Creativity is a fickle thing. As Jack White says (see below for some good advice), not everyday are the clouds going to part and light will come down from heaven for you. Sometimes you have to force it. If you've ever experienced writer's block you know the feeling. Cunning app developers have set to work on this problem, with solutions from age-old wisdom to modernized techniques, and some more useful than others. Here are a range of apps to help break through to your creativity.
1. Unstuck (iPad | Free)
Unstuck is a pretty, nifty and maybe helpful iPad app. It works by diagnosing from a set of problems commonly faced by creatives and then providing various cures. Sometimes mumbo jumbo, sometimes genuinely useful, Unstuck at least has a wide range of possibilities for un-mucking your gears. And most creativity exercises are a matter personal preference anyway, so if you find nothing here there are plenty other apps to float your boat. We like the number of choices and well-designed interface.
2. Forismatic (Mac | Free)
Part of Apple's New Year, New You app suggestions, Forismatic administers a take-time-to-relax approach and adds quotes to inspire you. Is it cheesy? Yes. Can it work? Also yes. The quotes may or may not do it for you, but taking well timed breaks is proven to be effective just ask any Pomodoro practitioner. Recharging your batteries and refocusing often gives a refreshed perspective.
3. Mindnode Touch (iOS | $9.99)
Mind mapping is one of the oldest ways to get out and open up creativity or focus thoughts. By making visual connections between concepts and purging your mind of everything it's trying to hold onto at once you free up the processing power to actually make something of it. It also encourages connections between things you may not have been able to consider while they were bouncing around in your brain. Mindnode is also available for Mac in free and Pro versions.
4. Pommodroido (Android | Free)
The aforementioned Pomodoro technique consists of a period of work followed by a period of rest and a larger rest after a few blocks of work. There are tons of programs out there that simulate the famous tomato timer, but Pomodroido does it beautifully. Consistently taking breaks ensures you don't wear yourself out mentally during the day. And if you're struggling to get started, all you have to do is break the first task into a 30 minute chunk before you have to take a break. You can do 30 minutes right? If not, Pomodroido adds some game psychology in the mix.
5. Microsoft OneNote (Windows | $149.99+ with Office)
OneNote is a part of Microsoft's office suite that until recently was exclusive to Windows (now it's on the iPad, but reviews have been less than stellar). We include it here because it's one of the best programs to create moodboards and flowcharts with. It's so good that Mac users frequently use a virtual machine just to run it. While there is a free program for Mac that does the same thing (GrowlyNotes) it doesn't match up to OneNote's interface, though MoodBoard for iPad ($9.99) works well. Going back to the inspiration of a moodboard, or going through the process of gathering one, is a great way to slide back into work.
And if that doesn't work, try Jack White's method: