Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Selective Writer's Block

Is there such a thing? Because I sure as all heck feel like I have it. 

Yesterday, I blew through translating the end of a chapter in probably around half the time it normally takes me. Smashed my own personal page-to-hour ratio record in the process. No particular reason for working so quickly besides everything just gelling really well.

On the other hand, I haven't written hardly a word of solely my own creation in a couple of weeks. This blog has ground to a halt; a currently in-progress original short story is just sitting there, waiting for inspiration that isn't coming. And I want to pull my hair out. (Maybe not my hair. I love my hair. Maybe a fingernail or two instead.)

A lack of creativity isn't the issue. I've been possibly overly proud of a couple of sentences I've translated, and a number of workarounds to tricky translation problems that I've dreamed up. But I hadn't been able to think up a new blog topic in...(hang on, counting)...sixteen days. Not a ton, but all the same, whoops .


Granted, I thought August was going to be my month to work up some of my own writing (and finish editing some summer-produced translations), but then a sample popped up for my favorite ladies. And a contest which I just have to enter, if I can track down rights for the story I want to submit. And another sample, upon request, for a publishing house. Those might just be getting in the way. Maybe. Perhaps. A little. Around the edges.

Ever so slightly.

A tad. 


Writer's Block

Translators are writers, too (I've written a post about that already). Which means, by extension, that translators hit writer's block, too. In both translation tasks and straight creative writing (which most literary translators also do -- more on that in a later post, I'm sure), there come certain times when you just get stuck. Hit a wall. Dig yourself into a hole. Run out of gas. Lose your momentum. Can't think of a single darn idea, not if you had to save your life. So, then, in response, there's this:

I'm in awe.

It's a letter from Robert Heinlein to Theodore Sturgeon, from one writer to another, with literally dozens of unsolicited story ideas. It's a slice of an amazing man's brain, a strange and wonderful world where things happen that we don't fully understand.

Now please excuse me. I have to go write a story about a cat.

Behind the Scenes of Walking the Walk

Setting:  Doing a translation of a French cantata libretto for a chorus' December concert, for program insert and possible supertitles.

What they see:

After a conversation in which I try convince them that a more complex (read: not as literal) translation is preferable, citing poetic flow and the like, I offer to do a sample of the well-known lullaby-like section to prove my point, that the rhyme scheme can kept intact without sounding forced.

They receive the sample shortly thereafter, and see that yes, indeed, the rhyme scheme makes it easier to read, without sounding disjointed.

What actually happens between the two events:

Oh FRACK rhyming is hard, I mean I knew this already but it's still hard, where's that rhyming dictionary gone to, oh FINE now which of these rhyming websites works best, WHY isn't there a rhyme for "angel" besides "archangel" because that just defeats the purpose, this doesn't make any sense anymore, I've completely lost the original meaning, well crap, start over, okay, now here's a list of all the words that could possibly be at the end of this line so do ANY of them match up with ANY other words that could possible be at the end of the NEXT line? no? okay, square one, right then, time to MAKE UP WORDS, English is stupid anyway, it's so freaking hard to rhyme in English, I mean, mother and father are fine feminine rhymes but that sounds so WEAK and the original libretto is so simple here so why is it so HARD in another language? oh right. translation. hard. fun, yes? fun? I guess, sometimes, maybe, so wait, can you make "lowly" rhyme with "woe" and "grow," maybe if it's at the end of the first line which runs into the second so you can fudge a bit and say that the second syllable really belongs to the second line not the first because that obviously makes TOTAL SENSE (sarcasm) (but maybe not, because Shakespeare did that, or did he only do that with different words of the same sentence, not different syllables of the same word) oooooh, hey, "abhorred" is a good word, but maybe it doesn't work in context, maybe it's too complex of a word, but WHY is it too complex? the "b" next to the "h" is unusual? it doesn't look English? or just that no one uses it ever, even though it's only two syllables, so maybe it's not that complex after all...hmm, I wish I knew more about linguistics, because there must be a way to quantify if a word is complex or not, and I wonder how many variables there would be, and if they take its usage in common speech into account -- STOPIT. you're rhyming, not leading a research on word complexity, you chose THIS field, not computational linguistics. okay. translation. ooooh, "Lord" rhymes with "sword," and "abhorred" actually DOES work in context, this could be kinda cool.........

That happens.

On a loop.

For three days straight.

I love my job. :-)