Being a blogger is fun because you get to write about an issue or topic of your choosing when you want. Ideas abound everywhere and all it takes is imagination and natural curiosity to spot the potential for a blog post in, both, normal everyday situations and the big situations in life.The best bit about blogging is, for me anyway, that I have complete control over the point of view that I take.

As an example, when I blogged about ‘Love Island’ a few days ago  the angle I took was about the parent and child interaction which interested me as opposed to the hundreds of articles written about the body beautiful contestants. Granted the latter was probably more newsworthy because the millions of viewers who watched ‘Love Island’ can’t have been sitting down just for views of trees swaying in the wind. 

But bloggers are able to bring their own experience and interest to bear which adds to the diversity of opinions in circulation.

It’s all great going till you hit the wall of writer’s block. Don’t believe any blogger who tells you otherwise. It comes to all of us like a big black cloud that will not budge. Do you wait till it passes or do you fight back? If you choose to fight back how do you do this?

My well thumbed personal copy

I have discovered a whole list of great ideas to bust writer’s block in ‘The Million Dollar Blog’ book by Natasha Courtenay-Smith. Chapter 7 in the book titled ‘Content Creation’ is all about the constant need to generate ideas that can spark off blog posts and the freeing up of one’s ability to think up ideas. Recognise the following scenario which Natasha describes in the chapter?

“It’s a new day. You’re sitting at your computer, all fired up. You begin to type today’s blog post-and you freeze. The screen remains depressingly blank as you feel your anxiety levels rising-you’ve got to write something, but what?”

Natasha, the author, lists what she refers to as “tricks” to unblock creative thought. These are:

1. Research your readers. Diving into your readers’ worlds is important in coming up with blog posts that will help you connect with them. Using Google’s keyword planner and Google’s Trend tool to search for specific words and phrases will give you a valuable insight into what your readers are looking for.

2. Using surveys on social media to directly reach out to your followers to ask them what they would like to read or suggesting topics and asking them for their views on whether these would interest them as readers.

3. Look at what your competitors are blogging about. What have they written that catches your eye and can you rewrite this using your own voice and point of view? Caveat – don’t plagiarise and offer something different in tone and substance.

4. Write about what you think about. We all have a myriad of ideas that flash through our brains every day. The trick is to capture these in words via a blog post.

5. Write about what other people ask you. Are you an agony aunt in your personal life to family and friends? Could you write about the problems that you are asked to help out with?

6. Hijack the news by looking at news websites, magazines, newspapers for ideas that you could give an opinion on.

7. While most ideas have been written about and rehashed a million times it does not mean that a fresh view cannot be offered.

The list above is a paraphrasing of what is set out in the book. It’s a book worth reading in full, by the way.

The strategy I employ is to cut out articles, op-eds and even pictures from newspapers that I can refer to for ideas.

My source of idea

It would be great to hear from other bloggers about tactics they use to blast writer’s block.

The producers of Love Island staged a coup of sorts when they invited the parents of the remaining contestants onto the show because it was a game changer. The show went from being a voyeuristic visual of flesh, cleavage and sex to one injected with a sense of warmth and charm. 

Those objects of lust, entertainment and trivia, otherwise known as the contestants, were cast in a different light all of a sudden and it was fascinating watching them interact with their parents.

If I had stopped to think about what sort of parent would condone their child going on a programme like ‘Love Island’, which I hadn’t, I probably would have been quite judgemental in the way that Piers Morgan was on ‘Good Morning Britain’.  I am one of those mothers who would balk at the thought of my daughter ever even vaguely thinking about applying to go on ‘Love Island’.

The thought of her hanging out on a TV set dressed in bikini after bikini would cause me no end of worry because she would be nothing more than a binary object of either lust or ridicule to viewers. There doesn’t seem to be a half-way house with the women contestants. 

Also, I do rate academic qualifications very highly, perhaps too much so, and this is in no small part due to my cultural upbringing. 

However, I did feel challenged by the way in which the parents were able to tease out their children’s strengths and accomplishments and do it in a way that was akin to textbook parenting i.e be supportive unconditionally. I can’t say that I could have done the same.

Granted there was some soft telling off about sex in front of the cameras but, overall, it was pretty impressive parenting.

This episode of ‘Love Island’ was fascinating because, up till then, I had hardly watched the series and had, from the trailers shown, assumed it to be numero uno trivial nonsense that artificially talked up the benefits of being shallow. Placing all this in a paradise like setting was something that I disagreed with for the false sense of ‘success’ that it sold to young people.

While I still think that some of this is true, I did find much that was entertaining and heart warming.

Ironically I had only tuned in to watch it while waiting for a political programme to come on. My daughter, whom I frequently blog about, would describe this as a typical situation. Instead, I was engrossed waiting for the next set of parents to come on to find out what it was that they were proud of. Kudos to them and I am not the only one who found it all quite touching.

