If you work in a creative field—whether you’re a writer or an architect, a communications specialist or a musician—you’ve probably experienced your share of creative blocks: tough periods where the creative juices just aren’t flowing and new ideas are in short supply. Fortunately, help with your stalled creativity may be just a download away. The next time you encounter an obstinate creative block, check out one of the following apps to kickstart your imagination and set you on the path out of your creative funk.
A wonderful tool for visual learners, Inkflow is essentially a blank notebook on your smartphone. The app allows you to draw and write notes in whatever layout or style you choose, right on your screen, and you can also add in photos and graphics to heighten the visual impact. It’s perfect for people who find that doodling gives their imagination a boost.
If words are your creative tool of choice, you might want to check out Blackbar the next time you’re experiencing a case of writer’s block. This puzzle-style“game of text” is inspired by the striking visual image of the black bars that are used to hide redacted or censored text. Narratively, the game is constructed as a dystopian short story: players are shown a block of writing in which certain words have been blacked out, and they must guess what those censored words are before they can advance to the next stage. It’s a thought-provoking and surprisingly addictive mystery that can help get you thinking about the different ways in which language is used.
Another useful app for writers, Prompts can help by prompting you with questions about your choice of words and the editorial decisions you’ve made (for example,after you’ve written a sentence, Prompts might ask, “What did you mean by‘peculiar’?”). The app can generate more than 300,000 prompt combinations to provide you with a jolt of inspiration when you need one, and it leverages artificial intelligence to generate unique writing prompts based on what it’s learned about your writing style. Prompts can also track all your key writing stats, from how often and how much you write to common writing patterns and recurring themes.
Similar to Prompts but with a wider range of applications, Brainsparker bills itself as your personal, 24-hour creativity coach. The app has more than 250 “creativity prompts”—a mix of trigger words, images, quotes, actions, and questions—to help you ignite your imagination, move past your creative blocks, and brainstorm new ideas. The prompts are broadly applicable, so you can use them whenever you need to provoke some fresh thinking about a challenge at work, in your personal life, or with a creative project.
Part diary and part life coach, Unstuck serves as a sounding board and a sympathetic ear for those times when you’re feeling stuck and need someone to bounce ideas off or to discuss current creative difficulties with. The app will ask you proactive questions that can help you get a fresh perspective on your current situation, and then it will provide you with targeted tips and action-oriented tools to get you moving again. The approach works for issues of all sizes and kinds, so the app is just as useful for creative blocks as it is for challenges in your work or personal life.
One of the most popular mind-mapping apps, Inspiration Maps is a great way to organize all the thoughts you come up with during a random brainstorming session. The app offers a variety of built-in templates—including cause and effect diagrams, concept maps, process flows, and family trees—or you can choose to create your own layout from scratch. Inspiration Maps is easy and intuitive to use, and it is a powerful way to harness and see the connections between disparate ideas. You also have the option to add images and convert your notes into a Word document for reference and sharing.
Sometimes, you need to pare things back to the essentials in order to locate the heart of your creative work and get yourself moving again. If you’ve gotten lost in too many over complicated details, why not get a helping hand from Hemingway? Yes,the celebrated author has been dead for more than 50 years, but his concise and understated writing style lives on in the app that bears his name. The Hemingway app highlights overlong sentences, unnecessary words and phrases, use of the passive voice, and adverbs, allowing you to simplify your style and make your writing bolder and clearer. The app also gives you an estimate of what reading level your audience would need to be at to properly grasp what you’ve written.