don’t need an instruction manual, other than a couple of starting tips. Fiddly to use at times, but it’s good to be able to move things around or delete them altogether — an aspect which must blow pen and paper mind-mapping out of the water.
My first experiment
When trying it out for the first time, I mind-mapped an established creative process in digital art. My aims were to (1) provide a reference to keep me working quickly without getting bogged down; (2) potentially to inspire. I hoped mind-mapping might live up to its reputation and work some mindspace voodoo. Who knew what it might do? I lived in hope.
In the process of creating my nebulous map of creativity, I ran up against a few problems.
- I got confused about what should come under certain tags. For instance, radiating away from the word ‘artwork’, a key word in the map is ‘organize’. I read somewhere that you should use one-word terms rather than pin yourself down with something more specific. OK, keep it loose. Should I then go on to list organizational methods like folders and databases — or platforms like the iMac — or the type of resources to be organized, such as Bryce master files, Photoshop brushes, tutorials and so on? These are long lists — how do I put everything in one place without making the mind map explode?
- This led to the possibility of repeating the terms like ‘organize’ elsewhere in the mind-map, but I feared that might be against the rules. Also, how do you tie in ‘platforms’ with ‘software’, specific creative processes and different types of resources in a neat and orderly fashion, seeing as the software all worked together in some cases but not others — while working from different platforms in different ways — so I couldn’t list everything neatly in one place, moving in a sedate direction therefrom?
The results of this, my first experiment in mind-mapping:
- No benefit. I had no room for all the items I wanted, and it was as though I hadn’t got to grips with the problem — if there was one.
- The process I tried to clarify showed itself in its true colours. It’s a creative process that pulls in resources and inspiration from everywhere, and you can’t list these, slot them in one logical place or plan them robotically. This is something I should already have realized, and I didn’t need a mind-mapping session to tell me that.
- I found no inspiration or new ideas.
- If used as a reference to keep me on track, it would add an extra, unnecessary step. It wouldn’t improve matters, being more likely to throw me off.
Even so, I realized I’d used the process wrongly with a subject too big (or not properly broken down to something more rational), while having no clear and specific aim. It would be unfair to condemn it on such grounds. I’ve never before mind-mapped, and needed time to consider how best to use it. Some of my first attempts are bound to be duds.
Ploughing grimly on
If I was not to discard the baby with the bath water, it was clear I should do more research. It wasn’t looking at all good for my experiment, which I now viewed with a degree of irritation. I was hot all over, my heart raced, my brows beetled and I was starting to pout.
I recognize that soul-destroying feeling from other projects I’ve not been good at.
Baking is definitely one, when I start off with fond ambitions of delicate, beautifully decorated little cakes and wafting cinnamon smells, and end up feeling it’s all more hassle than it’s worth. After which I start chucking flour around in lumps and slamming badly-shaped objects in the oven. Another recent project was mindfulness — I was determined to give it a go because I might learn useful life skills, but every time it asked me to do something such as imagining a peaceful scene while repeating a senseless question over and over, dull rage surged up and I had to put the book down. So I’ve not yet read it.
That doesn’t mean I won’t read it… the real reason I’m irritated is it’s something I want to do but it turned out not to be that easy or pleasant. Also there’s still the worry it’s overhyped and I won’t get what I wanted: a better life and a better me. I’m not the perfect person I was fondly imagining.
Oooh. We have now reached the point in this narrative where I was getting these dangerous rumbles over mind-mapping. It was distinctly worrying but I grimly soldiered on. The only way to turn this around was to find out what other people use it for.
One site provided me with some real ‘ah ha!’ moments, and I gleaned the following:
- Mind-mapping is used for problem-solving. (I’d been thinking in terms of organizing and streamlining; not quite the same thing).
- Think of the keywords in terms of headers rather than processes. If I was planning a party, I would have lists for food, guests, games, music and ‘things to do’ before the big day. The chances are low that I would head one of my lists ‘Organize’!
- Leading on from this, I can see my worry about repeating keywords doesn’t matter… it’s flow and direction that matter. You are trying to get somewhere, and it’s not a crime if there are half a dozen information offices in your map, provided they are all well-located and useful.
- The biggest break-through for me was when it was pointed out you could use mind-mapping to plan blog posts.
A better attempt
All my pouts vanished, and in no time at all I was embarking on my second experiment: Mission Mind Map. If that term seems a little familiar, it’s because it is!
