What is a heart map, and how can it help you learn how to write better? Here’s how I mapped my heart and why I use it to make my writing more grabby.
Heart maps are often used in poetry because they help writers tap into emotions, memories, and experiences. The more heartfelt and emotional your writing is, the more interest it’ll provoke in your reader. That’s what I mean by “grabby.”
If you start using a heart map in your writing, you’ll learn how to write better. Even better – your reader will be enchanted because you yourself will be invested and present in the words you write. You’ll create more emotional and intense stories. Your readers will fall in love with you.
The bad news is that eliciting an emotional response in your reader isn’t the easiest way to learn how to write better. Why? Because if your writing is too sappy or soaked with sorrow, your reader will see right through it. Further, you need to tap into your actual emotions, process them, share them, and not be worried about what your readers think about you after reading your most personal stories and ways of thinking. Easy? I think nope. Priceless? You better believe it.
The good news is that there are many different ways to make your writing more emotional and interesting. Making and using a heart map is one of the most interesting, personal ways to learn how to write better.
What is a heart map?
A heart map is a symbolic representation of the most impactful things that have happened to you. You start with a big blank heart, and you divide it into memories, emotions, experiences, thoughts, place, people – or anything meaningful in your life.
Heart maps are often taught to elementary and middles school kids in poetry or Language Arts class. However, I believe they’re more important for adult writers! We tend to lose touch with our child-like creativity, our impulsive colourful messes, our wild adventures in the artistic forest.
A heart map can be a form of art therapy. If you’re a writer is is daring to foray into the world of personal blogging for emotional healing, then a heart map will help you learn how to be a better writer.
Steps to making a heart map for writers
I made my heart map in about 15 minutes, plus colouring time. I suggest taking more time than that. Making a heart map is an important process for writers, and it’s not good to rush through it.
1. Get paper and coloured pencils
Take an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper, and draw a heart on it. I used half a sheet of paper, because I wasn’t sure I had enough time to make a full-size heart map. Plus, I wanted to test my tips for how to write better with a heart map before I actually wrote this blog post!
2. Listen to the still small voice
Answer some, all, or none of the following “heart map” questions in one, two, three, or four word phrases:
- Who are the most important people in my life?
- What is the most meaningful and good thing that has ever happened to me?
- What is the most meaningful and bad thing that has ever happened to me?
- Where was I when my heart was broken the first, second, third, and fourth times?
- What is my biggest regret? Mistake? Loss?
- When was I happiest? When was I most broken?
- What secrets do I keep in my heart?
- How can I share the most meaningful events in my life in one or two words?
These questions are only the surface of all the possible ways to fill in your heart map. Don’t limit yourself to these questions.
When you answer the questions for your hart map, be as specific as possible. Vague sentiments such as “peace” and “joy” aren’t as helpful as more specific experiences such as “losing my sister.”
When I made my heart map – which has already taught me how to be a better writer – I simply brainstormed the most significant events in my life.
Write your answers in different sections of your heart map. What goes in the middle? Whatever is most important to you: a person, a place, a memory, a loss. I put the Holy Spirit in the middle of my heart map because that is my source of light, peace, joy, energy, hope, faith, guidance, and wisdom.
You might color the different sections of your heart map with different colors. I coloured “can’t have kids” in grey, “surrender” in blue, “being a Big Sister” in purple, etc. I left “turning 45”, “still small voice”, and “being present” white.
How to Write Better With a Heart Map
Theoretically, your heart map will put you more in touch with your emotions and experiences. The more self-aware and insightful you are, the more authentic your writing will be. Connecting with your emotions and memories will help you remember stories from your life. You can use those stories to bring your writing to life.
Even if you never use the emotions in your heart map – even if you never share your heart map with anyone – the experience of creating a heart map will help you see what’s most important to you. For example, I didn’t realize that giving my dog away was such a huge event in my life! It’s a big part of me, and this awareness will help me be a better writer. I know more about myself now. And the more I know, the more I can share.
Help with creative writing
Do you need inspiration to write? Read Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine. She’s the author of Ella Enchanted – and in this books, she shows how you can get terrific ideas for stories, invent great beginnings and endings, write sparkling dialogue, and develop memorable characters. She advises you about what to do when you feel stuck, and offers writing exercises that will set your imagination on fire.
That really is the best tip on how to write better: use different tips of writing activities (such as creating and using a heart map!) to develop your craft.
What is Gail Carson Levine’s writing process? Simple:
“No music,” she says. “No rituals. At home I write in my office or on the laptop in the kitchen where our puppy likes to sleep, and I love his company. But I’ve trained myself to be able to work anywhere, and I write on trains, planes, in automobiles (if I’m not the driver), airports, hotel rooms. I travel often. If I couldn’t write wherever I was I would get little done. I also can write in short bursts. Fifteen minutes are enough to move a story forward.”
She doesn’t have room in her life for writer’s block, does she?
Questions for you
Have you ever heard of using a “heart map” in your writing? Do you think a heart map help you learn how to write better?
I posted my heart map on my bulletin board, and will use it for inspiration when I’m stuck. I feel happy and peaceful when I look at it. I see at a glance how much I’ve experienced – and this is just a 15 minute brain dump! If I spent a few days adding to a bigger heart map, I have no doubt my writing would become more personal and connectable.
And that’s how we learn how to write better. We get in touch with ourselves – especially the dark, sad, and sorrowful parts.
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.” – Isak Dinesen.
For more writing tips, read Writing Techniques That Make Words Come Alive.