Operation by Mark Miller/morguefileStarting out, new writers are brimming with fresh concepts and ideas. There’s not enough time in the day to write all that you have to say.

But at some point in the future, you’ll find your muse is less-than-amused. It’s all right to take a break or look in unusual places for inspiration.

It’s also perfectly legal in the writing realm to kick back and have a little scribing fun when you’re blocked.

Here are a few sites to see when your creativity is on the lam:

Image Alternatives and Tweaking

I know that many copyright-free images aren’t immaculate as they stand. Some might need cropping, or maybe a boost in color. Maybe you want to explore options beyond just photos.  It can be both productive and entertaining to experiment with visuals when the words are hiding from your fingers. A few ideas:

Gimp is one of my favorite free ‘photoshop’ tools to adjust images with. It’s simple to navigate and fun to explore. You can also resize, add text on images and create poster/silhouettes from pictures.

Be Funky Lets you edit photos in a less traditional way with an even easier-to-master format than Gimp.

You can read dozens of articles on how infographics are passé these days, which are evenly balanced out with fans of the medium. It comes down to your personal preference. If you’re looking for free ways to create your own, look at Entrepreneur.

Wordle Create word clouds to introduce or underscore your topic and keywords. There are a lot of options available for designing your own original word-influenced intro image, with various fonts and styles to match.

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Brainstorming Sites

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but when I get stuck I usually doodle or mind map on paper with a pen. I still use that method- but I’ve also found a lot of cool sites that offer googobs of alternatives online:

Bubbl.us and Wordstorm are two virtual mind map sites that can reenergize your inspiration.

When you’re looking for a random nudge in any creative writing direction, give Bank of Imagination or Creativity Portal Prompts a go. You’ll probably get many more ideas than you’ll need, which you can always revisit later.

The ‘mystery writer prompt‘ is just one of many options that Love to Know writing prompts offer.

Nanoism A site designed for the Twitter set of writers, creating stories of 140 characters. Challenging? Yes. For even more of a challenge, check out Smith Mag’s memoirs of six words. Not only can you add your own to the mix, you’ll find a lot of hilarious creativity from fellow writers.

The Heretical Rhyme Generator page has a Shakespearean insulter, along with a ‘Beatnik Ramble;’ a concrete poetry generator at New Pollution gives old-school visualization to your thoughts; and Rhymezone is the place to go to find a rhyme (shocking, that). I used ‘orange’ as an example. To give it its due, at least it tried.

Forgotten Bookmarks Sample 2

Motivating a Stubborn Muse

Finding motivation for writing can be as elusive as getting a sparkly, fresh idea. Luckily, there are a lot of quirky out-of-the-box places to visit that might jolt you into action:

Write or Die It is exactly what the title implies: if you don’t write X amount, you get warnings. You can choose a nudge, like the ‘Gentle’ reminder that pops up- or if you’re feeling frisky try the ‘Kamikaze’- it starts to erase what you’ve already written if you take too long a break.

Language Is a Virus I adore this site, even if I’m feeling full of writing vim and vigor. In a word: it’s divine. Articles, games, generators and offbeat exercises abound. The only problem is that it can also be a ‘prompt’ that helps with your procrastination. Grin.

Forgotten Bookmarks is another site I go to often. It’s a collection from an antique and rare book dealer who posts the things found in books they’ve acquired. It includes letters, postcards, or a piece of history. On that note, Ambiguous Pics is a nice site for guessing at the story behind the picture-? Both are good for moving your mind forward.

I Write Like A last motivator is finding out which great writer your style echoes, if you’re feeling low about your penning skills. Apparently, my last travel blog post echoes Ursula K. Le Guin, a fantasy writer. Cool.

Collaborative Brainstorming

It can definitely help shatter writer’s block or be inspiring to word play with others. Or simply chat.

Ficly is limited to 1,024 words, but unlimited in what you can write. You can add to a story- create a prequel, an ending, a character to an ongoing tale- or take up a challenge.

Storify has a different approach to creative writing. You take already existing news or media, tweak it and create a new ‘story.’ I don’t know how thin the ice is for plagiarism for this one, but for some of you more techie than me it might be a good exercise.

Writing Forums Have a question, need new eyes on a piece or just want to unwind with like-minded souls? This is the place for you.

Map Maker

Other Sites/Stuffs/What-Have-Yous

A few other gems that might be helpful in your quest for inspiration or usefully amusing bits and bobs:

Self-Publishing Team offers free writing templates for when you’re at a loss of where to begin your novel, or crave some guidance on organizing your thoughts.

Timetoast has a collection of other users’ creations of timelines (for example, the Vietnam War) and you can make your own timeline. It helps with keeping track of characters, arcs or just organizing a company’s press release.

Urban Dictionary is a highly entertaining and up-to-date site of the latest slang, terms and silliness creative minds are coming up with.

ePodunk lists small town details in detail, an unusual site for ‘what if…?’ questions.

Fantasy Map Maker is a genius free tool for fantasy writers who are creating their own worlds. I couldn’t find a name to attribute, but who ever this site belongs to is quite generous.

Lilac Writer is specifically for songwriters to motivate writing, organize and connect your lyrics.

Reddit Edit Literally hot off the press, it’s the most recent Reddit highlights in bite-sized blurbs.

Snopes Not a guilty pleasure but a fully enjoyable one, Snopes is the urban legend resource center. And you get to find out what ‘glurge’ means.

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Namelymarly on Pinterest has a board called Inspiration for Writers– a fantastic collection of advice, humor, tips and fresh information for writers.

A list of Twitter chats for writers by Inky Girl is another great way to find motivation and inspiration as a writer. The index is divided into days, topics and ‘slow chats’ which means you can definitely find something relevant for your style.

This is the last in this particular series of ‘Freebies for Newbies.’ I truly hope it’s a handy resource for when you’re feeling stuck in a writing rut- or when you’re simply in the mood to take a break.

As always, good luck with your words where ever they may take you. –M.

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