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21 Tools to Unlock Your Creative Genius

21 Tools to Unlock Your Creative Genius

It’s hard to stay actively creative, especially when our daily lives are so mentally stimulating already. I know I’ve come home from work, done some laundry, drowned in reddit, and collapsed into sleep because I thought my mental capacity had been met for the evening.

Maintaining creativity is often the biggest roadblock for those creating fresh content on a regular basis. But, staying creative doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In fact, it can be a 5-minute activity you can fit into every day without it feeling like a chore.

Exposing yourself to different types of media and different methods of storytelling is one of the best ways to maintain a creative state of mind. Every time you see information being presented in a new way, you’ll be inspired.

I challenge you to spend the next 3 weeks actively seeking inspiration for just minutes each day. Below is a list of sites, videos, and other interesting tools you can explore for the next 21 days to jog your creative thinking and inspire you with new ideas and techniques.

3 Weeks to a More Creative State of Mind

Visual Inspiration

Day 1: Book Cover Archive

In the library or bookstore, you typically just see books’ spines unless they’re featured on the shelves. Now you can look at interesting, beautiful, intriguing book covers all compiled on this website. Take a few minutes to browse the designs, colors, and images and see what appeals to you. Just click ““randomize” over and over to view a good selection. And yes, this means that today you can judge a book by its cover.

Day 2: Visual.ly

At BlueGlass, we love creating infographics and data visualizations, so it’s natural that we love browsing Visual.ly. It’s full of vivid, informative graphics, so when you visit, play around with the filters and see how some of the eye-catching graphics successfully tell their stories.

Day 3: New York Times Multimedia

Take some time to explore multimedia created by The New York Times, including slide shows, photos, graphics, and interactive content. Focus on the interactive content for an inspiration boost; this content shows current news, data, and events displayed in ways that pull your attention and communicate an issue or idea.

Day 4: Living Room Candidate


While it’s fun to sit on YouTube all day, it’s interesting to look back on some older videos that helped shape the country. The Living Room Candidate is a compilation of presidential commercials since 1952. Each video is not only interesting in its own right but also represents what our country valued at the time.

Day 5: 29 Brilliant Music Videos 

The world has its fair share of Ke$ha videos, but some music videos do a remarkable job of telling a story, sometimes even in an unexpected manner. This article picks out some of the best music videos made, but you don’t have to stick to these. Think of some music videos that have struck you in the past and watch them again. Here are two of my favorites: here and here.

Day 6: Sand Animation

If you’ve never witnessed sand art being made, please watch this. No, I don’t mean those plastic bottles we used to fill with sand at carnivals as a kid. This is truly an amazing form of storytelling. It goes to show that almost anything can be turned into a story.

Textual Inspiration

Day 7: Six Word Stories 

Don’t have time to read a novel? This blog features six-word stories. That’s right. Six words. Submitters attempt to create an entire story in your mind with a measly six words. If that isn’t concision, I don’t know what is.

Day 8: Enclyclopedia Mythica

After reading news, blogs, and other serious media every day, it would be a nice break to explore the fictional world. Luckily, the mythical world is only a click away, and it’s in the form on an encyclopedia. Sometimes reading something so different from what you’re used to can be inspiring.

Day 9:  USA Today Offbeat Section 

Wander away from hard news every now and then to explore some of the more unusual aspects of life. Many of these stories are ones you’d have to read to believe. It’s true what they say: Sometimes real life is certainly stranger than fiction.

Day 10: Today’s Front Pages


If you are hankering for some ““real” news, the Newseum’s “Today’s Front Pages” display features the covers of papers all over the world. Take a look at not only the breaking events in other states and countries, but also gain some insight as to what issues other countries and cultures consider priority. You can even narrow this down to the Top 10 front pages for each day.

