Writing your College Essays with Passion When You Have None

I write every single day of the week for anywhere from six to twelve hours a day. That is a lot of time to devote to the keyboard, so you’d think that I would at least enjoy what I do. Sadly, you couldn’t be further from the truth. I may act like I love to write, but my true passion is math and design. I have never enjoyed the writing process, but I’ve always been good at it. That’s why I chose to pursue it as a career.

If you hate writing like I do, you probably have trouble conveying your ideas in college essays because the hate comes across as a lack of care. I have been down this road many times in my day, so I thought it may be nice to provide some quick writing tips for people who hate writing. Whether you’re applying for minority scholarships or you’re writing an essay for class, you will need to learn how to fake it with the best of them. Here are some tips that should help you fool the school and anyone else that comes across your writing in the future.

Write Everything at Once

When you hate to write, you will inevitably stop in the middle of what you are doing to “come back to it later.” This may work in some situations, but it is not ideal in most cases. Instead, you want to write down all of your thoughts in one sitting so that they flow together consistently. I started writing this article at 12:24, and I plan to finish it before 12:36. Seeing that it is 12:26 now, I’d say I’m making pretty good time. I always write from beginning to end, without any pauses in between. That is what keeps my thoughts moving on the page, and it is ultimately what makes me efficient at my job.

Don’t Procrastinate

I am the king of procrastination (not that I’m proud of it), and I have been that way since I can remember. I always assume that there is way more time in the day to do things than there actually is. Of course, I always pull off a project in the end, even if I push it off to the last minute. Nevertheless, I have learned that this is a vicious cycle to get into. If you hate to write, you need to just get it over with. Rip it off like a Band-Aid and push through it early on. Then you will have time to review your work and relax in the wonder of your writing freedom.

Use Elevated Language

As much as you may want to half-ass your work when you hate doing it, you need to maintain the quality standards for your writing. I’m not saying that you have to write like Charles Dickens or Emily Dickenson, but you do need to write like the college student you are. None of this three words per sentence crap or paragraphs that have a statement without a supporting sentence. Your professors will know when you just bullshit to get through something. You can’t let them see the frustration in your writing.

I am well aware of how hard it is to write when you don’t have a passion for it, but it is something that you will have to do throughout your life. You might as well learn how to grin and bear it now so you can fake your way to success. I do it every damn day, and I feel pretty proud to say that. You just need a little practice to do the same.

Understanding Narrative Mode in your Academic Writing

Good storytelling deals as much with how a story is told as it does with what a story is. The dramatic moments and insight into the characters and their conflicts all come from information gathered about those characters. One of the easiest ways to build that drama is through an understanding of narrative voice. Each narrative mode has its own strengths and weaknesses, and thus each will benefit different types of stories.

First Person

Though the First Person narrative mode has been used throughout the literary ages, the particular style has recently come back into vogue, perhaps spurred by the rise of two particular genres—blogs and memoirs. Like both of these mediums, the First Person narrative makes use the first person pronouns “I” and “me”.

With regards to informational limits, the First Person mode is exceptionally restricted. As the narrator is a character in the story, the narrator’s knowledge is limited to what the character knows, sees, hears, feels, or is told.

This narrative voice is exceptionally flexible and can go very far to illustrate the personality of whoever is telling the story. However, this mode can also create confusion for the reader, blurring the line between character and author. While this might seem trivial, bear in mind that you will likely have to defend your character’s actions to your mother.

Third Person

The vast majority of stories are narrated from the third person. As First Person makes use of the pronouns “I” and “me,”The third Person uses the third person pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “they,” as well as proper names. To boil that down to an easier explanation, a story told in the Third Person is a story told about someone else.

The third person is a very common form of storytelling, and because of that, there are many different narrative modes within the greater realm of the third person.

Limited

Third Person, Limited has a great many similarities with First Person mode. The two methods are largely identical, albeit with a pronoun shift. The Third Person, Limited mode also bears similar knowledge constraints as First Person. When using this narrative mode, it’s important to remember that if the character does not witness something, then the narrator didn’t either. This compartmentalization of knowledge extends all the way to the reader. Because of the limited knowledge scope, this mode works exceptionally well for creating anticipation and frustration through unknowing.

Selective

When employing the Third Person, Selective mode, the narrator shifts from scene to scene, and even within scenes, based upon the characters which are present. This type of narrative mode allows for the showcasing of multiple viewpoints while still allowing for compartmentalized information.