Shortly after starting, I knew I was onto a winner.
- I was now thinking in terms of headings and lists, and didn’t get stuck.
- Item order mattered. Things don’t just spring up in the middle of nowhere, and the map finally had a direction.
You see, I was finally getting the hang of it, but my pernickety nature ensured I aimed for at least two items per heading. You can’t have a list of one, can you? In a mind map it’s really about flow, like in my diary… one thought leading to another — but while thinking of thoughts as lists, I wanted two leading on from one, and would fish for another point just to make up numbers.
That’s the feng shui approach to mind-mapping, I guess — or plain OCD.
I enjoyed it; it was a lot of fun. I was able to go into detail without forgetting minor points or losing the shape of what I was writing about.
The next worry, however, was how to get the mind map into my document. The idea of swiping back and forth between it and my blog post didn’t appeal.
Of course, MIndNode wouldn’t have been a proper app if it didn’t have a solution! I was able to convert it into a column of text in my favourite writing app. First of all it arrived in a mad jumble, starting with my last point and ending with the introduction. So I went back and moved everything round the other way, reimported, and this time items appeared in the right order.
When I remembered things I’d forgotten, I made direct changes to the text column rather than edit the mind map itself. I was tempted to think of the map as a finished product, like a picture, but it’s only a stage. It had already done the main work and was not part of the equation any longer.
Some of my changes and additions in the text column arrived as long lines and paragraphs, which is how I’ve always written. I put ‘brief’ ideas in the right places, and these immediately start growing, forming the nucleus of the post itself. In contrast, placed in a mind map, they would remain short snippets of text to be fleshed out later rather than ‘now.’ The process of allowing your notes to expand immediately can take you in new directions, and these are sometimes worthwhile. On the other hand, it’s confusing if these weren’t directions you meant to go in, leaving your original point jostling for place.
Perhaps the mind map is not a hindrance to the evolution of your post — more a temporary postponement of narrative in favour of deeper structure. It still reminds me of my use of journals to ‘problem-solve’… one thought leading to another and ending in a plan. It’s certainly keeping me busy and I’ve not yet abandoned this mass of text! I’m polishing sections of this before I’ve even written the rest of it — it’s partly procrastination; partly because in some sense it’s been written already, and I can relax and not worry that I’ll forget things.
A few days ago, I was listening to a song that has stayed in my head all the time I’ve been writing this. Long Time Coming (David Sneddon).
And in a deeper part of me
A stronger soul is breaking free
And I want you to know
Can’t hold me down for any more
Pull myself from off the floor
And I want you to know
Based on my short experience of it, pros and cons for mind-mapping as part of a writing process?
- Cuts down the usual muddle, though not completely.
- Possibly you would axe redundant topics before spending much time writing them.
- Otherwise short and lazy posts would become longer and more detailed, though I don’t entirely know if that’s good!
- It becomes less intimidating to deal with your blog topic overall; you don’t need to put it off to a later time when your thoughts are less scattered.
- Tendency to waste time tidying the map — trying to balance it out and make it beautiful.
- Mine was inside-out and back-to-front, but there’s a setting to adjust that.
- This way of laying out your thoughts seems difficult to read. I showed it to a friend who commented: “I couldn’t get my head round it! It’s too much like the kind of thing the office used to produce as one of their many flavour of the month initiatives!” I can sympathize because I dreamed about mice (the ones nesting in it) and have no love for the corporate environment myself.
- The map is transformed into a column of indented headers. Why not write them that way in the first place? This is one I find hard to explain away.
- There’s a risk it disrupts one’s usual thought process. My style is conversational, but what if the mind map keeps me so much on the straight and narrow that I fail to follow some enticing side-path? On the other hand, the map probably makes sure I see the side paths, shoehorning all of them in. Both aspects could be bad.
- I already write long posts which could now become three times as long. Maybe you waste time overwriting it initially and need to trim it down later. The length of the text column generated from the mind map was putting me off, so progress was quite slow. I would ‘flesh out’ a section then scroll hopefully down, thinking, “There, I wrote quite a lot, I must be near the end?” Unfortunately, the tail of the mind map trails forever into the distance…
- My initial structure is too rigid. When I know what I want to say and look for somewhere to add it, I see what’s already there and there’s no logical place. Reading all the previous stuff, I promptly lose track of my new idea. Normally I write down phrases in my head before they are gone, fitting them together later. Perhaps it’s not the mind-mapping itself that’s at fault, more my use of the technique — I need to start with a looser structure and not break things down too much in the first place. It would leave me more room to move. Though that begs the question — why change from your existing method?
