I've been telling my students this week about the cluster: you put a word that represents something important in the middle of a large unlined piece of paper. Draw a circle around it. Let ideas and chains of thought spill onto the page: spoke, new idea, circle it, spoke, related idea--all stemming from this central theme. (Below is a cluster with revision ideas for a book I'm working on. It's hard to see but the central idea in blue/green is "book revision.")
The bubbles contain related changes and ideas.
Clusters are like outlines except they aren't linear. And I like that. It's easy to see the whole picture. I can pick a circle, any circle, and start writing.
I use clusters for all my writing projects and to plan workshops.
A woman I'm working with needs to move ahead right now writing her memoir, but she wants to come back at some point to expand a section that's incomplete. She has lots of ideas for this section and wants to record them--quickly, in shorthand. But she doesn't want her writing momentum to lag right now. Enter: The cluster.
Another client uses a cluster for each chapter of her book--and sub clusters for sections of chapters.
Try one. And let me know what you think, what you learn.
My goals--as a teacher, coach, and speaker--are to help others find fresh meaning in personal experience, discover their unique voices on the page, and shape their life stories into compelling nonfiction.