7 Apps for Inspiration: Get Inspired to Create

7 Apps for Inspiration: Get Inspired to Create

Today, everyone needs to be creative. Whether you’re a writer, designer, or marketer – you need to create. Inspiration makes creativity easier, so when a writing student asked me about apps for inspiration, it made me think about the apps I use. Can apps help you to become inspired?

Apps for Inspiration: Get Inspired on Demand

Can you demand inspiration from yourself? I doubt it. If you try to force inspiration, you’ll choke. However, you can create the right conditions for inspiration to land on you – like the blue bird of happiness. :-)

I’ve come up with seven apps I use which help me to get inspired more or less on demand. The apps create the conditions in which you’re likely to become inspired. They’re in no particular order.

1. Evernote: Your External Brain – and Inspiration

I’ve been using Evernote since 2009. Over the past five years, Evernote has become more and more important to me. I especially like the Related Notes feature. When you start writing a note, Evernote offers you “related notes”. Occasionally, especially if you have lots of notes, Evernote will bring a real gem to the surface, which inspires you.

Most of my thinking happens in Evernote, simply because it’s always available both on my computer and phone. I snap images with the Evernote camera, send handwritten notes from Livescribe (more on Livescribe in a moment) and Penultimtate to Evernote, and record audio notes.

If I want to get inspired, I create a note in Evernote, and start searching and browsing. I write a lot of content, for my clients’ books and blogs, and my own. I wouldn’t be half as creative or productive without Evernote.

2. Penultimate: Take Handwritten Notes on Your iPad

Evernote bought Penultimate, so all your handwritten notes and sketches transfer to Evernote automatically, as soon as you create them.

3. Livescribe Desktop (Requires Livescribe Pen)

Much as I love computers, nothing replaces handwriting for inspiration. I’ve been using Livescribe pens for several years.

Originally, I bought the pens for interviews. It’s wonderful to be able to take notes, and record an interview at the same time, then play back ONLY what you need to hear. It saves transcribing, which takes time, both uploading audio, and then waiting for the transcription to come back.

Over time, I started to use the Livescribe pens and Livescribe Desktop to plan, take notes, and create initial drafts of my writing. You can send any Livescribe page to Evernote.

4. Tinderbox (Mac): Automatic Organization for Your Inspirations

The more you put into Tinderbox, the more inspiration you can draw from it. For me, the app works much like Evernote. I stuff material in, and related material pops out, firing my inspiration.

5. Scapple: the Endless Canvas for Ideas

I adore Scrivener, and have used it for years. Recently Literature and Latte released Scapple. It’s the perfect companion for Scrivener, and wonderfully inspiring.

The app gives you an endless canvas. If you’re stuck on something, start writing notes on Scapple, letting your mind drift, and make associations. Before you know it, you’re inspired.

6. Drafts (iOS): Grab Inspiration as It Flies Past

Have you noticed that inspiration usually strikes when you’re in the middle of doing something else? This is where Drafts comes in handy. Jot a few notes, and go back to what you were doing.

I used to jot notes on sticky notes, and on text notes. Invariably, I’d lose them. A week or two later, I’d remember that I wrote down something brilliant for Project X. I’d spend the next 15 minutes searching the piles of material on my desk, the notebooks on my shelves, and my computer. Then my devices. Could I find it? NO. Since I couldn’t remember what the heck it was, I had no search terms to search on.

After I discovered Drafts, it became my automatic scratch pad. Whenever I’m in the middle of something, and get inspired, I tap a few notes into Drafts. Later, I send the notes to Evernote, Dropbox, or email.

7. PicMonkey: Get Inspired With Images

I’m a writer, not a designer. Since I started to use PicMonkey I’ve found that it’s perfect not only to create images for blog posts and social media, you can use it to get inspired too.

Often I’ll start with a blank canvas on PicMonkey, and start doodling. Or I’ll drop an image onto PicMonkey, and start playing with it. Within five to ten minutes, I’ve been inspired. Try it yourself – it’s free.

So, there we have it. Seven apps for inspiration.

A tip: apps like Evernote and Tinderbox become truly inspirational once you’ve packed material into them. So stuff material in. Don’t worry too much about organization. Inspiration often happens with serendipity. :-)

The Easy-Write Process: Get Inspired on Demand

Want to get inspired on demand? It’s essential in 2014. The Easy-Write Process will help. It’s especially useful if you’re ruled by your inner editor, or tend to procrastinate.

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.

Bluebird image credit

3 Simple Content Creation Tricks You Can Use Right Now

3 Simple Content Creation Tricks You Can Use Right Now

Desperate for some content creation ideas? Try these three simple tricks. I’ve found them helpful, and so have my students. Big bonus: they’re easy, and they help you to get more ideas.

