Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Writing Life: Organic Notes as a Writing Tool

By JJ Murphy

Sometimes it is easier to make a picture with words than it is to write words in a line. Some writers call this process organic notes or brainstorming.

Here are the steps.

1. Use single words or short phrases and write using capital letters. Some researchers believe that your eyes and brain remember capital letters more easily.

Use a separate page for each subject.

2. Write your subject in the center of a blank page. You can put a circle around it if you like.

3. Draw a line from the subject to each main idea.

4. Draw a line from each main idea to each detail that supports the main idea.

5. Use colors or shapes to connect each train of thought.

6. Draw arrows to connect related ideas.

Use the pictures and images you are creating as a jumping off point for writing. What you begin with may not be where you end, but it may allow you to see your topic from a new perspective.
Use this technique as a writing exercise when you are staring at a blank page or screen. Peter Elbow’s open ended writing technique in WRITING WITH POWER suggests you begin with a ten minute freewrite.

Read what you’ve written, select the main theme and use it for another ten minute freewrite. If you choose this technique, how did your thoughts and associations compare with your organic notes?

Organic notes can help you see where you may need to fill in gaps in knowledge or anecdotal example. They can help you see a bias; they can also help you form new associations. This is a simple, yet reliable tool to strengthen both fiction and nonfiction writing.

Writer and naturalist JJ Murphy,, offers creative nature curriculum, wild food recipes, fiction, poetry, articles and writing services for individuals, entrepreneurs, small businesses and ecologically aware companies.

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