balance · blogging · Christmas · creativity · fatigue · finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · inspiration · projects · side projects · translation · writing · writing projects

An eye operation, a book, a fainting episode or saying goodbye to 2016

close up ragazza

 

It’s been a while I haven’t written on my blog. I kind of owe it to myself to write one last piece for the year about to end. Which translates to… trying to account for my mental whereabouts since April. I think I will just focus on the present.

First of all, I have a confession to make. I was thinking of abandoning this blog (and perhaps start a new one some time in the future) as I thought of blogging as an interference with everything else. That is why I haven’t written in 8 months. I gave priority to other things. And I got some pretty cool results, as you will find out if you patiently read along. I trust you will.

What did I learn from this blogging hiatus? Love for writing cannot be an interference with life. And when it does, you take a break.

Taking a break from writing has been impossible, though. The year 2016 has been a good one for me because I have finally finished and published my book Tapping Into Translators’ Creativity. Incredible. I did it. I got there, before the end of the year.

And this is one item off the list, my wish list, my writing wish list. The book is out for the world to read. That’s all I wanted. My exclusive relationship with the manuscript has ended.

A few days prior to the big day of my book’s release, my 7 year old went through an eye operation. I had hoped to avoid being busy with work before and after the operation and, fortunately, nothing major (that I could not manage) happened. Besides the book. I wanted the book to go live before the end of the year and considering it was impossible to have everything ready before December, it had do be right before Xmas and… a few days after the operation.

Theoretically speaking, being ready to publish isn’t exactly the best way to describe the end of a writing journey. The writing journey never ends. Right now, I am thinking of ways the book could be even better. But projects need a deadline and I gave me one.

I will make a tiny parenthesis here to say that in my book I speak of deadlines and of writers and translators. The writers featured in this respect are Tracy Chevalier who wrote her book Girl With a Pearl Earring on a 9-month (biological) deadline and Fyodor Dostoevsky who wrote The Gambler on a 1-month deadline because of an agreement he had with the publisher. Money problems. Inspiring stories we all need to know about. Us whose life is determined by deadlines.

And there I was at the hospital after the operation, fainting. Because of fear, of concern, of love. And because I have a low blood pressure. Let’s be realistic. I know what it means to go through an eye operation, as I went through one myself. But when it happens to someone so close to you, the feelings are just incomparable.

The nurses were nice to their patient (and to me). They gave me tea. I still need to arrange an appointment with my doctor to talk about this, when I am done with a couple of translations, when I am done with 2016. Here’s another deadline for me. See?

I wish you a happy new year and lots of interesting things to pursue!

branding · creativity · finding your way · freelancing

The Paradigm of Prince for Freelancers

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I can’t help myself from writing a few words about Prince. I admit I was shocked by his death. I loved his music and his style. However there are things about him I discovered only now. Things that were too strong not to write about.

This afternoon, instead of working on a translation due Tuesday, but it will do,  I spent some time reading articles about him and what happened, watching him perform old songs, listening to what Stevie Wonder and Van Jones had to say about their friend and other data “in the purple” that I need to sit and blend it all, to make sense of what Prince really stood for. Not just for the music world but for every creative.

Skipping the part that he was an incredibly charismatic musician, Prince represented what generosity should be like (he gave to charity without letting the world know about it) , he was a pioneer in branding, he was there for his friends when they needed him, he was doing a lot undercover and, as Van Jones said, This is a man much more than music, the music is an expression of a genius, so deep and profound that only music can express it, so much more than music, so much more.

And that is what clicked to me. “So much more“. And yet, what we know of Prince is his music and the love symbol representing him. We know him for the songs he wrote and sang and the pieces he wrote for others, including Nothing Compares to U, Manic Monday, Kiss and more. What lied underneath this marvelous human being has been revealed only after he passed away.

That’s amazing. That’s honourable. That’s what one would expect from someone who was modest enough not to talk about the good things he did for other people.

If you run a freelance business today – for which you need tremendous creativity – chances are you have asked yourself questions about your online presence, what you should say, do, what social media you should use and why, how you should communicate your achievements to gain more credibility, how you should talk about things, what to leave out, whether you should join the crowd and more. At least, with all full honesty, I have personally been “massacring” my brain with thoughts of this kind until I realised it’s no use. One thing at a time. Appearance is not priority number one. Yes, I know it is wise to have a brand and to be visible and I understand the reasons but I opted to take things easy. I am all for finding ways to establish a viable business within a competitive world but I realise that image counts only if there is an essence and a heart behind it. And if there is no image and you have the heart, no need to be concerned that something is missing. I know of many freelancers with simple sites or blogs who are doing really well without a brand. I guess they are doing something right.

