The following is a guest post by Antonio Tooley. Antonio is a hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world’s brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he’s blogging and teaching ESL. He will be happy to meet you on Facebook and Twitter.
“Creative” and “productive” are sometimes mutually exclusive concepts when it comes to content writers. The creative process cannot be hurried or forced, and content writing usually follows a set schedule. What happens is that either content writers get writer’s block, or they put it off as long as they could. It is all about being in the zone, you see, and sometimes the zone goes on vacation. With that, here are eight online tools that can help you become more creative, as well as productive, when you need to be.
Many content writers form part of a marketing team. They get their direction from the content director, who in turn, gets input from the analytics group. GroupMap is a great way to keep everyone in the loop and on track in real time. It is primarily an educational tool intended for flipped classrooms, so it uses many graphics, but it works perfectly well for content writers as well. You can try it free for 14 days with limited features, after which you pay $8 a month for a personal account.
Stream of consciousness thinking is perhaps not the best way to create web content. However, if you have OCD, sometimes the best way to be productive is to just forge right ahead. Ilys is an online tool that keeps you from constantly looking over what you’ve already written, and wasting your time in editing and refining. It is weird, but it is strangely exciting as well. You never know what you’re going to get until you’re done.
If you can’t seem to get started, this online resource can give you a bit of a push. This tool provides you with writing prompts that can give you ideas for a starting line, even titles. Some of the prompts include “Would you work for someone who stresses you out even if the money was good?” and “Are you afraid of death?” There is no registration or fee to use. Just click away until you find something you like and run with it.
Sometimes, you write something that makes you go “meh”. The topic is good, your research is spot on, but you feel there is something missing. You can collaborate with professional writers and editors from Edugeeksclub to get some ideas and polish your content. You can get them to edit and proofread your work for less than $6 a page, or you can ask them to rewrite your content in a more engaging manner, and it will only cost you $19.99 a page. You can use the work as a template for future articles.
Contrary to popular belief, not all writers work well in a vacuum. Too much quiet can be unnerving. According to research, a little distraction can be good for your imagination. The site provides background sounds from cafes and restaurants, where many content writers get their best work done. The online and mobile app versions are free with three audio options, but if you want to pretend you’re in Paris, Brazil or even Texas, you can get those for $9 a year.
OmmWriter also works along the same rationale: that a little distraction, but not too much, is good for writing productivity. This downloadable app comes with a distraction-free interface with one of its seven backgrounds to suit your mood; audio tracks that help you concentrate; and keystrokes sounds that tell you how productive you are. It is not free to download, but you can pay whatever you like as long as it is more than $5.11. The background music alone is worth the price.
If you need your mom to tell you to keep going, but your mom ain’t around, Toggl can be a good replacement. This time-tracking app can tell you exactly how much time you’re wasting on your Facebook page. It shames you into managing your time better. The free version is good for up to five people if you’re part of a team, and you can set up projects that will keep track of everybody’s time wherever they are. You can pay $5 a month for the Pro version if you need to track billable hours, but otherwise there is really no need. The free version is fully functional, just like your mom.
An even better way to keep you away from time-wasting websites is with StayFocusd. It lets you in some sites, but only for a little while, and then it blocks you. Once you set it, you will have to jump through hoops to change the settings, so it really is easier to just keep working. You get to choose the sites to block, but you can’t tell it how long you want “play time”. It is a Chrome extension, so if you prefer Firefox, you’re out of luck.
These tools and websites are all useful in one way or the other to help you become more productive, and creativity becomes easier to achieve. Whether you use them or not is your choice, but it does not hurt to try them out. You may be surprised at what will work for you.