To understand the difference between the Limited and Selective modes, picture a conversation between two characters. In a Limited mode, one character can provide internal monologue about what she is saying and about what she is hearing, while the other character in the conversation can only be taken at their word. When using Selective mode, insight can be gathered from both characters, but only by the audience. Each character is still isolated from the thoughts of the other, but the audience would thus be privy to the information possessed wherever the narrative currently resides.

Omniscient

As the name suggests, the Third Person, Omniscient mode sees and knows all. While Selective can be a significant jump up in knowledge from Limited, an Omniscient storyteller possesses an exponentially larger amount of knowledge. Every insight of every character is fair game. Every action anywhere in the plot can be used to tease and taunt the reader.

This type of narrative is very difficult to master. With the narrator knowing everything, the role of doling out that knowledge is left up to the author. Displaying too much information too soon will spoil the mounting pressure of the work. Giving away too little knowledge will leave your story sluggish. However, strike that perfect balance within the Third Person, Omniscient mode and you can play the reader like an instrument, inducing emotion at your whim.

Objective

The roles of differences between Limited, Selective, and Omniscient modes all deal with how much insight into the internal works of characters that the narrator has. Objective, on the other hand, provides insight into none. This very restrictive mode is ultra-precise and relies on description. In this sense, the Objective mode is very close to a cinematic or documentarian standpoint. Without insight into the thoughts or feelings of characters, the narrator merely records what is seen.

Second Person

I would be remiss if I did not address the Second Person mode. In the second person voice, the narrator is speaking directly to the audience, making explicit use of the word “you.” This means that the narrator is narrating the actions of the audience. If the idea sounds cumbersome, it is because the Second Person is cumbersome. While it works in articles and self-help books, the second voice usually feels out of place in works of fiction that aren’t published under the “Choose Your Own Adventure” banner. To that end, my advice regarding the Second Person mode is simple: do not use it.

When telling your story, it’s important to choose a narrative mode which does the most justice to that story. Remember, as the author, you are already in the omniscient role, but that doesn’t mean your narrator has to be. The greatest source of drama stems not from knowing, but rather from not knowing.

Top 5 Grammar Myths that are Killing your Academic Writing Skills

Tired of following grammar “rules” that don’t make any sense? It will probably astound you to know that these rules you think you have to follow aren’t even real rules. They’re myths; legends passed on from generation to generation of confused writers. You don’t have to be a victim anymore.

MYTH 1: YOU SHOULD NEVER SPLIT INFINITIVES

We’ve already addressed this one more in depth. There’s nothing wrong with splitting infinitives. It’s a silly old rule made up by silly old men to make the lower class look, well, silly. Splitting an infinitive is acceptable, as long as:

  • It preserves the integrity of the sentence,
  • It does not change the meaning of the sentence, and
  • It does not violate a rule in the style guide you are following.

MYTH 2: ENDING A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION IS WRONG

A great speaker and writer were once lectured for ending his sentences with prepositions. He responded, “Madam, this is arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” That speaker? Winston Churchill. Dig under the layers of sarcasm, and you will discover his point: if you go out of your way to not end a sentence with a preposition, you create an awkward, clumsy sentence. Following that line of thought, you would have to eliminate:

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

What are you up to?

What are you waiting for?

The rule does apply to prepositions at the end of the sentence that is redundant; that is, it repeats the thought that the phrase before it left off. Hence “Where are you at?” is the same thing as “Where are you?” The “at” is redundant of “where,” so it is incorrect.

MYTH 3: YOU SHOULD NEVER SPLIT VERB PHRASES

Splitting verb phrases (should definitely leave, will probably divorce) is not only correct, it’s also an often attractive stylistic choice for a writer. One of the most important things you as a writer can do is change the structure of your sentences around to add some spice. Throwing in some splits will liven up flat writing. Just be sure to avoid awkward splits:

He’s fixing the car that he had just five days ago bought.

MYTH 4: YOU SHOULD NEVER START A SENTENCE WITH “AND” OR “BUT”

The rule about starting sentences with “and,” “but,” “or,” and other connecting words applies to sentence fragments. Novice writers will tend to slap on a period at the end of a thought and start a new one with a connector, but that new phrase isn’t a complete sentence. For example:

I took my sister to the prom. But just the one time.

Grammatically, the phrase “But just the one time” is incorrect; it doesn’t have a subject and verb. In this case, starting a sentence with a connector is wrong. However, the rule doesn’t apply to all sentences. As long as you follow the connector with a complete sentence (subject and verb), it is perfectly acceptable.

