Followers of this blog may have noticed that in 2021 I haven’t been posting as regularly as in recent years. The early days, when I somehow managed to post every week, are long gone. For some time I’ve thought that one post a month was often enough, and lately I haven’t even been able to manage that. The truth is, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of bloggers block, often not knowing what to write and, when I do think I know, being unable to get it down on the screen. Other times I’ve started writing posts and then abandoned them half way through. I have to confess, I have even thought at times about coming clean and winding up the blog altogether.
But I don’t want to do that. I enjoy having my own platform to say whatever I like about work, about language and about life. It’s just that the platform creates its own obligation to put something on it. Because however much I don’t want to say “I’m not blogging any more”, nor do I want to just let it fade away because I’m not actually writing anything. I suppose it’s a problem faced by everyone who writes a blog in the long term. Have we still got anything to say? Are we just repeating ourselves and riding the same tired old hobby horses? I would hope not, but guarding against that also rules out a lot of ideas it might occur to me to write about. In recent months, this has certainly been getting the better of me.
Now I believe I may have turned the corner. With my recent post about METM21, I actually had something I was sure I wanted to talk about. It was an easy win, if you like, writing about the presentations and the experience of helping keep a section of the conference together as an MC. Because the last thing a blogger wants to be doing is waffling on about nothing.
And I think I’ve also found a way of keeping the ideas coming. One of the problems is that I always think of ideas for posts in the most awkward places, usually when I’m out for a walk. I try to get out in the mornings at least two or three times a week. It’s a habit I developed after the draconian lockdown we suffered in Spain in spring last year which kept us shut in our homes for months. When we could go out again, I started walking first thing in the morning whenever I can and I’ve kept it up ever since.
The problem has always been that the thoughts which come to me when I’m walking along by the sea are as fleeting as they are lucid. I can have an entire post written in my head when I’m out, but by the time I get home I can scarcely remember what I wanted to talk about. If I can remember it, the best I’m likely to be able to do is scribble down a one-word reminder on a scrap of paper, which I may or may not be able to find when it comes to actually writing a post. If I do find it, I may or may not remember what it means. Sometimes I don’t even remember to do that.
But the other day, as I pulled out my phone to take another picture of the impossibly spectacular early morning sky, I had a moment of inspiration. My phone also has a voice recorder. Why couldn’t I record my thoughts and then use them later to write those elusive posts? That way I wouldn’t lose a single thought along the way. So I did. There aren’t usually many people about where I was walking, and anyway it’s not at all uncommon to see someone talking into a phone when they’re out, so I really didn’t care if anyone saw me. The idea is to get the ideas out there, put them into words, and provide them with some sort of structure. It isn’t necessarily a finished post, but it should have everything I need to make one. It should also weed out ideas that don’t have enough substance to them, because if I start talking and find the subject doesn’t go anywhere I can reject it without wasting more time.
Before the pandemic, my regular exercise was swimming at a local gym. Then it was closed, and then open with restrictions and now I’ve lost all desire to pay a membership fee and feel obliged to get my money’s worth. Walking’s a lot more flexible and in the summer when it’s too hot I can swap it for a quick trip to the beach and a swim in the sea. I used to have some good ideas in the pool though, as I ploughed up and down. In those days, I’d have need a thought recorder in my head to catch them.
The phone’s a lot easier and I pulled it out several times on my walk the other day. By the time I got home I had enough thoughts recorded for three blog posts. Or I would have done if the battery in my phone, which has a pathetically short life, not given out just as I was recording the last one – the one about this blog post, in fact – and lost the whole thing. Strangely, although I re-recorded it, I haven’t referred to the audio file once while I’ve been writing this post. Just having it there seems to be enough.
Recording your thoughts is a great idea. I use the Google Keep app all the time for the same purpose. It also synchs between my phone and pc. So I can jot something down while I’m out and about, even expand it into a first draft, then come home and copy it directly from my pc into a Word document. Simples!
I also sympathise about keeping up with the blogging. I have a couple of blogs but they are veeeery slow blogs now, maybe posting something once a year. I find it easier to post short pieces on Instagram.
Thanks, Kevin. I’ve never used Google Keep. I’ve got several post ideas on the go now, so I’ll have to see when I can develop another one. I’d like to publish another two or three before the end of he year.
I’ve had the same blogger’s block, Simon! I think part of my problem is that I find things I want to write about, but I’m not sure who the audience would be. As a result my blog is mixture of advice for clients, advice for translations, and just posts about translation for anyone who finds it interesting! I, too, have been making use of voice notes more this year, so maybe inspiration will hit me in unlikely places too…
As you say, having a clear idea of who you’re writing for helps. Apart from a brief and unsuccessful experiment with blogging for clients in my source languages a few years ago (I just couldn’t keep it up), I’ve always blogged for translators and for my own satisfaction. The only business benefit I get out of it is that continually adding content to my site is supposed to improve my SEO. And I’m quite happy for it to be like that.
I, too, record my thoughts and ideas as the best ones do not come when I am in front of a computer but while cooking. Your blogposts are appreciated even if you do not post regularly.
Thanks, Dana. It means a lot to me to know that people are getting something from what I write.
Me, after reading paragraph 1: "I’ll leave a note suggesting he records his ideas as voice notes on his phone."
Me, after paragraph 6: "Great minds think alike."
Now I’m wondering why I don’t do this, especially as I have an assistant who can type it out for me. I’m getting a new assistant in January who will be working full-time (my current one does a 20-hour week) so there should be plenty of time for him or her to do things like this. Plus, it’s a good use of the assistant’s time as it doesn’t require any training.
It’s working well so far. I’ve already written another post and I’ve got a third one in the pipeline.