In any case, here it is… my mind-mapped blog post.
I am glad I persevered and didn’t give in to my attack of the blue devils. In the future I can see myself using MindNode for jotting down blog ideas, perhaps in combination with a page of ‘fully-sprung’ paragraphs, ‘use or lose’.
I still don’t see mind-mapping as a problem-solver — my problems may never have been that complicated. For me it’s: ‘Do research, write email or make purchase. Done!’
In decision-making I write lists of pros and cons; I can’t imagine using a mind map for that normally, but it was more complicated when choosing a new camera recently. I set up a chart composed of what I wanted from the new camera, showing how different models fulfilled these points compared to each other. Using this, I wrote lists of cameras in each context from best to worst. Different cameras came out on top in different contexts, but some listed high more frequently than others. There was a clear winner and it wasn’t the most obvious, being an older model I’d initially dismissed. I only added it belatedly for the sake of comparison, but it did so well (and blew off the roof in a number of reviews) that it seemed the only real option.
The newer camera model I nearly bought, praised in several reviews, would have been a pleasing choice as it was nice in its way… but it was not as good a camera, or as appropriate for me.
The above was in part a visual decision-making process but was not mind-mapping!
The idea of a mind map as study aid is interesting. In history, for instance — you could put main events in order and break them down. It would certainly help you write essays.
I’m still not sure why a mind map would work better than a series of lists. It was a great relief to me when I saw mine laid out as an ordered column of text. The ‘visual’ aspect doesn’t work when it comes to writing, as my usual need is to establish direction, not relationship.
I lost the plot towards the end of writing this, but it’s probably my fault for including too much detail and moving away from the visual map to an unbroken text column!
Will I continue to use it? Yes, I want to, and can make it work for me. Time will tell in the end, though my horoscope yesterday offered the following:
Someone’s ‘good idea’ could have you captivated – even if it means shifting things round yet again. The prospect of advance both at work and in financial matters could bring a smile too. With encouragement from someone who’s good at focus and who knows exactly how to present things on paper, you could enjoy a day of ‘personal development planning’.
I assume this would be over and above basics such as food, fresh water, shelter, blankets, a couple of changes of clothing, etc. If Little Witness was on board with me, he would have to be one of the items, as I’m not leaving him to sink beneath the waves.
Second, I’d want a fully-charged iPad so I can tell somebody I fetched up on this little island… no I don’t know the co-ordinates, but we were on our way to some place… sorry, I thought I heard a noise but it was just a coconut dropping. Let me move out from under this palm tree. OK, bye.
While waiting in comfort for help to arrive, I would study the environment and wonder about the other three things I really should have with me.
A good book would be a boon. You would think my Kindle would be suitable as it has a fair-sized library on it, but battery power on this island is a non-renewable resource. I would be better off with a long and engrossing paperback… perhaps The Memoirs of Cleopatra (Margaret George) or a Lymond novel by Dorothy Dunnett. The first Hornblower book would be a good choice from a nautical point of view, or (better yet) the full set of Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian.
Are you sure I can’t have them all? Dorothy Dunnett then, as it’s years since I last read any.
The six volumes follow the life and career of the charismatic Francis Crawford of Lymond, the younger son of the Crawfords of Culter, members of the landed aristocracy of the Scottish Lowlands. Brought up according to the Renaissance ideal of an educated autodidact, he is a polyglot, knowledgeable in literature, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences, a practitioner of all the martial arts, a spell-binding musician, a talented thespian, and a master strategist with a genius for imaginative tactics.
Two more items?
A stationery set. I insist that counts as one item and will include paper, pens, pencils, ruler, eraser and sharpener. Then I can blog to you about what it’s like sitting on a desert island waiting for somebody to come. I wouldn’t be able to publish my adventure till later, but it would give me something to do. If there are colour pencils in there too, I could draw geckos and beetles, pretending I’m a female version of Stephen Maturin.
How many items is that? Four. I need one more.
A nice big chunky bar of chocolate comes to mind, refusing to be dismissed, especially if I can keep it cool and the ants don’t get to it. I’d eat it slowly while reading the Dorothy Dunnett novel, and the rescue boat would arrive just as I polished off the last piece.
