Monday, December 31, 2007

A Roar for Powerful Writing

For the last post of the year, I’m going to discuss powerful writing.

Not long ago, I was honored with a “roar for powerful writing”. See Erika Dreifus’ very kind
post for more on that. And see this site for more on the roar.

The “roar” requires that those roared at list three things that they think are needed for powerful writing and also that they then roar at five others.

First of all, I think writers have to learn to not be afraid. It can be really hard, I know; there have been many times when I’ve not written something, or else written it but kept it to myself, for fear of offending others. As I get older, however, I realize that holding yourself back in that way or not being completely honest works against the writing, and can affect you personally, too. I’m learning to let go of my fears and hang-ups, and to open myself, in order to allow the written work (including translation) to be all that it could be.

That relates to my second point. My own writing has suffered both when I have tried to rein in my topics/opinions/feelings and also when I’ve tried to write about things I didn’t honestly care about. So now I know that without passion and engagement, my piece isn’t going anywhere. Not only that, but if I don’t care, why should the reader?

A third comment follows from the last two. You may have an interesting topic and you may be ready to write about it without worrying excessively about other people’s feelings, but you also need to write about it in a way that isn’t forced or awkward. I’m in favor of keeping it simple, which means don’t overreach or make a text more complicated than necessary. No jargon (unless strictly required). I read way too many articles and books by authors who seem to think that by using bigger and/or more specialized words and many clauses, their work will seem more intelligent. It doesn’t. It seems pretentious and often it is clear that the overly fancy language is trying to hide what really is just a small idea (or no idea). Don’t force the language. Let it work for you and for your ideas.

On to the bloggers I’d like to roar at. Unfortunately for me, Erika’s two blogs,
one on writing and the other on Jewish topics, are the first ones I would have thought of to link to. So I want to roar back at her. Now, for five more blogs that I enjoy; none, you might be interested to know, are about translation, though one is about language in general. Instead, they are on other topics that are fascinating for their own sake but these enthusiastic, talented bloggers find a way of drawing in readers even more. That’s why their writing is powerful.

Carl Zimmer writes about science for the New York Times, among other publications. His
blog sometimes goes into more depth than his articles have space for and he also discusses other topics as well. I’m no scientist, but I learn a lot from his writing, and sometimes wish I were a scientist because he makes it so interesting.

I enjoy the career advice over at Penelope Trunk’s
blog, Brazen Careerist. Not all of it is directly applicable to me as a translator or a freelancer, of course, but the ideas are often worth thinking about or storing away for possible future use.

I recently discovered Margaret Robinson’s
website, which has a lot of interesting, well-written material on issues of sexuality, particularly bisexuality. I was glad to see that she has a blog, too, so that I could include her here, though the blog is new and so far doesn’t have too many posts.

I liked Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s book Freakonomics, so I was excited to see that they started writing for the NY Times Magazine some time back, and now they have a
blog there as well. Popularizing science and social science is getting more common these days, but I still think Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt are among the best at doing it.

Finally, because I can’t not include a blog on language, I want to mention David Crystal’s
blog. As you can see from his regular website, he is a prolific writer and an expert on the English language. His book The Stories of English is a good history of a tongue that, as these blogs reveal, can be used very powerfully indeed.

Thank you again to Erika for roaring at me. I hope you enjoy the sites I have now roared at.

Have a wonderful 2008, filled with powerful writing and powerful translations!

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