Heart map writing is surprisingly effective — and fun! These six tips for writing with a heart map will kickstart your writing (or help you maintain the momentum you already have going). Here’s how I mapped my heart and why I use it to make my writing more interesting for both me and my readers.
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 it’ll touch your reader. If your reader’s heart is touched by your writing, then she’ll remember you…and she’ll keep coming back for more. That’s why “heart map writing” can be so powerful.
Using a heart map in your writing will not only help you learn how to write better, it’ll also help you enjoy the writing process. If you like writing, you’ll keep doing it! And thus you’ll overcome the biggest block for writers: not sitting down and writing. Heart map writing also creates emotional and intense stories that hook readers and keep them engrossed.
Here’s the bad news about heart map writing: it’s not easy to learn how to write to the emotions without getting sappy, corny, or overly sentimental. If your writing is too emotional your reader will see right through it. You can prevent this by getting in touch with your heartfelt emotions. Work through them, understand your feelings, and learn how to share them with readers without fearing their reaction. This will help you write personal stories and share memories without getting overly sentimental. Heart maps help you write this way…but it does take practice. And practice takes time!
6 Tips for Better Writing With a Heart Map
The good news is that there are several different and powerful ways to make your writing emotional without being sappy. Creating and using a heart map is one of the best ways to write better.
1. Learn what a “heart map” is
A heart map is a symbolic representation of the most impactful things that have happened to you. You start with a big blank heart — literally drawn on a piece of paper — 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.
2. Make space and gather supplies for your heart map
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.
The supplies for heart map writing are simple: paper and coloured pencils! Simply draw a heart on it on any size paper — most commonly 8 1/2 by 11. 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 heart map writing before I actually wrote this blog post!
3. Listen to the still small voice in your heart
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 heart 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.”
4. Include your most significant life experiences
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.
5. Connect your heart map to your writing process
Theoretically, your heart map will put you more in touch with your emotions and experiences. It may even help you stop hating what you write. 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 don’t actually include your heart map emotions in your writing — and 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. The more I know, the healthier I am and the more I can share.
6. Learn more about creative writing
If you struggle to write creatively, read Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly by Gail Carson Levine. She’s the author of Ella Enchanted – and in this books, she shows writers how to get terrific ideas for stories, invent great beginnings and endings, write sparkling dialogue, and develop memorable characters. She shares writing tips on how to get unstuck and offers writing exercises to fire up a writer’s imagination.
And that’s an excellent tip for better writing, with or without heart maps: use different tips of writing activities to continually develop your skills and hone 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.”
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.