I’m a lumberjack. And I’m okay.

MYTH 5: CONTRACTIONS ARE NOT TO BE USED IN FORMAL WRITING

Writers tend to avoid using contractions, fearing that they will be seen as too conversational and informal. Instead, these writers will write out the whole word — cannot, do not, I will let us, and it is, etc. — rather than the contractions, believing they will be viewed as more formal and professional. This misconception is one that should be abolished. Your words should be chosen based on how they affect the rhythm, length, and pace of the sentence. Often, writing out the whole word or phrase instead of the contraction makes the sentence too clunky and cumbersome to read.

I cannot lie to you, dear; I did not go to the doctor like I should have done. Do not worry; we will get the problem fixed. In the meantime, let us forget the oozing scabs and cuddle.

This is a good example of slow, awkward writing. Oozing scabs aside, does it sound more “formal”? No. It just makes it hard to read. The poor spouse of this leper would probably rather hear:

I can’t lie to you, dear; I didn’t go to the doctor like I should’ve done. Don’t worry, we’ll get the problem fixed. In the meantime, let’s forget the oozing scabs and cuddle.

I would, however, advise her against the cuddles.

The 4 Most Destructive Writing Rules

There are a lot of people out there telling you how you should and shouldn’t write. Truth is, they don’t care how well you write, they’re just interested in selling you a book or getting hired as a writing coach. Well, I don’t have a book to sell, and I wouldn’t coach anyone fool enough to hire me, so I can tell you the truth. (Note to self: Get a book to sell and stop insulting potential clients.)

With that in mind, I’ll dispel the 4 most destructive writing rules for you and give you one you can always count on.

Avoid passive voice.

Passive voice is a tool. You wouldn’t tell a mechanic to avoid using a 7/8” socket or a taxi driver to avoid using the windshield wipers, would you? Every sentence form has a place, and passive forms are no exception. When the object is more interesting than the subject, or the subject is flat out unknown, it’s time to break out the “to be” verbs and get sedentary.

Be concise.

Brevity is the soul of wit, right? Well, unless you’re Douglas Adams. (Pro tip: You’re not.) You could call the late author of the inappropriately named Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy a lot of things, but “concise” would be pretty far down the list, just below “Fishman” and “alive.” He’s also sold a lot more books that you’re likely to. Same goes for Mark Twain, Dave Barry, and Neil Gaiman. Some people’s style is concise, others get good when the going gets long.

Omit needless words.

(I must point out that this is not the same as the preceding item, which would be sort of a rip-off. ) A lot of people really hate Strunk & White. I’m not one of them, but I can see why. This “rule” has inspired some of the worst examples of writing advice I’ve ever seen. You wouldn’t believe the atrocities committed against literature in Strunk’s name. The problem lies in the word “needless.” Does it mean grammatically needless? Semantically? Need varies from writer to writer, sentence to sentence. Taking a string of words out of context and condemning some as unnecessary is just barbaric, especially when you’re just parroting advice someone else gave. Don’t sweat over every adjective for fear of zombie-Strunk’s scornful judgment. Just write.

Write what you know.

Let’s face it, most people are. I certainly am. So you don’t know enough to write interesting material. That’s why Drizzled and I came up with an exciting writing technique: research. With this clever trick, you can find out new things and write about those! Better advice would be “Know what you write.” Chances are, most of your readers are already pretty familiar with eating Cheetos and watching Friends reruns in your underpants. Why not introduce them to something new?

And the final golden rule…

Think for yourself.

While all of the above is great advice, they are terrible rules. Sure, they may work 90% of the time. Sure, they may get you out of most situations. But as you grow as a writer and hone your craft, your style will develop until you no longer need a checklist beside your manuscript. The thoughtful and attentive writer will have internalized the above rules and thousands more but will realize when best to apply them and when to defy them.

Knowing How and What to Research in you College Essays

Research is the part of the writing process that most people dread, but a lot of that is because they are looking at research in the wrong light. The whole process has been labeled as the boring part of writing. But what if it was considered as something fun, something that everyone loves doing all the time? When you really think about research, it’s just a formal form of foreplay. It’s getting to know the topic before getting down and dirty with it. It could be considered the most exciting part of the writing process if people just gave it a chance. Hopefully, the tips below can help you see research in this sexy new light, and then you can apply my theories to the research you have to do for your supply chain management degree.

