If you identify as “creative,” then you likely suffer one of two issues.
Maybe you’re bursting with so many creative ideas that you can’t manage them. You feel like a mess and you have trouble converting that creative energy into results. If only you could find a way to harness it in a way that’s productive.
Or maybe you’re overwhelmed by creative block. You often fall victim to the whims of motivation and inspiration (or lack thereof). You want to be productive but you can’t muster up the energy or confidence to start.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a writer, artist, musician, photographer, or even knitter: you need all the help you can get! And that’s why these mobile apps are essential.
It’s a good idea to always keep a notepad on your person at all times. You never know when inspiration might strike: a lyrical verse, a story idea, a photoshoot concept, etc. But instead of carrying a separate pad in your back pocket, why not use the device that’s already on you?
OneNote is completely free without ads or in-app purchases. Not only is it available on both Android and iOS, but it can also be used on Windows, Mac, and the Web. And yes, your notes stay synced across all devices. Plus, the interface is clean, easy to use, and beautiful.
You don’t have to use OneNote. Evernote, Google Keep, and Apple Notes are strong alternatives, with Evernote as the most popular. But we’ve compared OneNote to Evernote and found OneNote to be superior due to its nifty and lovable features. Ultimately, though, use the one you like best.
2. Productivity Timer
It’s true that creativity flourishes under pressure, which is why it’s so hard to get things done when you have an entire day of free time. The good news is that you can trick your brain into a false sense of pressure using self-imposed deadlines and timers.
The easiest and most popular way to do this? The “Pomodoro” technique. Simply alternate between periods of work (about 25 minutes) and short breaks (about 5 minutes), with a long break (about 30 minutes) thrown in every so often. The Goodtime and Flat Tomato apps automate all of this for you, which are available on Android and iOS, respectively.
If you’ve tried the Pomodoro technique before and didn’t like it, have no fear. We’ve covered other lesser-known productivity techniques that may be better suited for you. Productivity is a personal thing, so don’t be afraid to explore and adapt as needed.
3. Habit Tracker
The problem with creativity is that it gets coupled with motivation and inspiration — as if we can only be creative when we’re feeling motivated and inspired. Some even sneer if you suggest that creativity can be forced through discipline. Well, the truth is, it can.
In fact, your creativity will become more refined and more mature through discipline. And as you stay disciplined, you’ll often find that your best work was done on days when you “didn’t feel like it.” So to encourage the development of discipline, we recommend a habit tracker app like HabitHub (Android) or Productive (iOS).
These apps can be used for building good habits (use the “micro habits” technique) and breaking bad habits (such as these time-wasting habits). Either way, the goal is the same: stay the course every day, track your progress, and you’ll build the discipline necessary to succeed.
4. Bamboo Paper
Bamboo Paper is an app that lets you draw on the screen using your finger or a stylus. It’s more convenient on a tablet than a smartphone, but it’s still useful either way. Think of it as a digital whiteboard. You can use it for jotting notes, plotting story timelines, character sketches, diagramming photoshoots, etc.
The free version comes with two brush types (pencil and marker), three line thicknesses, 36 different colors, and an eraser. You can purchase new brush types through in-app purchases, but the free ones are more than enough. It supports multiple notebooks and cloud syncing through Inkspace.
If you love mindmaps, then you’ll love SimpleMind. Mindmaps can be helpful when brainstorming ideas, tracking relationships between concepts, or structuring your thoughts — all of which are involved when trying to manage your creativity.
The free version is ad-free and comes with basic functionality for creating mindmaps. The full version can be unlocked with a one-time purchase. Note that SimpleMind is available on Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac, and each platform has its own separate license.
6. Ambient Sounds
Another common struggle that you probably face as a creative? Staying focused in a distracting environment. The best solution is to grab a pair of noise-isolating headphones and drown out the distractions with an ambient sounds generator app.
Look for one that has multiple sounds and allows per-sound volume control. This allows you to customize it to your own ears and maximize your ability to concentrate. We highly recommend Atmosphere for Android and Pacify for iOS, but there are dozens of other good ones out there.
What’s great about these apps is they can also help you fall asleep at night, and more sleep can lead to greater creativity and greater productivity. For more on this, we recommend these sleep-improving smart gadgets and these sleep tracker apps.
7. Podcast Manager
A podcast manager isn’t creative per se, but listening to the right podcasts can work wonders for your creative sense, keep you motivated, and help you generate or refine ideas.
For example, as a novelist, you can tune into Writing Excuses and Helping Writers Become Authors for writing tips and advice. Or as a shutterbug, you’ll love these podcasts for photographers. We recommend using AntennaPod on Android and Overcast on iOS, but since podcast managers are a dime a dozen, feel free to look around and try others.
Once you have a podcast manager that you like, all you need to do is find a handful of creative podcasts that you’ll enjoy. Most podcast apps have built-in search and discovery tools, but you can also find new podcasts in other ways.
What Are Your Essential Creative Apps?
Creativity may be wild, but it can be tamed with some effort. The above apps will make the taming process much easier, so we recommend installing them right away. Launch them, try them out, and learn how to use them well. It won’t be long before your creative confidence improves.
Do any other great apps for creatives come to mind? Which apps do you use every day? How have you tamed your own inner creativity? Share with us in a comment down below!
Image Credit: Kues via Shutterstock.com