Prince was an icon. However, what we saw about him was an expression of who he was, his essence, his humanity and charisma. He became an icon because of his charisma.

No matter what one might say about his fierce beliefs on copyright, as a true creative, I would give him credit. The passion for your art somehow entitles you to want to protect it. The love symbol #2 (more of a business maneuver than an intentional branding tactic), clearly illustrates that art comes first. Symbols follow. Which translates to… a lesson to learn about our own work and contribution to the industry we are offering services to.

Let us ponder on quality, on becoming better and the rest will follow.

M.

image credit: By Micahmedia at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13466179

finding your way · freelancing · inspiration · kids · life lessons · mom · parenting

The bear and the baby

 

I am not exactly a fan of cartoons. But I have learned to embrace them.

I run a freelance business and a lot of my work gets done while my 6 year old is at home with me. When the projects I work on have tight and overlapping deadlines, I find myself stopping right before I go pick my little one up from school and then I continue working after dinner until hitting late hours depending on the project, how (not) tired I am and if I took a midday nap. Working on the weekends is always a possibility and that is when I wish I had my mom or mother-in-law around. But I do not dwell on that thought too long because it is just self harming.

Now that my 6-year-old is attending first grade at the elementary school, more juggling is required due to the homework that needs to get done. On the other hand, a more disciplined routine is in place to accommodate this new phase.

Our TV is in the kitchen, which is where I work and where my little one watches cartoons. Basically, we spend most of our time together in the kitchen. Working and listening to cartoons has become something like a second nature for me. Or you may say, it is my “working background”. We all got to start from somewhere.

That is how I became familiar with Masha, a cheeky, mischievous, exasperating little girl, and the Bear, a retired Circus entertainer desperately seeking for peace and quiet. I love that show. It’s so real about what many parents go through. Sit down, get up, go save baby, run like mad, wash, give instructions, feel worried, tired, infuriated. Or happy. Yeap. The happiness is indescribable actually as compared to the juggling required.

For those you haven’t watched this Russian cartoon (it’s pretty famous in Italy where I am writing from) please visit the site here.

I feel sorry for the old Bear. And I always say to my 6 year-old “hey, don’t you dare act like Masha, she’s naughty and a lot younger than you are”.

The Bear and Masha story is actually rather educating for adults, if you see it from another perspective.

The Bear doesn’t have a strong voice. He is not firm enough. He is too good with no particular patterns that would help him cope with that heavy-duty little exasperating girl.

As a parent, you need a voice that gets heard. You can’t let your children be the captains. You are the captain. You manage this ship. You need a clear plan and follow it with determination.

If you are looking for better ways to communicate, it would be wise to work on developing a clear and firm parenting style. If you are investing time into your children’s education, you can definitely invest time in getting the message through.

For example, my little one since some time ago would not let me speak on the phone. When it was friends who called me, they would understand why we got interrupted but not being able to talk is annoying and, above all, unacceptable, especially if the person who calls is a potential or existing client. That said, I am not much of a phone person so this would only apply for incoming calls. If I need to say something, I send an email or send a message via WhatsApp. For friends I try to use the phone more. On another note, I have realised that my direct-approach by phone (and in person) phobia is rather unfortunate for getting direct translation clients because writing emails can never be as powerful as talking to a potential client. At least this is what my experience has taught me. Maybe I need to write more effective emails. Perhaps I need to find the right people to email. Actually, I think I should stop thinking about all that. I have great clients. End of parenthesis.

The Bear, to me, represents those tired and overly nice parents some of us are, not realising that we can do something to change our Mashas.

And before changing your Masha, you need to work on the Bear. On how you perceive your role as a parent. If you are too nice, you are only going to be feeling wretched when your children get older as their demands will be a lot higher. Since I didn’t want to see myself any near to that situation, some time ago, I knew I had to get myself a firm voice and a clear plan. The results have been positive. My little one is listening.

With a specific training approach, tailored to your needs and those of your child’s and your family’s (never forget that every situation is different and there is no rule that fits all!), children are more likely to understand and respect boundaries You will feel better. Less anxious. I am not saying it’s easy because I know what it took me to work on this “Bear”. And it is still a work in progress. I don’t want to give out the impression “I know this inside out” but I think it’s good to start doing something about it as soon as you realise that your voice is not heard. This leads to baby steps in effective communication.

Talking of baby steps, I wanted to let you know I wrote a piece for the Bulletin of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting back in January this year on the topic of specialising in the pregnancy and parenting market. To write this article I used some of my translation experience in this field, my personal experience as a parent and, last but not least, my fearless observation skills and sociological “radar”.

