Feeling Stuck? These Web Toys Might Do the Trick

Here’s my dream web app: the inspiration generator. Click a button and you instantly feel inspired, a dozen new ideas come falling in your lap. You suddenly know how to start your project, or solve that problem that’s been bothering you for days.

While the inspiration generator I envisage remains just a dream for now, there are other apps you can use to help when you’re feeling stuck. One type of tool I use often is a writing prompt. These provide words or images that help you start writing. My favorite writing prompt is OneWord, which posts a random word at the top of your screen and gives you six seconds to write about it. Other writing prompts include The Blog Post Idea Generator, Random Word Generator, and Imagination Prompt. What you write using these tools may not be Pulitzer material, but at least you’ve started typing something; it’s easier to write after you’ve got going.

If you’re a more visual person, you might want to try more design-oriented tools. Composition with JavaScript is an example, which allows you to play around with an alterable version of a Piet Mondrian painting. The experience is similar to playing around with layout grids, so this might be a fun toy if you’re working on a layout project. Procedural drawing tools such as Harmony and ScribblerToo can also help you loosen up if you’re stuck on a design problem. For those who want to play around with color, ColourLovers and kuler are good places to start.

When you look at all these tools, you’ll see that they have one thing in common — play. Not to have fun per se, but to solve challenges without taking them too seriously. To me, this approach has often been the best way to break any mental blocks caused by pressure and monotony. In the end, it doesn’t matter so much if you use the above tools, modeling clay, a Rubik’s cube or Obscure Strategies. The important thing is to find new patterns of feeling and thinking.

Just remember that while using these tools can allow you to think outside the box, they can also become addictive — thus negating any positive effect they may have on your work. After a while you eventually need to stop playing and move on to doing your work. After all, isn’t that why you needed the extra inspiration in the first place?

What apps or tools do you use to generate ideas and boost inspiration?

Photo by stock.xchng user shadowkill

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