1. Focus on Problems: No One’s Alone With a Problem.

Life is just one problem after another. Instead of cursing your challenges, try turning them into content. Don’t stop there. What challenges do your clients have? Your team?

Here’s a list of five challenges I’ve been thinking about this morning, and the solutions they inspire. These are content ideas, so make the most of them:

  • Evernote – my primary Evernote account has over 5,000 notes. It’s time to weed the notes out again. With over 50 million users, there’s a big audience for Evernote tips and tricks;
  • Images – I need more images! If you want to get your slice of the attention economy, images are essential. Time I learned to create infographics…;
  • My WordPress.com blog needs attention. I’ll brainstorm some ideas for it, and then will use Trick 2, below;
  • Catching up with my reading, specifically news feeds. Google Reader is long gone; I’ve just purchased ReadKit to help me to manage my feeds. I’m sure some of the 50 million ex-Google Reader subscribers are way behind on their reading too.

No one’s alone with a problem – if you’ve got a problem, turn it into content.

2. Get an Idea, and Implement It.

You’ve written down some problems, and solutions. Implement a solution. Here’s why: once you start implementing, you’ll discover what works, and what doesn’t work. Your readers will enjoy reading about your experiences.

You don’t need to create a case study, although you could. My first problem I mentioned in Trick 1 was too many notes in Evernote. (You can have up to 100,000 notes in Evernote, so my 5,000 notes aren’t necessarily a big deal. I just like to weed out outdated material reguarly.)

I manage goals, clients, and products in Evernote; it helps me to manage my writing, and my business.

Off the top of my head, I can think of two pieces of content I can create right away. As I weed out Evernote, I’m sure I’l think of more:

  • Evernote helper apps. I’ve been meaning to investigate a couple of apps which will help me to manage Evernote. I can create content about my experiences with these apps;
  • Managing your goals in Evernote. I want to try something new. I’ll try it, and then write about it.

3. Pitch Three or More Content Ideas at the Same Time.

If you create content for others, as I do, you need to pitch your content ideas. Try to pitch several ideas, rather then just one. How many of your ideas are accepted isn’t important. You pitch more, because you’ll find that this gives you more ideas; once you’re in a creative mindset, your ideas will flower.

For example, this morning I pitched a content creation schedule for one of my clients. I scheduled six pieces of content right within WordPress, adding several points for each post. I also chose the keywords I was targeting, and located some images. While I was doing that, I got ideas for content I can create for another client.

Once you get into a “content” mindset, you’ll come up with more ideas than you need.

Try these simple content creation tricks. They’re very simple, powerful. Make a note of them too, for the next time you get stuck, and can’t come up with ideas.

, and on Twitter: @angee

photo credit: zetson via photopin cc

Writing Fast: 5 Tips Anyone Can Use

Writing Fast: 5 Tips Anyone Can Use

These days, writing fast is essential. You can’t get out from underneath the Everest of your email Inbox without it, much less accomplish anything of value.

Please don’t get sniffy. Writing fast needn’t mean writing badly. Indeed, you may be surprised that the quality of your writing improves. Your mind thinks in wholes – in patterns. If you spend too long thinking before you start writing you’ll forget what you want to say.

Make it a habit to think on the page:

Before I start a book I’ve usually got four hundred pages of notes. Most of them are almost incoherent. But there’s always a moment when you feel you’ve got a novel started. You can more or less see how it’s going to work out. After that it’s just a question of detail.

PG Wodehouse wrote 96 books, as well as stage plays and collections of short stories. He was amazingly prolific, and a master of language. Thinking on the page worked for him; try it.

Have fun with these tips. They’ll help you to write faster. (And better.)

1. Start. And keep going.

I’m a horrible typist, and didn’t get my first computer – an Apple IIe – until 1983. This meant that I spent my early years retyping manuscripts, over and over. Even then, the pages looked pock-marked by White-Out.

Over the years, I’ve blessed that early training, because it taught me to keep going: I discovered that thinking too much made my mind and fingers stumble.

Launch yourself into your writing – keep going, no matter what. Don’t stop to think, don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes, just keep your fingers tapping. You’ll write faster, and better, once you build this habit.

2. Write about your writing: write a letter, if you can’t get started. What’s your point?

PG Wodehouse wrote 400 pages of notes, before he started a novel. You’ll write faster if you write about your writing.

Let’s say you need to write a blog post. OK, start writing. Write yourself a letter about your writing.

I picked up the letter-writing trick from novelist David Morrell:

… my letter to myself, which can go on as long as 24 single-spaced pages—this is a long document—and as I go in, why is this project so important that you would write about it for a year or more, why do you want to write it, where’d the idea come from, and what I begin doing is asking myself questions … and [in one instance in particular] it took me pages to work that out, and so in a way I was outlining, but I was just doing it a different way.

