I’m going to do something totally selfish, but also totally benevolent at the same time…

I want to write a short book, about lead generation.  But I don’t want to fit the additional writing time into my already cramped schedule.

And so I’m planning the book as a series of short essays, and will be writing them over the next couple weeks.  What you’ll be getting will basically be a rough draft of the book, packed with all the juicy content the final version will contain.

But because you’re already on my email list, you won’t have to pay a penny for it.

The way I’m structuring this, it is one consistent narrative that builds piece-by-piece as you go through the book.  Each essay will certainly hold value on its own, but they will be most useful if you read every essay, in order.

So…  Make sure you read each issue I send you over the next couple weeks, as together they will form some of my best current thinking on lead generation.

(And hint: they will ALSO teach you all about how you can use the “free book” model to generate leads and sell more.  There’s a reason folks like Brendon Burchard, Perry Marshall, Ryan Levesque, Dan Kennedy, and so many others — including a ton of “real” businesses outside the marketing space — are using these free book offers.  THEY WORK!  And I’m going to give you the skinny on how to make them work for you.)

Today’s essay is actually the appendix of the book…

In planning the book, I went back to my most trusted method of getting my ideas out of my head, and into the real world.  And so, because I want to save some of the content for the actual essay that’s going to go into the book, here it is!

How To Get Your Best Ideas Out Of Your Head And Into The Real World

As someone who has made my living writing and creating content for over a decade now, I’ve had to become an expert at thinking.

More specifically, how to clarify my thinking, organize it, and present it in a way that’s easy for others to understand.

And through enough time and practice, it’s become mostly second nature.  I’m able to regularly write 1,000+-word essays off the cuff, with little preparation required.  And usually, they make a lot of sense.  Occasionally, they even draw praise from readers — including some of my biggest heroes, who are among my “regulars.”

But when it comes time to sit down and create something more complex — a book, a speech, or a seminar, for example — I have to force myself to think.

I’ve tried lots of tools… 

Sometimes, a pen and a pad work well. 

The more we move toward a paperless society, the more scientists are finding that there is actually benefit to writing on paper.  It slows us down, forces us to think, and activates completely different areas of the brain than typing.  And so, at least in some instances, I try to do at least some of my thinking on paper.

Other times, free typing on my computer works well. 

The other day, I had an idea that I wanted to get out of my head, in a way that made at least some sense.  So I picked a person with whom I wanted to share that idea, and I wrote them an email.  The informality of most email communication allowed me to riff on the idea, without being too worried about grammar or other small details that could hold me up.

A friend who is a partner in a half-billion-dollar-per-year publishing company insists that any significant new business idea be turned into a 1 to 2 page memo within 24 hours.  This forces clarification of thinking, and keeps a record of the idea from when it is most fresh.

When I have my direct response copywriter hat on, and am preparing to write a 10,000-word sales letter or script for a client, I will often start by trying to capture the idea in the first 1,000 or so words.  This is called the lead, is critical in getting readership and eventual sales, and is enough to get a feel for whether the idea will work or not.  It’s hard to replace this free writing as a way of testing ideas for long sales copy.

But when the content will be complex or have many parts, I go back to my most trusted thinking tool…

Mind maps are the single best way to get complex thoughts out of your head…

FreeMind is a free piece of mind-mapping software, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  (For info and to download, visit http://freemind.sourceforge.net/.)  I’ve used it long enough now that I don’t remember when I discovered it.

FreeMind is nice because it’s simple and no-frills.  It’s not particularly pretty, but once you learn it — an easy proposition — it allows you to “export” and organize your ideas very quickly.  (And if you want to go back and “dress up” your mind maps, you can do that with it, too.)

Here’s a screen shot from FreeMind, showing you roughly what a section of the earliest mind map for this book looked like.

free mind example

Click to view full size.

As you can see, a mind map is a lot like an outline.  But it’s much more flexible.

It’s quick and easy to create each point on the outline (called “nodes” in mind map speak).  A “sibling node” is a point at the same level as your current point — to create a sibling, simply hit enter, and start typing.  A “child node” is one level down — to create a child, hit tab, and start typing.  Get the hang of it, and suddenly you’re putting down a ton of thought in very little time.