Provided no lives were lost, that would be a good day.
‘Today,’ said Lymond, ‘if you must know, I don’t like living at all. But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure. Tomorrow I’ll be bright as a bedbug again.’
― Dorothy Dunnett, The Disorderly Knights
In my last post I talked about being over-connected by tech, so wasn’t surprised to find the following article in the Scottish Daily Mail:
If these alerts are ignored, the garments will get in touch with a clothing charity and ask to be recycled
In this brave new world that’s to be our future, I can see myself and my clothes falling out *big* time.
If they stalked off to the local charity shop and I had to fetch them home again, they’d be in the dog house for sure. Even worse would be if something I used to own gossiped about me all around town.
It was her over there; I used to be her skirt. She got tired because my label was always digging into her back… like so!… so that was me out on my ear. By the way, she paid £5 less for me than you did. Bwahahahaha.
Doesn’t it just make you want to kick that skanky rag down the stairs?
I found myself wondering if people would be able to buy ‘smart’ teddy bears. They would send you random emails… not too regularly or too frequently… just often enough to keep you guessing.
I was just thinking about you yesterday. I know you’re still alive, because I can hear you walking around the house. It’s cosy inside this bin bag and I get on well with the others, but feel somewhat taken for granted.
Ratzo next to me says he’s thinking of emailing Save the Children. He reckons he might be bought by a nice careful eleven year-old girl, someone who carries him around everywhere, but I said if he’s unlucky he will end up as a dog toy. So I wouldn’t do it.
I think I persuaded him, but you should come and talk to him yourself. He really needs to get out of here soon — I fear for his sanity.
Wait a sec, my phone rang… just off to see who it is.
Love and hugs,
It would be bad enough if you only had a few bears, but if you had a collection of over a dozen bears and they all sat around texting and emailing you, it would drive you to distraction.
What would be even more unbearable would be if some of your bears were wearing clothes, and those decided to start texting and emailing as well.
I’ve been on this bear for three years without a break… he doesn’t even take me off at night, which is truly abysmal. Is there a chance of a nice soothing soak in warm water with a gentle eco fabric conditioner? A jasmine-fragranced one would be perfect.
Pure fantasy, I know; it wouldn’t get that bad. But even if you only had one ‘smart bear’, it would become difficult on a whole other level. Normally, when you have a bear, you have your own idea of his character… his likes, dislikes and the kind of conversations he would have with you. It would definitely jar if he was sending emails that sounded nothing like your idea of him.
Take, for instance, the Little Witness.
He and I like all the same things, of course. We appreciate our iPad a little too much. We enjoy the games we play on it — such as Trolls vs Vikings — and are happy when Inspector Montalbano brightens the TV. We have all the time in the world for each other, and our spats and arguments are few.
I wouldn’t be happy if he took to sending emails that clashed with my picture of him.
I was looking on Amazon just now and ordered a 7″ Kindle Fire. It’s a better tablet than that over-priced Apple rubbish you have. Incidentally, we watch too much TV and lie in bed too long — it’s time we started going for some nice long walks in the early morning air. If we haven’t made it to the top of yonder hill by noon tomorrow, I will contact the local gym and book a life membership with your credit card. You don’t need to worry about the expense, as I suspect you don’t have much life left anyway, so the membership will soon expire.
I’m sorry if you don’t like me lecturing you… it’s all for your own good. The boffins at the EU told me to keep an eye on you.
It would be the end of a beautiful friendship.
I recently listed a few pestilences of modern life in my diary.
(1) Corporate arrogance and technology in general… lack of customizability and options; the forced pace of progression (whether real or artificial). Products becoming obsolete long before they’ve actually broken down or outlived their usefulness. I can’t afford to keep updating or subscribing to everything. Things aren’t always matching up so that everything works together at the same time… like camera, different kinds of software, the hardware, scanner, printer… there’s always something that’s not able to use something else because it’s too old. Everything and everybody is supposed to be seamlessly connected, but it’s not working out that way. I’m starting to ask myself why I bother — I’d like to dump all of this stuff and just knit, tend my plants, watch a few DVDs and read paperbacks!
(2) Apps (and subscription software). Sometimes a project is interrupted (temporarily or permanently) because the way the app works changed in an update. It’s not progress to have goal posts constantly moved or options taken away.
(3) Keeping everything in the cloud. Huge security risk. And what happens when we lose connection?