Writing yourself a message is another way of getting started. It breaks your inertia – primes the pump, if you like.

Whenever you get stuck in a project, write to yourself about it. One of my students writes herself email messages; she emails these messages to her Evernote account.

When you write to yourself about your project, you’ll soon discover the point you want to make. Once that’s done, your writing will flow.

3. Use word associations in mind maps.

I’m a huge fan of mind maps. Currently, I use MindMeister. Create a central topic, then just free-associate around your topic. Don’t stop – keep going.

Yes, this is a form of brainstorming. Give yourself five minutes to brainstorm. Mind mapping fixes the “I don’t know where to start” problem; where to start becomes obvious, and you’ll find that you have a lot to say.

4. “XXX” marks the spot.

As we said in the first tip: keep going! Don’t stop. If you need to look up something type XXX. You can search for these items later, once your draft is done. If you stop, you’ll lose the flow. On bad days, it will take you 20 minutes to get your flow back.

5. Research later.

Does this sound counter-intuitive? Maybe so, but it saves time. What’s the point of researching, until you know what you need? “I need to research” is a just a way of procrastinating.

If you truly know nothing about the topic you’re writing about, create a research plan, and limit your research time. I love research, but it’s a huge time sink. Do minimal research before you start writing, but only if you must.

Then write a draft. Now you know what you need to know, look it up, and write your next draft. If you’ve been writing fast, this draft will flow, and it may well be your final draft.

Writing fast is an essential skill. The benefit? Not only will you get more done, you’ll have more fun too. :-)

 Want to write fast and well?

My Easy-Write process will help.

, and on Twitter: @angee

Mind Mapping: 5 Ways To Achieve More With MindMeister

Mind Mapping: 5 Ways to Achieve More With MindMeister

I love mind mapping, and use maps for everything, from business plans to developing books. Over time, I’ve used many apps, because I’ve never found the perfect application. So, when I friend recommended MindMeister, my reaction was: gimme! Who knows? Perfection may be within reach…

Not so. I’ll still use Inspiration, and TheBrain (and a couple of other apps.) However, MindMeister will be joining my arsenal of creative tools, for two reasons: the primary reason is that I like it. Nudging a close second, collaboration: MindMeister is ideal for collaboration, because you can work with others simultaneously on the same map.

If you’re into mind mapping too, check out MindMeister. Here are five ways you can achieve more with it.

1. Collaborate on Projects in Brainstorming Mode.

You can collaborate with others, simultaneously on the same map. You’ll see who’s editing a mind map with you in the footer. You can also chat with your team as you brainstorm and edit. To see who’s made changes and additions; just turn on the History View. All your chats are saved.

I coach writers, so this collaboration feature is wonderful, if I’m mentoring an author with a book, for example.

2. Use MindMeister’s Presentation Mode in Meetings.

MindMeister’s ideal for presentations. Prepare your map, and when you’re ready to go, start the presentation by clicking the presentation icon at the bottom left of the screen. To share your presentation when you’re done, click the share icon, and export in your choice of formats, including PDF and FreeMind.

3. Track Anything. (I’m Tracking My Blogs and Product Updates. )

Much as I love blogging, once you’ve lots of blog posts – I’ve got over 2,000 posts on a couple of my blogs – you tend to lose track of exactly what you were trying to achieve during a particular month, or with a series of posts.

Spreadsheets let you track on a granular level. With mind maps on the other hand, you can get an instant visual overview. Additionally, MindMeister lets you link to topics in other mind maps, so if a particular topic gets too unwieldy, you can start a new mind map for it.

I’m also tracking product updates. I’ve got dozens of ebooks and classes to manage and MindMeiser lets me see what I need to add, and when. History View lets you see the entire history of a mind map, and you can assign and edit tasks easily.

4. You’re Free – Go Mobile: Work and Plan Anywhere.

MindMeister’s mobile apps are clever. Once you’ve installed it on your device, you can work on any of your maps, anywhere you happen to be.

5. Remember Stuff: Take Notes From Meetings, and Books.

Who said what at a meeting? What brilliant questions were asked? Just add notes to a mind map in MindMeister. You’ll easily find this material later, because MindMeister’s search features are fast; you can search an open map, or search all your maps from the dashboard.

These days, I do most of my reading on my iPad. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’ll buy a Kindle version of a print book I own, simply because it’s easier to both take notes, and to FIND them again. (Sigh, I feel like a traitor to my favorite people, librarians.) Amazon saves every note, and every highlight from every book on your Kindle page. Each of your books has its own page, so you can add the URL to a mind map to view all your highlights and notes for a book.

So there you have it: five ways to achieve more with MindMeiser – you can create up to three mind maps for free. You’ll enjoy it as much as I do. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee