Lesson 126: Where can a translator find the strength and motivation?

Lesson 126: Where can a translator find the strength and motivation?

Last week we discussed fears and insecurities and to balance things out, I wanted to look at the opposite end of the scale: what motivates us and gives us strength to work as a freelance translator, where can a translator find the strength and motivation. Because it’s “behind the scenes” series, I’m going to draw on some examples and solutions from my own career, but feel free to chime in and add your points in the comments below.

I’m the first one to say that the passion that we have for the profession works as the best motivator, but between you and me, it’s not a magic pill that sorts everything else out. And sometimes even if this passion was great in the beginning, it becomes tarnished with time and some negative experiences. And on other occasions, no matter how passionate I feel about translation in general, I simply don’t get all that excited in a particular period or on a particular assignment.

Feeling low levels of motivation or strength isn’t necessarily a disaster in itself. We all have ups and downs. But it becomes an issue if it takes longer than usual and starts affecting our work. How do we fix it, then? Take a look at some of my solutions, in no particular order.

Take a day off and away from devices

When I’m feeling down or overwhelmed, what usually helps is getting away from my computer, tablet, smartphone, everything. Just taking a real day off out in a park or a museum, reading a book in a café and eating out in a cosy local restaurant. On days like this (now making it into my weekly routine), I don’t check Facebook, Twitter or Skype, or sometimes I don’t even take any devices with me.


If I’m feeling generally uninspired about what I’m doing, I volunteer using my skills to see the real impact of my work on people’s lives. I used to volunteer for Victim Support and now I’ve just finished interpreting as a volunteer at a centre for migrants in need of support. Apart from doing the obvious good, volunteering for those who really need help puts your life into a specific perspective and it’s easier to reconnect with what drives you.

Mentor a newcomer

One of the biggest sources of motivation and strength is sharing your passion with another person and talking about your profession. Helping a colleague out is again a good thing in itself, but it also forces you to think about creative solutions and pieces of advice directing you to a path of self-reflection.

Go to a translation event

I remember a particularly gloomy period when I had lots of rather uninteresting work (or I believe I just lost interest in it because I was feeling uninspired in general) and I saw a reminder in my calendar about a translation duel taking place in London. I went there and it was so amazing to see two translators who worked on the same piece of text discuss each sentence, each preposition, each choice they made with so much passion and dedication. It’s infectious. Going to translation events or conferences gives you that kind of a boost.

Work from a different location

I love my home office, but every now and then it’s a good idea to change the scenery. In the past year, I worked at a several local cafes, in museums, in the British Library, in parks and in the underground (I kid you not). Working from a different place than usual can be a nice change for my mind. As much as I like silence and white walls, different stimuli can provide new insights.

Where do you take your motivation and strength to work as a freelance translator from? What’s keeping you going?


  1. Alina Cincan , on Apr 16, 2015 at 08:20 Reply

    I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a very gloomy period, but if it ever happens, I know what to do now, thank you for sharing this with us.
    I first heard about translation duels on Catharine Cellier-Smart’s blog and I’ve wanted to see one ever since.

  2. Silvia Ortiz , on Apr 30, 2015 at 12:36 Reply

    Sport helps me a lot!

  3. Beatriz Ramírez de Haro , on Apr 30, 2015 at 22:27 Reply

    Hi Martha,
    I am happily surprised to see that you recommend changing the working scenery. I find myself of late translating in cafes and trains (I travel a lot). I thought it was just a whim of mine, but now I see that I am in good company!!
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

  4. Lukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz , on May 4, 2015 at 14:59 Reply

    Sometimes you just need a longer holiday or a healthier routine.

  5. Yuji Nakamoto , on Nov 29, 2015 at 02:33 Reply

    I make it a rule to try 100 squats and sit-up in the middle of working almost every day.

  6. Henry , on Feb 13, 2016 at 12:16 Reply

    As a translator, I find this article so useful. It necessary to renergize after so much stare into a computer for days.

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