Words: J.Scott Stratton
Organising yourself isn’t the sexiest part of being an artist or creative, but often is one of the most needed things. There are many options out there for organising your thoughts, ideas and research, but which one’s are the best?
In this article, I will provide you with 5 of the tools that have become invaluable to me as a creative, writer, editor and all-around connoisseur of general internet weirdness.
This little browser-based organisational tool has been my go-to thing for the last few months. Imagine a web-based version of a big whiteboard, complete with an endless amount of ways to sticky-note, scribble, schedule and develop ideas.
I use it for mapping out the article content that I develop for Hustle & Move and my professional writing work. If you’re an artist that works with a team, I cannot recommend this tool enough. It will allow everyone that you are collaborating with to add, edit, and customise whatever it is you are outlining on your board—whether that practice scheduling or concept ideation.
The free version allows for three boards, whereas the pricing plans after that are dependent on how many people you want to have on a team. If you are part of an artist collective, this could be an invaluable tool for keeping everyone organised, and to have a central reservoir for ideas and thoughts.
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If you’re one of those people like myself that is better at writing out your thoughts in a scrambled misspelt mess, rather than “knowing good how words should put bee and speled”…..then Grammarly is your new best friend.
The basic free version is enough to ensure that your “yours” are not “you’re” unless they need to be. The platform is exceptionally good at picking up on subtle spelling and grammatical mistakes, for when “you’re” writing your artist bio or PR material or sending an important email.
For the premium version—which I would recommend for artists that employ more regular use of a blog or content marketing strategy—it offers more robust features. The paid version can help correct sentence structure, check readability and provides alternative word suggestions to make texts more natural to read. Arguably, a worthwhile investment of $30 a month.
Grammarly is available as a desktop app, but for all those clumsy thumb people, it also has a mobile app, which can be installed as an additional keyboard that will check your texts as you write.
The internet is a vast treasure trove of things that can be saved for inspiration or research at a later time. But what I have found is that often when I’ve tried and use Bookmarks to organise all the madness I find on the internet, it can become just as unorganised and confusing as the internet itself. Even in writing this, I discovered that I had some random Tumblr blogs that I had bookmarked about 12 years ago just camping out in my browsers.
Enter Dropmark. It’s a simple tool that can be added to your top menubar on a Mac, your taskbar on PC, or as an extension in your browser that allows you to save anything you find on the web—albeit, in a much more intuitive way than bookmarks. Full articles, images, videos, you name it, can be effortlessly stored and organised.
Where Dropmark excels is when you work in collectives or teams. Folders can be created and shared between groups so that everyone can add whatever internet weirdness they want to the folder—which everyone on the team can access.
It’s great for collaborative research.
An oldie, but still a goodie. Trello has been an easy way for people not schooled in the programming of corporate project management tools to maintain a certain level of project organisation—in order words, creative people.
Trello works on what is called a Kanban system, which essentially means that you have rows that you can specify with specific parameters—such as “in process” or “completed.” You can then create cards, which represent particular tasks or ideas which you can move from one row to another as a project moves through various stages.
The multitude of ways Trello can be used is, of course, much broader than this, but project management is the most common use.
Trello is excellent for teams or collective working on a project so that each individual can see where a task is in its process toward being completed. The challenge is that it also requires everyone to be diligent in updating Trello.
Personally, I find that with collaboration on Trello, there is always an initial excitement of setting up a project. But, over time, the board becomes stagnant as people get bored with the micro-management. Of course, this is just my experience; there are still many artists I know that use the tool daily.
While nearly every artist that I know is working in Google docs for working with text, I still find that Evernote has a few more robust features that make it a useful tool.
You can still write and share text with others, albeit I do believe that to have the same collaborative functionality as Google Docs, the other person also need to have an Evernote account. But where the platform shines is through how Evernote links pages, or “notes” as they are called, iso that you can easily find other things that you have written that have a similar context.
You can also download a Chrome extension which allows you to quickly save webpages or articles to your Evernote archive with a simple click of a button. This is where the “Context” feature mentioned in the previous paragraph becomes powerful. If you work with a lot of research, it becomes effortless to organise and archive web content into Notebooks which Evernote can link together based on its context.
As an example, you can create a Notebook in Evernote called research. Every time to find something relevant on the web, you can use the Chrome, Firefox or Safari extension to save that article into that Notebook.
In Evernote, at the end of every article, it will provide a “Context” section—where it suggests similar thematics or topics of other articles you have saved. Of course, this is most powerful when you have a vast archive.
In the end, organisation is a very subjective thing, and there will never be the perfect solution for every project—despite the number of available digital tools. But playing around with the ones listed above, should give you a decent start and developing a method to your madness.
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