(4) An increasing number of ads. It’s reached an impossible level. It doesn’t help when a website doesn’t let you zoom in on the text… their print is too small and my eyesight is not what it was.
(5) Increasing number of photos, podcasts and embedded videos. When an online news article is packed with them, you have to scroll cautiously to get past these obstacles to the next little dollop of text without losing your place… sometimes needing to scroll slightly back because something on the page changed and pushed all the text away. Some videos I’m able to watch, but a few aren’t captioned, or are captioned poorly. It’s frustrating when everyone’s saying how great a video is, but you don’t know what it’s about.
For poorly captioned videos, I’m thinking mostly of YouTube type captions — automatic? I’d rather have them than nothing, but they are hard to follow because, for instance, ‘Brexit’ becomes ‘breaks it’ or ‘breakfast’, and UKIP becomes ‘you kept’. I can barely remember what was said by the end, whereas I have a clearer grasp of content if I read an article or transcript. I don’t know if others find the same? Possibly too much of my concentration is taken up with decoding the captions — it’s as though there’s a filter between me and the information.
Earlier tonight I found the following two articles, both of which are food for thought. They reminded me of the grumbles listed above. Life doesn’t seem richer or smoother — instead it’s becoming more frustrating and not a little frightening.
In Scotland yesterday it was unusually hot. The wind here is generally cool or cold on your skin, but for once it was like a tropical bath. Our bus stopped for a small group of people who took their time buying tickets. The sun burning through the windows became intense. Heatstroke started to seem like a real possibility, and when we finally got moving again, fresh air circulated through the bus and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t think we could take many such hold-ups.
When we got to town, there were queues in shops where there are normally few people; tourists and locals ‘enjoying’ a day out. It’s odd when you think about it — shopping is the least fun thing to do when you’d rather sit in the shade with an ice lolly.
According to weather reports we were heading for thunderstorms, so it wasn’t surprising when the sky started lighting up that night. At 2 a.m. when everyone was in bed, the menace was profound… ancient forces were stalking the land. Like mice, we lay quiet in our lonely burrows, hoping to escape the attention of something much bigger than us.
Lamp switched off; curtains closed; all I could see was the repeated repulsing of outer darkness. A picture formed in my mind of houses huddled across the curve of the earth. Nothing dared go abroad while the storm stepped overhead with stately imperiousness. It was all very old and powerful, and I could imagine dinosaurs in the streets and in open fields, hoary heads swinging, on the hunt for prey.
In the midst of all this I started worrying about the sunflower.
It normally sits in the kitchen window but was crawling with aphids. I didn’t want the little horrors to spread to my chillis, so put the sunflower out for the night. Standing on the doorstep, I belatedly remembered the snails, and put the pot on the top shelf of a tall garden what-not which was standing beside the back door. Above my head, the sunflower stabbed the night with its loathsome burden of greenfly.
Now, in my darkened room, I had visions of this slender green rod attracting lightning. The aphids would burn up, which would be great… but, less happily, so would the sunflower. I could get up and move it to ground level, but told myself not to be so stupid. After all, the house is taller than the sunflower… if there’s any stray lightning around, it’s more likely to hit the roof.
Being all too aware of aforementioned ancient forces, you have no wish to stir out of bed. I didn’t want to be found on the doorstep the next morning as a small pile of ash covered in slime trails, so the sunflower would have to take its chances.
Lying in bed, not sleeping, you still worry.
The cats were indoors and in their beds, probably as glad about that as I was. Was everything unplugged? I reassured myself I was unlikely to be zapped and there was nothing I could do to make it less likely, while probably a lot I could do to make it more likely… then was disturbed by a memory. Something happened on a night like this years ago.
That other night, I lay awake with frequent flashes of lightning punctuating the darkness. The rain came down so hard it bounced off the tarmac. Suddenly there was a crash, causing me to leap up and run around to see if anything had blown up. It wasn’t till next day I found the aerial booster had stopped working, though the TV itself was fine! Ha.
I said there was a crash that night, but it’s not that simple. I’m profoundly deaf. I only know I started to my feet all of a sudden, and it wasn’t out of panic… it was because some internal alert had gone off abruptly, as yours would if there was a loud bang in your house.
Fortunately last night was uneventful. It rained, the sunflower fell off its perch and the aphids disappeared. There was thunder I couldn’t hear, which lacks all drama — yet I knew something big had passed.