How Many Sources Do You Need?

If you start thinking about research in a fun and exciting way, the whole process seems to go a lot faster. The problem that a lot of people have is that they don’t know when to stop researching or they don’t do enough research before they start writing. It’s a difficult balance, but there are some rules of thumb that you can consider.

If a person is writing a short essay (probably 1000 words or less), then all he needs is three good sources to provide the information that you need. One source isn’t sufficient because he would be basing all of his knowledge on one other person’s opinions. If he uses two sources, then he runs into the problem of getting two vastly different versions of the same information. That’s where the third source comes in. It acts as a tiebreaker between the two and allows the writer to pick a majority opinion to base his information on. Sure this isn’t a foolproof system, but if someone isn’t writing a huge essay, there’s no sense in doing more research than necessary.

Obviously, the larger the essay that a person needs to write is, the more research that he’ll have to do. A ten-page paper can’t be based on three small sources. There just isn’t enough information to work with. For multi-page essays, one can assume that you’ll need one to two resources per page of text. A five page paper needs anywhere from five to ten resources, depending on the subject. Just like the other rule, this doesn’t work for every essay. If someone isn’t very knowledgeable about the subject you’re writing about or if the topic covers a wide range of subjects, you would have to do more research than you would on a narrow subject that he was familiar with. If you feel like you don’t have enough information, then the best solution is to research some more. No one will complain that you know too much about a subject.

What Sources Do You Need?

In terms of what you need to research, you will, of course, need to find sources that fit the topic you are about. You also need to make sure that you are getting your information from an accredited source that is an authority on the subject. It’s important to try to find sources that don’t seem too biased. If most of the sources are biased, then you need to make sure that you get sources from both sides of the argument. This will let you form your own conclusions and have a well-rounded opinion on the topic. Most people will say to avoid internet sources, but as long as the information comes from knowledgeable authors or companies, there shouldn’t be any problems.

Final Words

Still, the best thing to do when researching is to think about it in the right way from the start. Stop dreading the research process and embrace it as something fun and exciting. If a writer is eager to learn about a given subject, he is a lot more likely to fully grasp the information. As long as he follows some basic rules of thumb along the way, he’ll be finished in no time. So go out there–learn, explore, and search every corner of the world for information. Just be sure to start off having a little bit of fun.

How to Overcome Writer’s Block as an Academic Writer

It happens to everyone at some point: you have been writing at an astounding pace, the words flying from you faster than you can type them. You’re on fire. Then, suddenly, the words stop. It’s not that you don’t know how to say what you want to say—it’s that you don’t even know what you want to say.

You have writer’s block.

AT A LOSS FOR WORDS

Writer’s block is not just reserved for creative writers; even though fiction writers are usually more vocal about it, anyone that is doing any kind of writing can get stumped. It is usually brought on because you have genuinely run your brain ragged, causing it to burn out on you. (Creative writers tend to confuse writer’s block and laziness; since you are reading this article and trying to find a way to cure your locked-up mind, I am assuming you do not fall in that category.)

The brain is just like any other muscle: Work it too hard, and it will give up. Think of writer’s block as a cramp in that muscle and then treat it as such: massage it, relax it, and then warm it back up.

FREE YOUR MIND

The best “brain massage” (and writer’s block cure) is writing. Just sit down and write words, any words. Don’t filter them or edit them. Just write. Look out your window and describe what you see. Write about the worst date you ever had. Heck, if all else fails, write the lyrics to your favorite song. The point is to make words appear on your screen (or paper, if you’re still stuck in the dark ages). They don’t have to make sense. Your brain is locked up and refusing to create words, so spitting out anything at all will help get those linguistic juices flowing again. What you’re writing during this time shouldn’t be at all relevant to your actual writing project.

Days could go by while you’re still under the block; don’t fret. Just keep writing. Don’t, however, fall into the time trap. Many will allow themselves a block of writing time where they are required to sit at the computer. That’s exactly what they do—sit. Somehow, by looking at a blank computer screen for an hour, they feel justified in their attempts because they’ve been “thinking.” Don’t wait for inspiration to hit. Instead, set a word count or page quota for yourself. If you try to write for an hour, you’ll waste that hour and then be done; if you make yourself write five pages before dinner, then hunger will drive you to finish those five pages so you can eat.

