I'm currently sat in a hotel room in Exeter with a fantastic view of the sun setting behind the cathedral (photo to follow if I can work out how to download photos from my mobile!) and a glass of wine. I've been down here for the week for the annual IATEFL
conference. I hesitated about coming this year because a) I'm snowed under with work and couldn't really afford the time 'off' and b) because I'm so busy, I don't really need to pick up more work at the moment.
It's really been worth it though just to spend a bit of time with folks I'm working with in person rather than via email, and to catch up with old friends and contacts. As a freelancer, it's so easy to get a bit isolated professionally, a chance to spend a bit of time with 'colleagues' is really invaluable, even if (perhaps, especially if) you don't really talk 'shop'. And of course, it's good to meet new people too, although it's sometimes difficult to show interest in what they might have to offer whilst at the same time explaining firmly that you're fully booked and really can't take on any more work right now!
It's also been useful to get a bit of inspiration at various talks and workshops. Over the past few years, I've consciously 'diversied' from dictionaries to vocab and grammar books, to researching and writing more general ELT stuff. And what with my teaching at Bristol Uni, I've been gradually getting more and more interested in EAP (English for Academic Purposes). I wrote some EAP materials for the university, then some EAP grammar units for MEC (Macmillan English Campus
- online resources). And this week's been a chance to find out what other people have got to say about Academic English. As ever, some talks just confirm what you already know (reassuring nonetheless), but I've picked up a few ideas too and have a few pages of scribbled notes to follow up if I can decipher them when I get home.
All of which goes to confirm once again how much I love having the freedom to control my own 'career', to pick and choose and plot a path which stops me getting bored!