Creativity is fickle. Sometimes you’re on a roll, with new ideas spawning left and right, while other times you’re stuffing your face into a pillow, screaming because your brain has been wrung dry. It may not be possible to be creative on demand, but you can always work towards cultivating said creativity on a daily basis. Nowadays, you can even use mobile apps to help give you a creative boost.
A word of disclaimer before we delve into the apps, though. These apps are meant to exercise the creativity that already exists. Through practice, you can strengthen your creativity muscles and end up with a more creative approach to life, but these apps will not make you into a creative person. If you’re feeling blocked, that’s one thing, but if you don’t have any inclination towards creativity, these apps probably won’t help you out very much.
Plot Generator is, as the name would imply, a great place to start when you need a seed for a new plot. This plot could be for a story you’re writing, a role-playing campaign that you’re developing, or even for a fictional world that you’re building but never intend to make public. Whatever the reason, Plot Generator will help you out.
It works by randomizing the four key aspects of any story: the premise, the detail, the complication, and the objective. All told, there are over 320,000 different combinations so you can be sure you won’t run out of plot ideas for a long while. The free version is supported with ads but you can upgrade to Plot Generator Pro for just $0.99 USD.
Despite the occult mystique that surrounds the whole tarot business, if you can take a step back from all of that and see tarot cards for what they really are – a deck of cards filled with intricate details that play off of each other in surprisingly interesting ways – then you can use them to jumpstart your creativity. This Tarot Cards app goes a little further than just allowing you to draw cards, though.
When you draw cards, you’ll also see a full explanation of what the card means and what important occult details are tied to that card. For example, when drawing “The Moon,” you’ll see all of the associated keywords (cycles, emotions, intensity, reflection, etc.) as well as a deeper explanation of what the card stands for in terms of meaning.
Just as tarot cards can be used to divine someone’s fate, you can exercise your creativity by applying the meaning of tarot cards to other realms. Apply them to characters, settings, concepts, and in the case of non-fiction writing, try to incorporate them in your essays. That should quickly inspire some creativity.
I’ve written before about creative writing prompts and how helpful they can be to someone who’s stuck. Often the problem with creativity is that we have too much freedom. There are too many choices and we become paralyzed due to the paradox of choice. Writing prompts offer us a starting point, which can alleviate a lot of the stress that comes with “finding creativity.”
There are many writing prompt websites, but what if you want to use prompts on the go? Sure, you can browse through them on your smartphone’s browser, but wouldn’t it be easier to have a source of prompts in app form? That way you can carry them around with you no matter where you go – even when you don’t have web access.
Writing Prompts divides its prompts into multiple categories, like history, science, fantasy, events, crime, and more. If the default set isn’t enough, you can buy more prompt packs for $0.99 USD each.
I find that keeping my thoughts organized actually breeds more creative breakthroughs, and few tactics have worked better than index cards. They act as neat little compartments of information that can be freely rearranged, stacked, shuffled, and manipulated in various ways. This helps me to see things in a new perspective every time, and that can really help with blocked creativity.
Despite the less-than-stellar interface, CardBoard Index Cards is a functional index card app that will help you with on-the-fly organization. You can create and maintain multiple cards and you can keep them ordered in whatever layout you like. Keep track of unused ideas or use them for novel plot details. Whatever the case, they’ll definitely help you in one way or another.
There’s actually an add-on to this app called Android flash card apps., which adds a bunch of different card types to aid with story structure, character archetypes, plot details, and scene ideas. It’s a fantastic resource and the addon is free, just like the main app. If you need something more like flash cards, here are some good
As Saikat explains, mindmapping tools are some of the best ways to brainstorm, and brainstorming is an essential part of generating creativity. He recently compiled a list of Android mindmapping apps but I want to single out SimpleMind because I think it deserves a mention on this list as one of the best mindmapping tools, period.
As the term suggests, mindmapping is the act of mapping various ideas together so that you can clearly see the relations between various concepts and ideas at a glance. SimpleMind is great because it has a clean and intuitive interface that makes this super easy, even when you’re stuck on an older smartphone with a small screen. Since most of the app involves simple taps, drags, and drops, it’s almost as easy as using pen and paper.
For $4.99 USD, you can upgrade to SimpleMind Pro, which adds a whole bunch of advanced features like visual styles, hyperlinking between maps, inserting images, collapsing and expanding branches on large maps, viewing multiple maps on one page, organizing maps into folders, and more. If you try the free version and think you’ll use it a lot, the Pro version is an absolute must.
Rory’s Story Cubes is the only app on this list that can’t be used for free, but it’s so useful that I just had to include it anyway. The basic premise of the app is this: you have nine different cubes (they look like dice) and each cube has a unique picture on all six sides. You can shake the app to roll them around, effectively randomizing them, and piece together the nine cubes to form a coherent story. There are over 10 million combinations for you to explore.
These story cubes can be used in a bunch of different ways. For starters, they can help you flesh out the plot for your unfinished novel, or they can just be starting points to get your creative juices flowing. You can use them as a way to practice improvisation – roll the cubes and start telling a story from die to die. They can even be used as a tool in a story-related game that you come up with.
Rory’s Story Cubes costs $2.25 USD to buy and you can purchase additional dice sets through in-app purchases. I think it’s a great app and should be part of any serious writer’s app arsenal.
Sometimes creativity stops flowing because of factors outside of your control: stress, repetition, lack of passion, etc. Sometimes creativity is there but it’s not to the level that you know is possible. The apps in this list can help you. They’ll get you thinking about things in a new light, forcing your mind to approach ideas from a different angle – and that’s how pretty much all creativity starts, isn’t it?
Let us know what you think about these apps. Also, if you have any other app recommendations that you use to boost creativity, please share those with us in the comments!