RELAX

When writing doesn’t do the trick, move on to step 2: Relax. Go outside. Take a walk. Go on a short trip, if you have the time and your project isn’t due immediately. Don’t think of it as giving up or goofing off. In fact, when you have an ongoing writing project, your brain becomes absorbed in that and external factors take on new meaning and relevance. The mind is always working even when you don’t realize it, and it is usually during these times of subconscious or passive thinking that your best ideas will come forward. If they don’t, at least you got a good moment of exercise and rest to blow off steam.

WARM IT BACK UP

Now is the time to ease back into your original writing project. Start slow and don’t expect it to all come flooding back at once. Your other writing activities and your relaxation have given your brain a break from the problems of your work. Tiptoe back in. If you’re really stuck at the end of a paragraph and don’t know where to go from there, just leave it for now and begin a completely different paragraph or section. You can always come back later. Just keep writing.

How to Make an Informative Essay Fun

Have you heard the joke about the online college student who bored her professors to sleep with every word that she wrote? Chances are you haven’t because there’s nothing funny about a boring writer. Nevertheless, the “boring” dilemma seems to arise a lot when people write informative essays. Most assume that to relay information, they have to be bland writers. The truth is that informative essays can actually be fun if they are written well enough. There are subtle things that can be changed within an essay that turns it from dull to enjoyable without losing the integrity of the information. I ought to know, seeing that I write for a living. Here are a few tricks I learned during my time in writing and throughout my career that may help you spunk up an otherwise boring college essay.

Defining “Fun” in an Essay

First, you have to realize that having a “fun” essay doesn’t necessarily mean that there has to be a joke or humor throughout the piece. Humor is a great tool, but a lot of times it isn’t appropriate for the audience. An essay written for CEOs of a major corporation would lose its significance if it had jokes scattered within its paragraphs. If the audience is informal enough to laugh at the humor and still understand the overall information, then, by all means, make the essay a little funny. For most audiences though, other means of “fun” need to be explored.

Supporting the Text

One great way that a writer can keep his audience entertained is by providing examples that break up some of the information. This reestablishes the point he was making in the preceding sentences and gives the audience a second to think about all the information they have been reading. Though an example may not seem like much “fun,” it can be just the thing that makes someone enjoy an essay. Not only does it clarify any questionable information, but it also relaxes the mind of the reader – even if it’s just for a moment.

Loosening the Language

Another way to introduce a little fun into an informative essay is to write it with some informality. A writer can use contractions and conjunctions where he or she may not have normally put them to make the essay a more reader-friendly. This technique doesn’t work in every situation, especially not when writing for a formal audience. When it’s fitting though, lessening the formality of the language can be quite successful because it helps the writer relate a little better to his audience. An informative essay can transform from a manual to a tutorial by simply making the writing less formal.

Cracking Academic Jokes the right way

There are some rare instances when the hypocrisy in a statement or the blatant ignorance of it makes for good humor. You can insert academic humor into your writing, and that will actually make you look more intelligent as a whole. If you can’t identify a joke like this though, don’t even try to do this. You’ll end up looking stupid, rather than brilliant.

Final Words

Having a fun informative essay may not work for everyone, but it’s an option that most people don’t consider even when it does fit. Humor, good examples, and informality are great options if the audience can be accepting. It all depends on who the essay is written for. Information doesn’t always have to be written in a boring way. An essay can be both enjoyable and educational without having to change too much about the style. A long as a writer tries to establish a genuine connection with his audience, there should be no problem incorporating some “fun” into an informative essay.

How to Effectively Write a Persuasive Essay

There are countless styles of writing out there, but one of the most prominent ones you may actually apply in your college academic assignments and outside of your education is the ever-so-impacting persuasive essay. Persuasive essays are useful in starting debates, convincing employers to hire you, getting bills passed, or even convincing the administrators to let you join your favorite school. But the only way you to let your persuasive essays do the talking for you is to adopt an effective writing method. Here are some helpful tips to help you get your point across and successfully get someone to side with you.

Know Your Main Points

You will need to know what the focus of your persuasive essay is and keep it in mind as you use it so you can drive your point home in your writing. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, neither will your audience. Set some time to do a little brainstorming with keys ideas you have any evidence for each point to back yourself up. Above all, highlight the most important point in your persuasive essay and keep them clean, simple, and clear for your audience to better understand your argument.

Outline Your Argument

Outlining in your persuasive essay isn’t always necessary, but it can be quite helpful when you aren’t used to writing essays. You want to organize your thoughts so they flow in your mind and in the mind of your audience.  If you feel like two things are unrelated but back to back, switch stuff around until you can see clear thought transitions. Whatever you do, avoid beating around the bush. Instead, you’re your argumentative point plain and simple to avoid confusing your audience and hence discouraging them to read your work.