M.

finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · inspiration · life lessons

10. It’s normal to be afraid

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Lessons in freelance translation, n.10

I don’t know why but I sometimes go through occasional phases of fear of failure, of not having enough work. I guess it’s rather unavoidable when you freelance.

Nothing major happened. In fact, good things are kind of unraveling themselves as I proceed translating. But those big dreams are still playing hide and seek with me. Which translates… to feeling afraid that they will remain dreams.

So what do you do? I mean, besides doing the obvious of pursuing your dreams, doing your job and all the bits and pieces everyday life requires? Nobody has the answer but you. It is you who needs to accept that fear will knock your door. Occasionally. For no real reason maybe.

Letting fear take a hold of you is like allowing people who do not know you to make the rules for your life.

Think about it. Fears are a part of the setting but they don’t make the rules.

Tomorrow is a new day. If it’s getting better, why be afraid?

That’s what I say to myself.

M.

finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · motivation · work · writing

9. Promise yourself

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image source

Lessons in freelance translation, n.9

Ever get that feeling that life is just too overwhelming and you don’t know what to focus on? Projects you started, book(s) to finish, new ideas surfacing. Which translates to… a feeling of overwhelm when I don’t have a translation to work on.

Today was one of those days. I delivered a small fashion translation this morning and I am free. No other deadlines. The good side of it is that these couple of days I wrote long emails to friends, something I haven’t done in a while.

As far as (writing) projects are concerned, I still have a long way to go but I made a lot of progress as my book is almost finished (oops, have I told you I am writing a book?).

However, I know my limits, I have my priorities so I cannot dedicate all the time, energy and money on my writing project. I wish. But I have made a promise to myself not to give up. Freelancers constantly make promises to clients. How about making a promise to ourselves? Work towards the dream.

For some people it takes longer than others and this is why I needed to get this off my chest. I am fast at things I have to do but slow in doing what I want to do. It is a struggle within.

A promise to ourselves, to work on a side project or to conclude one is good for morale. When times are hard, we can look at our achievements and boost our confidence.

M.

finding your way · freelance translation · freelancing · money

8. The right price

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peonies, symbol of prosperity – image source

 

Lessons in freelance translation, n.8

During the first couple of years of freelancing, I knew very little about how freelancing could be a “real” full-time job and that freelancers can earn a “real” income. With time, courage, a lot of work and networking, I changed a few aspects of my business, especially regarding pricing. I had no other choice, anyway. This is what I wanted to do. Nothing happened overnight and I still have a long way to go but I am glad I stepped up. Which translates to… I would probably be doing another job right now if I didn’t make those changes.

Since I don’t want this to be a long boring post about money issues (on which I am totally no expert) I will only quickly share two facts, purely based on personal experience, tightly knitted with the rates you charge. Feel free to disagree.

You know you are charging the right price for your services when two things happen:

  • You receive more work from good/high paying clients (they are the ones who help your business stay afloat and grow)
  • You receive less work from “one stop” clients who tried to ruthlessly negotiate with you throughout the Summer or Christmas holidays because their regular translator was on holiday (they didn’t say so but you figured it out and, by the way, I am very surprised at how translators accepting low rates can afford a holiday but don’t let me get started on that).

I believe that if you are truly good at what you do, you will be rewarded. Provided you know that for the kind of work you do, there is a certain price to ask. It’s as simple as that.

For more information on financial matters, I suggest you check out Paul M Urwin‘s site and the book The Prosperous Translator (if you don’t already know about it) by the well-known and gifted Chris Durban.

Till next time.

M.

bohemian · fashion · finding your way · freelancing · life lessons · translation · writing

The many faces of Tilda Swinton (on freelancer’s versatility)

Tilda Swinton from the film “Only lovers left alive.”

“Tilda Swinton is 55 years old”. This is the title of the article I was reading last night. As I was scrolling the incredibly diverse pictures from movies with the Scottish actress, famous for her role as Orlando, I realised I had something to write about. I had no idea what but Tilda’s “many faces” are bound to give me ideas.

I remember reading a stunning article on The Guardian a few years ago, before becoming a translator. It was about the talented, intriguing and unusual Tilda Swinton, actress, model, icon of noble descent with looks and gaze of a solemn, aristocratic yet familiar character, both a woman of next door and a lady to respect. What sets her apart is that singular chameleontic appearance, a self which seems to float between characters, a person of many layers and faces, yet as authentic as one can be.