And yet, our thoughts never come out quite right.  And this is where mind mapping shines.  With a word processor, you’d have to cut and paste, change indentation, and generally do a song and dance to reorganize ideas.  With FreeMind, you simply click and drag, and can move nodes all around your mind map.

If you want to go back and add ideas?  Well, that’s easy, too.  I often start by getting all my high-level ideas out of my head.  Then, I go back and start to create child nodes to fill in the details.  As you can see in the included screen shot, I wrote general chapter titles, and then wrote in questions that needed to be answered in the chapter.

If you want to write a book or create any other big piece of content, start with a mind map…

It may not be easy at first, if you’re new to mind mapping.  You may have to get over the hurdle of getting used to working with the software.  But once you know how to do that, do this…

Open up an empty mind map.  You’ll see an empty oval in the middle, assuming you’re using FreeMind.  That’s called the “root node” — all other nodes branch off of it.

Here you type your title or the big topic area for your book.  You can always edit later, so just put something here!

Then, start typing!  Hit enter to create a new node (enter on the root node creates a child node — the root has no sibling nodes).  (And if all of this is sounding like too much mind map jargon, just go by sight.  I’m trying to be accurate with my language, but I don’t think about the node names and relationships when I’m brainstorming.)

Type in an idea, a topic, a question that needs to be answered — and enter to submit it.  Then hit enter again to create another node, and type in another idea, topic, or question.

Just keep going.  The idea initially is to get as many ideas “on paper” as possible.

When you start to slow on the main topics, go back to any you’d like to add notes to.  Hit tab to create a child node, and type in your thought, and hit enter to submit.  Hitting enter again will create a sibling of this child node — a sub-point to the big topic.

If at any point one of your nodes has too many branches or child nodes, you can hide them while you’re not working on them.  Double-click on a node with child nodes, and the child nodes will be hidden.  Double-click again and they’ll show up again.

You can do this all in one session, or you can build your content through time…

For this book, I sat down in roughly 30 minutes and mapped out the chapters and content I plan to include.  Because it was already tumbling around in my head, it was pretty quick and easy to do.

When I did a 3-day seminar on advanced direct response copywriting, I spent months fleshing out my content in a mind map, using years’ worth of notes that were also in mind map form.

When it finally came time to sit down and create PowerPoint slides and handouts from the content, I was able to copy, paste, and edit the content in a matter of days (which was a feat for hundreds of slides’ worth of content).

This makes it super-easy to actually sit down and create your content…

Depending on what you’re creating, your writing ability and capacity, and a number of other factors, you have a lot of methods for turning your mind map into a book or other piece of content.

For this book, I’m actually writing each essay from the mind map you saw in the screen shot above.  By planning each chapter in advance, including the questions it needs to answer, I can sit down and quickly crank out each essay or chapter.

On a previous book, I created a mind map then had an interviewer turn it into questions to ask me.  She interviewed me for about an hour, then transcribed the interview.  This formed a great rough draft I could go back and edit, giving me the guts of a book within a couple hours of my work.

And with the seminar, I never turned the mind map into fleshed out text.  Because the content was designed to be delivered spoken, from the front of the room, I simply used the outlines as prompts when giving my talks.  I’ve used this same method in other speaking situations, too — including podcasts, teleseminars, webinars, speeches, and more.

Usually the trickiest part is getting your thinking organized on paper, and this is the fastest, most-efficient way I can recommend…

For most of us (me included), our thoughts aren’t clearly elucidated when the come pouring out of our heads.  They’re fractured and incomplete, lacking detail, and sometimes begging for better structure.

Simply sitting down to stare at a blank page only makes this problem worse.

So use FreeMind, or another piece of mind mapping software.  Give it a try.  Use it to get the ideas out of your head, and onto “paper.”  Once they’re out, look for how you can improve your thinking or the flow.  Reorganize.  Add points.  Fill in details where necessary.

This gives you the skeleton of your book or other piece of content, from which it’s easy to flesh out and add to the content until it’s a finished piece of work.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr