I’ve often had difficulty thinking in straight lines or linear arguments. When I’ve been asked by various teachers at various levels to provide an outline for a presentation or a paper my face changes color (when I was younger it turned white out of fear and not it turns red because I don’t work that way). When I was younger the most useful tool I was ever taught was the idea bubbles: a topic in the center and various topics branching out from the central topic. When I was younger I would do this on a chalkboard or a large piece of paper but this organic type of input was harder to embrace in the digital world of ours. Most all of my work originates and is executed on a computer. Computers are very good at straight lines and linear arguments. They always seem much less good at non-linear input. As I’ve continued in my education and I’ve been expected to keep track of a larger amount of material and bring together ideas that are far apart I’ve needed to reembrace this form of note-taking and idea-forming.
It turns out that there are computer programs for so called “mind mapping” and a quick search for those terms (I’d recommend including “open source” in the search) will return a number of results. This allows me to use a keyboard, include images, keep track of all of the sources, and at the same time produce something that looks more like my mind and less like the red-faced outlines that are so useless to my own process of thinking/creating. If you remember this form of brainstorming and find yourself tied to digital mediums you might want to check out some of these programs. I recommend them for bridging unconnected ideas in interesting ways. They quite literally map your mind.