I can’t say that I am a ‘Love Island’ convert but I won’t be knocking it as much as I have and I won’t accuse my daughter of wasting her time if she chooses to watch it again next year.

Vince Cable is 74. To put that into context, the retirement age for people who are now in their fifties is 67. Given the low rates of wage growth many will probably have to work beyond that. Pensioners are seen as a prize political grab when it comes to votes. Donald Trump (I can’t stand him just for the record), Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are closer to Vince in age.

Politics, historically, was the domain of older men. Lord Palmerston was 70 years old when he was appointed in 1855. William Gladstone was 82 years old when appointed in 1892. It is only in recent decades that younger people have taken up prime political positions with Justin Trudeau, 45, and Emanuel Macaron, 39, being cases in point but the political age pendulum has hardly swung firmly in their favour. Jeremy Corbyn, who is riding high in the polls, is 68 and the clamour for him to be Prime Minister is not being mitigated in any shape or form by his age.

Yet the age detractors are never far away. Vince is often ridiculed on social media for being, well, ‘old’. See below as an example.

While all prejudices are largely irrational there is something particularly so about ageism. There is the philosophical argument that we can’t be against something that will befall us all at some stage. There is the economic argument that people need to be working well past the age that our grandparents retired at, 55, to plug holes in the pension system. I am no economist but, surely, having more people pay tax no matter their age must make for some economic sense. 

Age UK provided written evidence to the Public Service and Demographic Change Committee for a report in 2013 on ageing. In response to the question, ‘Does our culture about age and its onset need to change, and if so, how?’ Age UK had this to say: “Age discrimination is a major barrier and remains too prevalent. Older age is too often mocked and there is still too much explicit age discrimination in both the public and the private sectors. We are clear that the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty are hard won legislation and essential cornerstones for future progress.”
Given all this it is fair to say that ageism is a particularly illogical ‘ism’ in the field of prejudices. What is the threshold for ageism to kick in? When grey hairs appear? When people have grandchildren? What about people who grey prematurely? ‘Old age’ has become a contested term and is a subjective concept.

Judge Vince Cable on his leadership and political stance but not on his age. Ageism is a sick malaise in society and we, as party members, ought to defend Vince against such nonsense.

Sir Vince Cable and Jo Swinson at the ‘welcome the leader’ event in Central London 

Sir Vince Cable was in great form at his first ‘outing’ as leader of the Liberal Democrat party. In Vince style he was calm, assured and completely realistic about the challenges facing the party when he launched his leadership manifesto.

He demonstrated a steadying hand which is just what the party needs post-election when it did not reap the dividends that it had hoped for from the pro-Europe campaign stance that it took during the election. There were no surprise announcements as such but Vince’s manifesto distinctly marks a move away from the party’s stand of rolling back the state’s role through austerity measures when he was part of the coalition government.

Me, Jane Chelliah, with Sir Vince Cable

In contrast, the leadership manifesto states, “We need properly funded and effective public services..”.

A bigger role for the state will be situated in the centrist ground. “The middle ground has been vacated”, he said, while “zealots” in British politics were positioned on the left as being “anti-business” and on the right as being “anti-Europe”. No pressure there then in a political landscape which is very much divided between right and left.

Interestingly, Vince uses the word ‘ambitious’ quite prominently in his manifesto and in doing so subtly sets out the challenge that the party faces from either side of the political spectrum. With Jeremy Corbyn riding high in the polls and the Prime Minister receiving the strong backing of the 1922 Backbench Committee to shore up her position the middle ground is being squeezed.

However, there is much to play for over Brexit. Vince spoke about how Brexit is heading for a disaster and cited the Euratom issue as evidence of Tory dislocation from the reality. He warned that this “wonderful organisation” is in danger of being completely derailed from the Brexit fall out. As expected, he spoke about the folly of pulling out of the single market and praised the EU for successful policy making especially over environmental and security issues.

Speaking alongside Vince was Jo Swinson in her new role as deputy leader of the party. Some issues of importance to her, which she articulated, were to increase the ethnic membership of the party and about making new members feel involved. As a woman of colour it was rather encouraging that the lack of diversity is receiving the recognition that it ought to have done some time ago in the party.

Me, Jane Chelliah, with Jo Swinson

I sometimes do wonder about the party’s ability to capture the mood of the moment. Jo was asked a question about the 2018 local elections and, somewhere in her answer, she referred to empowering local communities and people to help themselves. In the context of what is happening at Grenfell following the fire it is quite obvious that local councils have a big role to play that cannot be understated in ensuring that their citizens receive a good level of service. Witness the way the residents of the borough of Kensington & Chelsea have criticised the local authority for not doing enough and their call for better services. 

Vince predicts that the party will win a good number of seats in the 2018 local election and that we can be optimistic about increasing the number of MPs taking seats at the next general election. If Brexit carries on being a disaster I reckon he will be proven right.