Day 11:  Write or Die app

This is my favorite site on this list. I discovered this while attempting National Novel Writing Month, and I couldn’t believe this tool existed. Try typing in the Write or Die web app for some motivation — depending on the settings you choose, it’ll hold you to a time limit and penalize you when you stop writing. How? Well, if you choose Kamikaze mode, it’ll start deleting your words!

Day 12: One Word

If you hate writing creatively or you’re suffering from the oh-too-common writer’s block, this site can help. It gives you a random word to write about along with the time limit, and you just have to type whatever mini story or description comes to mind. It’s a great way to exercise spontaneous creativity and you’ll be surprised what you can come up with.

Musical Inspiration

Day 13: Stereo Mood


Music is very much tied to our feelings. Explore this sensation by clicking on an emotion or state of mind and listening to a playlist that corresponds with the mood you’re in.

Day 14: Rainy Mood

This isn’t music, per se, but if you’re anything like me, you’re inspired when you hear the rain fall. Obviously it can’t rain every time we have a deadline, but virtual rain is certainly possible. Rainy Mood offers you the brilliant sound effects of a storm right from your computer.

Day 15: Soundrop

Soundrop is an addition to Spotify that adds a social component to music listening. Join playlists that other people are currently listening to and even comment on what you think of the band, songs, etc. Enjoy your favorite bands with others or check out some new ones.

Day 16: Turntable.fm

Turntable allows you to be a DJ in the virtual world. Join rooms based on your music preference, and if there’s a seat open, you can play a song of your choosing. People can vote on whether they like it or not, and you’ll gain points based on the votes. You can also opt to just listen and vote yourself. Either way, it’s a great method for discovering new music and enjoying songs with others.

Comical Inspiration

Day 17:  The New Yorker Caption Contest

The New Yorker’s caption contest is highly entertaining, even if you choose not to enter. People come up with the wittiest captions for the most random cartoons, so voting on submissions or reading the winning entries is a great way to witness the creation of clever humor. And hey, if this challenge is working well for you, you should submit a caption yourself!

Day 18:  Tuscan Whole Milk Amazon Reviews

This is a classic. What started as a joke went viral and lead to more than a thousand hilarious comments posted about milk. Scroll through some of these elaborate, surprisingly poetic, and simply funny reviews of Tuscan Whole Milk and appreciate the comedy possible on the Internet. Hey, humor can be made anywhere. (If you want more backstory, click here.)

Day 19: Memes on Reddit

You’ve heard about memes. You’ve seen memes. You may or may not have understood memes. Like it or not, memes are all over the Internet (and sometimes bridging into the ““real world”), so glancing over a few popular ones might help you keep up with trends and get a look at what exactly they’re about. Usually they’re made for comedic purposes, but sometimes they’re actually insightful. Sometimes.

Day 20: Some Ecards

Before these things started flooding Pinterest, they were dominating Facebook as a way for users to humorously portray their feelings or things they found ridiculous about other people. Check out the source of these funny images. The best part is that a lot of them are truly making a societal critique, which is pretty impressive for a tiny ecard.

Day 21: Matt Cutts’ TED Talk


This is more inspirational than it is strictly humorous, but Matt Cutts makes a few jokes, so it qualifies. This is a great way to end off the challenge, because this TED Talk is all about how you can truly do anything for 30 days if you really want to accomplish it.

What are you waiting for?

Whether you’re looking to laugh, chill out to music, or keep up with the day’s most interesting news, the above sites and tools will keep you feeling inspired in just minutes each day. The beautiful part about this challenge is that different websites can be subbed out according to your personal interests. Just make sure to keep it varied so you’re exposing yourself to a variety of media.

What sites and tools help you stay inspired? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Anthony Pensabene says:

    Most impressive, Amanda.. I celebrate a lot of mentions here the NY Times, New Yorker (love the caption contests), videos (+1 Bareilles and ‘Winter..’). I remember reading an essay from Ben Jonson, where he emphasizes how devoted writers, ‘creatives,’ continuously read the content of others….

