Writer’s block


I’m not a person usually lost for words or ideas and generally don’t have too much trouble getting engrossed in a piece of work. It’s quite easy, really, when you work in such an inspirational environment as ELT publishing, surrounded by talented people, and when you enjoy what you’re doing. But, sometimes, I do get stuck. This is exactly what happened when I set out to write this blog post: I just couldn’t get a word out. Not a single one. I quickly realised I was experiencing a bad case of writer’s block (a bit unfortunate when you’re working against a deadline and have a million and one other things to do), and set out to try and overcome it. So, here are my (tried and tested) tips:

1. Go outside

Take yourself away from the problem and go for a walk. This will help to clear your head and you’ll go back to your work feeling fresh and motivated to write. It doesn’t matter where you go – it’s the actual getting outside that’s the key. And, you never know, you may see/hear something along the way that will inspire you and give you a great idea (see tip 2 below).

2. Get inspiration from other people

Your colleagues, friends and family – and even random strangers – can be a constant source of inspiration. On a lunchtime trip to St Pancras Station today, just round the corner from our office, I overheard a man talking very loudly on his mobile phone. “Yes!” he was saying, “I’m here!”, “I’m at St Pancreas!” At that last word I shuddered inside and was gripped by the urge to shout back at him: “It’s St PancRAS, you fool! – There’s no ‘e’!” A little harsh, perhaps, and even I was quite surprised by my sudden (internal) outburst. Anyway, I swiftly recovered my mood and went happily on my way, armed with an idea for a possible blog post: pronunciation. Or mispronunciation.

3. Look at the objects around you

This is a really useful tip. If you look carefully, there are lots of things around you – often things you see every day – that are little ideas-in-waiting. Sitting up, desperately searching for ideas at home late last night, I looked in vain at the objects around me in the hope that some sort of ‘inspiration miracle’ would take place. Vase – no; plant – no; sofa – no; handbag – no; iPad – n … AHA! My lovely iPad. I was lucky enough to be given an iPad for my birthday this year and – just like when I first got an iPhone nearly two years ago – I know that my iPad and I are going to be very happy together. So, that’s what I could write about, I thought: iPads, iPhones and apps in education.

4. Listen to music

Listening to music will take your mind away from the problem so that you relax (which works wonders) and you can also get inspired by the music itself – the artist, the lyrics or the memories that the music evokes. Whenever I hear any track from Christina Aguilera’s Fighter album, for example, I’m instantly transported back to a time when I was living in a caravan and working on a potato farm in Australia – which would make for an entertaining (if not wholly appropriate) blog post. But be careful not to let this turn into a procrastination technique – allow yourself four or five songs and then go back to your work, relaxed and inspired.

5. Draw on recent/past experiences

Make a list of the things you have done (or things that have happened to you) in the past week/month/year and choose one to write about. Here’s my list:

Things I have done (and things that have happened to me) this week
•    moved house
•    had friends over for dinner
•    been to a rock concert
•    missed the last train home
•    bought a new pair of shoes
•    got caught in the rain without an umbrella
•    been for a run
•    got writer’s block



  • Loved your post, Lucy – inspiring! 🙂

    Posted by Pedro Moura on July 08th 2011

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