How Can Translators Get the Inspiration Back?

Jan 10, 2012   //   by Sergio Guillen   //   In English  //  14 Comments

To work on comprehensive projects often means to encounter high fences and moments of zero inspiration. Translators also have moments of this sort, even though most people think their job requires no imagination. The best way to improve the word flow is by taking a break and changing the activity for a short period.

The translation process is not as easy as one might think. It's important to find the appropriate words, not only to provide their equivalents, but also to make sure the translation sends the same message as the original text. When working on a large project concerning the same subject, at some point the translator will get stuck. The loss of inspiration in writing is usually caused by a long day filled with the same activity. To avoid a lack of ideas, it is imperative to take regular breaks and use that time to brainstorm through diverse activities:

People use different methods to relax and gather inspiration; so for each translator, there is an unwinding ritual to follow.

  • Take a walk — getting some fresh air is always a good idea when the brain gets tired. A stroll in the park or around the block offers a new perspective and stimulates the imagination by introducing new sounds, smells and images.
  • Read an article — sometimes finding more information on the subject will increase the knowledge level and the word fluency; in other cases, reading totally different subject matter will allow the brain a pause from the translation project and provide a fresh start.
  • Take a relaxing bath or a sauna — a relaxed body is the home of a relaxed mind. To get inspiration means to basically empty the mind and allow ideas to flow freely. The best way to achieve that is to unwind and simply allow the brain to take a break.
  • Practise sports — an hour of jogging, cardio, fitness or tennis boosts the endorphin levels, and the feeling of happiness rushes in. When one is in a good mood, ideas come easily and words are quicker to find.
  • Have a coffee/tea/cocoa/sandwich/cigarette break — sometimes even a five minute break can help with brainstorming. A short chat with a friend over a cup of coffee will change the course of thought and provide a fresh start to the original project.
  • Listen to music — some people are extremely inspired by music, and whilst sound waves course through their brains, ideas flow with great ease.

People use different methods to relax and gather inspiration; so for each translator, there is an unwinding ritual to follow. Whatever the formula, sometimes a writer simply needs a break from the long working hours and to change activities. The longer the brain focuses on something, the less productive it is on that subject. That is why translators need pauses from their projects—to gather new information and brainstorm fresh approaches to the original texts.

About Sergio Guillen

I’m a translator, copywriter, proofreader, and editor. My working languages are Spanish, Finnish, and English. Connect with me on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.


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    • Hi,

      Thank you for your post.

      Here is my “tip”, taking care of plants: pouring water, rearranging,…
      In fact I have to focus on something that will then give me satisfaction. My plants will grow, have flowers.
      Best regards

      • Hi Françoise,

        I’m glad you liked the post.

        Thank you for your tip! I’m moving soon to a new—and bigger—house so I’ll definitely consider to make a little ‘garden’ of my own :)

  • I agree completely. They say the same thing about solving a difficult math problem.

    • Thank you for your comment! Yeah, I believe these tips can also be useful when solving math problems.

  • Hi,
    Exactly what I needed reading this morning! Thanks a lot for the post, Sergio!


  • I find your tips very useful. Thanks for such an interesting article!

    Estrella Ruiz

  • Great post Sergio! I find even changing tasks can help (much less pleasant than Françoise’s plant care, however!).

    • Thanks, Juliette! True, many people find helpful to complete small assignments while working on a long and tedious project.

  • […] takeaways about translation and localization Project management for languages of limited diffusion How Can Translators Get the Inspiration Back? Six Essential Tips for Literary Translators Translators, first victims of marketing A NIFTY method […]

  • Love this. Music usually works for me. Depeche Mode preferably or Epic music.

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