    Musical inspiration.. have you ever listened to classical and given the songs your own ‘title’? ..put your favorite personalities at a table, what would they say about a product/service/topic? Look at other peoples’ titles.. how would your rearrange them..? Just some other ideas.

    I leave you all with P. Gabriel – always thought this video was visually powerful.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGaqmvIEyaI

    • Anthony, I’m loving your ideas, especially the one about making up your own title for classical music. I’ll be trying all of those suggestions soon! Thank you for reading and sharing your input. :)

  2. Tony Shays says:

    Fun article with lots of great tips. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Very interesting article and also great tips and I love reading the textual section.

    Thanks for sharing very informative article!

  4. Jonny Ross says:

    hi,
    this is an amazing resouce!!! so many tools/ sites i hadnt heard of! i have shared this and added it to my instapaper!

    well done
    Jonny

    • Thank you for reading and sharing! I hope you find the sites you’d never heard of to be creatively helpful.

  5. Jan says:

    My blog writing is not where I would like it to be as yet. Thanks so much for these very useful resources.

  6. Hi Amanda

    I was excited to read about each of them, But I only tried the “One word”
    I appreciate you taking time to provide these resources.
    Thanks

  7. I came here just to read about Reddit.

    There is an excellent community of designers and Search Engine Marketers on Reddit. I would recommend a subreddit but Adviceanimal probably has the most of them anyway.

    • You’re right — there are so many great resources on Reddit. I could probably do a whole post about that alone. :) Thanks for reading!

  8. Gemma says:

    Inspiration?

    Why does it always hit in the middle of the night!??

    Aside from that, there is one thing that you will find wherever you find more than three copywriters together: they are always discussing just how good some of the old copywriters were. And it is true, there are some sparkling pieces there. Some of it eighty years old. I have a snatch file full of the stuff.

    But then, I also have my own snatch files which are filled with copy that only went off half cock. In amongst all that dross is some pretty decent stuff. I would say that perhaps one in twenty is worth even looking at let alone using. If I am ever stuck for a line, I take a wander around and there is some long forgotten sentence that brings my new piece to life.

    • Gemma, referring to old material and keeping notes of unfinished work are two great strategies for staying creative. I have a similar file on my computer of things I’ve written — whether it be single lines or entire works — that aren’t finished but I think have enough merit to become something else one day. I also take pictures with my iPhone of cool graphical or design elements I see on a daily basis. Any little effort like this can go a long way. Thank you so much for your comments!

  9. Alex says:

    Thanks for the really inspiring post, Amanda.

    I really liked the idea that the Write or Die web app promotes, though it can freak me out as well, I supposed :)

    And that video with Matt Cutts is really amazing. It got me thinking about thinks, you know. I’m gonna rock the world with my dreams. thanks again.

    • I’m so glad the post inspired you! It’s true about Write or Die — it’s very intimidating, but I guess that’s why it works. :)

  10. We’re in the business of helping online marketers ‘market’. While this includes a lot of technical aspects (putting up a website, traffic generation, conversions, tracking, etc.), by far the biggest obstacle we see see our clients ‘stumble’ over is – creative. Specifically, it’s coming up with ideas for products, content, promotion, etc.

    We’d put a considerable effort into assembling a list of free tools to help them in all aspects of their business, however it’s the “idea generators” that get the most traffic. These “idea generators” are meant to provide a starting point, and to help stimulate creative, ‘outside-the-box’ thinking. (you can access this “resources blog” at http://100kResources.com).

    Thanks for a great article – I’ll be adding a link to this post.

    Michael

    • Michael, I’m very happy you found my post to be helpful. I think people often overlook the importance of creativity and idea generation. Without taking time to step back and let your mind wander and explore other types of art and media, it’s difficult to come up with any original, engaging concepts or ideas. I’m glad to see you’re compiling a list of tools, as well! Thank you for reading and posting your thoughts.

  11. This is great. I am noting these sites for future use and to keep updated on them. Thanks.