Charlotte’s Web is my all-time favorite children’s book. I read it several times as a young girl, and I have read it with both of my boys as well. I even really enjoy the movies (cartoon and real-person). In this story, Charlotte (the spider) uses her ability to weave or spin webs and combines it with her intelligence to save her friend Wilbur’s (a pig) life. Charlotte’s webs conveyed simple ideas about her subject in such a significant way that others were motivated to break their usual habits resulting in a long life for Wilbur.
Weaving an effective web (also known as webbing, mind mapping & clustering) with regard to generating and organizing ideas can produce much the same impact as did Charlotte’s webs if a few, simple guidelines are followed. As noted in How To… Create and Use an Effective Outline, idea generating techniques like outlining and webbing work well for anyone wanting to generate ideas not just writers. Webbing works well for individuals who prefer visualizing their ideas in more of a picture format, and it can work well for anyone needing to create ideas whether for a project, presentation, procedure or even planning for a vacation or trip (see photo).
- Consider more than one idea. Charlotte discussed ideas with the other barnyard animals, and she even sent Templeton the rat in search of possible words she could use to describe Wilbur. When using a web to generate ideas, avoid limiting yourself to only one line of thinking. Be willing to explore any direction your thoughts might want to go. Remember that this is just idea generating, so you don’t have to ultimately use all (or any) of what you write in your web.
- Give your best effort. Often while having to create her webs, and especially toward the end, Charlotte became very tired. Yet she refused to give up the quality of what she was doing. While we may not always feel like creating new ideas, a web can help us move forward in our best effort for that moment by providing an easy process to follow. Simply writing down one word at a time can create an effective web, which can then help an individual move forward even when ideas are slow in coming.
- Find motivation. Moved by a deep desire to save her friend’s life, Charlotte refused to give up even when hope seemed lost. While webbing provides a terrific visual for recording basic ideas, having the tool does little good with no ideas to write down. Choosing a topic about which you are passionate, flipping through magazines, talking to someone and even going for a run are all great ways to get the ideas flowing and to find the motivation for ideas.
- Follow a general process. “Now for the R! Up we go! Attached! Descend! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat!” While Charlotte had not written words in her web before, she soon found a routine that worked well based on her previous experience weaving webs. Webbing to generate ideas also follows a basic process: Choose a word that identifies your topic and write that in the middle of your paper, then write words all around your main word. These words can be whatever you think of related to your topic. Next, write words around each of those words in similar fashion. You can circle each word you write and connect the circles with a line if you want, creating what looks like a web.
My youngest son lives life very visually and tactilely, and his preferred method of generating ideas is webbing. (He also likes to use Venn diagrams.) As my son and many of my students have taught me, webbing provides a way of processing ideas that more visual and tactile individuals seem to prefer.
Webbing (or whatever you choose to call it) allows for individuals to simply get ideas out of their head and onto paper, a problem that so many of my writing students had, without having to commit to a specific order. The next step quite often is to Create and Use an Effective Outline, but some people (my son for example) move right into writing a draft or completing the steps written down without needing to put them in order. Webbing simply frees up the ideas that so often get stuck in the mind. Once the ideas are out, action can then easily take place.