Start with a Bang

All persuasive essays need to have a hook – a bait that draws the audience to want to know what happens next. In simple terms, I like to call this a “Bang”. You will have to get your audience’s attention right from the get-go. To do this, get a hook from the very beginning of your persuasive essay. It could be a compelling story, or some fun facts, or crazy (but accurate) statistics, or even a famous quote – just anything that will create an interest in your audience. Be keen to select an introduction statement that best suits the audience you have.

While creative stories ate effective in latching into people’s emotions, statistics and facts work best in structured environments. Use a persuasive tone as you introduce your essay and maintain a clear flow thereon.  At the end of your introduction, have a clear statement of the thesis (main topic) of your argument so people know where you’re going with your facts, stories, or data.

Address Your Points Clearly

Now that we have made a strong introduction to our persuasive essay, we need to build the meat. Here you want to address all your points clearly, backing up every statement with enough proof to establish credibility and reader trust. Rambling around your points is nothing shy of annoying, and it is also highly ineffective. You want to state your main point in the introductory sentence of every subsequent paragraph (or shortly after), and then follow it up with strong points or facts to support your claim. You can also rework your introductory “bang” within the body of the persuasive essay to re-grab your audience’s emotions and attention. Do this all the way until the conclusion.

End with a Bigger Bang

The conclusion of your persuasive essay is arguably the most important part of your essay. Why? It is ‘’arguable’’. By now, you already have a solid argument leading up to your conclusion for it to even remotely be effective. Your words will mean absolutely nothing if people don’t find anything to relate to in your persuasive essay. But if you have a sound persuasive essay going through, you want to make sure to summarize key points at the end and really highlight the overall purpose of the essay. Remind people of what you have said before, and then construct a concluding sentence that leaves them to ponder every word. The last sentence of your essay is the key to getting them to change their mind about something because it is what they remember most. Perhaps you can provide an effective solution to your problem or a call to action. You might even twist entirely and change your message right at the tail end. Get creative and drive your point home for good.

7 Must-Have Software Programs and Services for Writers

Writers only need a pen, a piece of paper, and an idea. But, at least in my house, by the time you’ve found the pen and the paper, the idea has fled for warmer climes.  So here’s a look at a few somewhat-essential tools for the writer.

This list has two ideas behind it: 1.) Money is tight, so the tools should be free whenever possible, and 2.) the tools should be tailored to writers.

Amazing software for writers

Dark Room – Word Processor

Sure, Microsoft Word has lots of bells and whistles, and OpenOffice does a good job of being a free alternative, but they’ve both got lots and lots of buttons. Dark Room fixes that, and how! It is also designed to be run full-screen, so no new e-mails, instant messages, or tweets can distract you.

Sonar — Submission Tracker

Want to know how long your story’s been sitting on Tales of Extreme Awesomeness’s slush-pile? Need to know how many of your stories weren’t extremely awesome enough? Enter Sonar, the submission tracking tool.

Evernote — Notes

Your muse is a cold, heartless shrew. Tame her by keeping copious notes with Evernote. You’re not limited to text: Pictures, web pages, and audio files are all fair game.  It also syncs across multiple devices.  So the next time you’re in the shower and have your next great idea, you can whip out your iPhone to capture it and get back to lathering. (Please don’t use your phone in the shower)

Free Mind — Mind Mapping

I’ll let you read about mind mapping with Free Mind on this Wiki page. Go on, I’ll wait.

Services for Writers

Imagination Prompt Generator — Writing prompts

The Imagination Prompt Generator is used to generate and use writing prompts. The best part is that If you don’t like the one it gives you, you can press the button and get a new one.

WordPress.com or Blogger — Online Publishing

WordPress is nearly the de facto standard of online publishing but has lots of whizmos and doodads to distract. Blogger has a much simpler interface, but its commenting system is atrocious, so it may cost you interaction. Either way, both are free ways to get your otherwise-unpublished work in front of readers, so take your pick and roll with it.

Lulu or Create Space — Self-publishing

I couldn’t possibly help you choose between the two. Create Space gets you on to Amazon with no upfront fees (save for buying a copy to proof) while Lulu can get you into more outlets for a price. But these seem to be the two heavy hitters in the print-on-demand arena. Ultimately, the decision between the two comes down to your needs.