How Writers Can Use Cardsmith to Brainstorm Ideas, Organize Them, and Create a Portfolio of Their Best Work

Erica Martin
Feb 17 · 6 min read
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

If you’re a writer and have been looking for a tool that allows you to create mind maps as well as grids to organize different projects and/or clients, there is. You can use Cardsmith to create mind maps and grids that you can use to organize your writing projects and research. But what is Cardsmith and how can you use it as a writer? I’m going to explain in this post.

What is Cardsmith?

Cardsmith ( is a website where users can create different boards. It’s similar to Trello or Asana, but not with as many plug-ins. The beautiful thing about Cardsmith though is that it also has a freeform view that you can use to create mind maps to brainstorm different project ideas.

Cardsmith Views

As I mentioned, you can take advantage of different views for your projects. I’ll explain how writers can use each view in this section.

Freeform view

The freeform view lets you arrange your cards however you want. You can create links between the cards by going to the first card, clicking the button in the bottom left corner, and choosing “Link to”. Then you select your destination card. This draws a line in between the first card and the destination card, so it looks more like a mindmap. Check out these mind maps I created as an example:

Screenshot taken by the author.

Tile View

Tile view displays your cards a small version of your cards in a row. You can change the position of your cards in the row, but can’t do much else. I don’t recommend freelance writers use this one.

Grid View

The grid view works a bit differently, because what it does is create a table. You can add rows or columns to it. However if you add a lot, you’ll have to scroll to see all the content in them. This could be a great way for freelancers to create a simple portfolio of their work. Here’s an example of a portfolio I created of my curated Medium stories:

Screenshot taken by the author.

Card Features


If you press the “T” button on the card to add a text field, you can add a tag as well as additional text describing the card if you want to. This works great if you want to add the name of a website you’re writing for, or the description of a project.


You can also add images to your cards. It could be an image you want to use in your project or one you just want to use to represent what the post is about. Check out this example here:

Screenshot taken by the author.


You can also add a checklist to your card, for example for the process you’re going to use. Here’s an example of a checklist I added to a card:

Screenshot taken by the author


You can also add links to your cards. These could be links to resources you’re using to write your piece, or a link to your rough draft if you use Google docs.

Use it to Show Off Your Best Work

Create a board in grid view. Add columns for each website or publication you’ve been published in. Create a card with a link to each article you’ve written. This could get a little long if you’ve been published on many different websites, but it’s a great way to show off your work if you can’t afford an author website. Here’s a screenshot of a writing portfolio I created:

Screenshot taken by the author.

How to Create a Mindmap

Out of all these ideas, I think Cardsmith is most useful for creating mind maps. There two ways to do it — by using their template, or creating one on your own. I’ll start by explaining how to create one on your own.

  1. Create a new board — call it something like “Mindmap”
  2. Make sure the freeform view is selected and drag the first card to the center of the board. Name it based on your project. As an example, I’ll use “Work from home e-book.”
Screenshot taken by the author.

3. Cardsmith automatically creates another card when you press “Enter.” Start entering ideas for details you want to include, like names of companies you want to talk about or other details you want to include.

Screenshot taken by the author

4. As you can see here, I’ve got a bunch of cards lined up in a row. They’re not going to stay this way though.

5. Drag the cards so they’re kind of in a circle around the first card you made.

6. Click the dropdown menu in the bottom of the center card and choose “link to:”

Screenshot taken by the author

7. Choose one of the detail cards. Now you should see a line between the two of them:

Screenshot taken by the author

8. Do the same to the rest of the cards in your circle. Now you have the beginnings of a mindmap.

Screenshot taken by the author.

9. You can keep expanding the mind map by following the same steps to connect the other cards to new cards that you come up with that provide details about your cards. These could be links, pictures, or other details you want to include.

Another Way to Create a Mindmap

If you don’t want to go through this whole process, there’s another way you can create a mindmap. Go to the upper left corner of the main page and choose “create from template.”

Screenshot taken by the author.

Click on the link that takes you to the template library:

Screenshot taken by the author.

Scroll down to the very bottom of the next page and choose “Writing Mindmap” in the “Other” category.

Screenshot taken by the author

Make the appropriate changes to the template.

Screenshot taken by the author.

How to create a content planning board

If you don’t write e-books, but write for different websites or have a few websites of your own, you can also use Cardsmith to keep track of assignments you’re working on. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Create a board using the grid view.
Screenshot taken by the author.

2. Insert cards in the cells for your content ideas.

Screenshot taken by the author.

3. Add checklists and links to any resources you want to include in your post.

Screenshot taken by the author.

Follow the same steps for each idea you want to add. As you write each post, you can delete the old card and add a new one. You can use the Text field to add notes you might want to include in your articles.

These are a few ways writers can use Cardsmith to create mind maps, show off their best work, and keep track of ideas for future posts. Out of all of these options, I’ve found it to be most useful for creating mind maps because it’s easy to add a new card, and you can add a lot of information to each card. You could even add links to different resources if you wanted. If you have any further questions about it, check out their Youtube channel or contact them through their website.

The Cardsmith Adventures

Words from the people creating Cardsmith.

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