Life is bound to throw circumstances at you which you might not expect. You might need to shift your focus. Learn your lesson. Read a new book. Finish the one you started. Not to mention continue writing the one you started. Which translates to… an overwhelming loose ends to take care of.

Keeping up appearances is old school. And it is boring. I’d go for a change of direction even if it is on terms of how I perceive life’s events and challenges. I still wear the same outfit. But I wear it with a new conscience. State of mind. I elaborate what happens to me and I don’t want to convince anyone about the changes. I change. The many faces I have are basically one face reflecting an acknowledged and essential versatility.

Many faces means many resources for better life management.

As freelancers, we ought to be as flexible as we can possibly be. This applies not just to how we communicate and work but to how we perceive things and what we learn from life. The learning process requires flexibility. You need to “bend” your convictions if you want to move forward.

Flexibility requires you to act and be someone else so you can be yourself. You are the administrator, the translator, the proofreader, the business owner, the cook, the parent. It is a process.

Happy birthday Tilda Swinton!

freelancing · kids · mom · motherhood

A freelancing mom’s interlude

September is almost over. Oh and I heard that Summer was here too. Did you see it by any chance?

People love Summer. I think I like it too but it puts my life into derail mode that I am not exactly looking forward to it, besides for wearing shorts, tees and sandals. I am not much of a Winter fan either but being a homebody, I am okay with rainy and cold days. When you freelance, you don’t really care about the weather. Well, maybe you could be a little bit jealous of those who take holidays without fearing of losing clients (now, try to explain that…). It gets worse if you freelance full-time including weekends because you have a rent or mortgage to pay.

Which translates to… an overwhelming freelance lifestyle.

The truth is I don’t have time to write a blog post these days but a few days back one evening while listening to Else Gellinek’s podcast interview with Paul Urwin, I said to myself: You can do this. Go and finish up that post you drafted.

Right. Where was I?

The Summer.

Work wise it was busy with only a few “clouds” of urgent projects lasting a couple of days due to a fashion translation which proved to be more tricky than it seemed, though definitely more fun than anything else!

But in July and August this year I also received some translation requests impossible to accept. Out of the new prospects who contacted me this Summer, I only accepted new assignments on the grounds of feasibility, reasonable rates and subject-matter.

During the Summer holidays when the schools (or kindergartens or day-care centres) are closed, when teachers take time-off for the whole Summer while being paid for it (sorry, had to vent about this), us freelancing parents need to find solutions for combining work and having our kids around.

The options vary according to your family’s needs and of course financial status but if there is another female figure in your family (usually your mom or mother-in-law) who can give a helping hand, it makes everything a lot easier. Actually it is a blessing and not just because of the baby-sitting involved.

If you live abroad, you simply pack your luggage and move your office to your parents’ house with your children. However, having a female figure around to help you all year round or throughout the holidays, is not feasible for all freelancing parents. Regardless of whether living grandparents live next door or in another country, if they can’t help or if they are not around (anymore), there is little you can do.

What’s a freelancing parent to do?

This Summer I chose a combination of options:

  • Sent little one to Summer camp for one week
  • Accepted assignments that were important and turned down offers that I saw no potential in
  • Worked on the staircase of our building facing the courtyard, while watching my kid play
  • Stayed with friends in a town by the sea for a few days

I must admit that the most exhausting part was not working on the steps of the staircase, even if I did get a sore back for a few days. It was staying with other people. Exhausting in the sense that besides working, I needed to pay more attention to my 5 year old who needed to adapt to an entirely new environment.

In fact, these new surroundings have shed a light on my own parenting strategy in some areas like working towards better discipline and respecting a parent’s need to be (talk) with others without interruptions. There is always room for improvement. Staying with my friend was a wise holiday alternative at this point of my child’s life. I may not have been able to tour Tuscany because when my translation was delivered, sunny days were over (can you believe it?), but my revamped parenting style might help towards achieving greater balance and less stress.

Before I go, I have a tip for future moms. Please understand me. It is given with love.

Running a business from home with children is a truly rewarding experience but it’s hard work. Therefore, before jumping head and feet into it, you may need to consider that one of the risks of having kids, especially nowadays when women have kids at a later age or when women live away from their parents, is related to raising your children without your mother or mother-in-law. If she lives in another country, you need to consider that in times of real need, she might not be there, whereas, throughout the Summer staying at your parents’ or mom’s house might not be a holiday option for you. Imagine if your parents’ house is in a huge and stressful city very far from the beach or if they go away on holiday too. What’s more, if your baby is small (not a newborn) and is not used to being with his grandmother and other people, it might be difficult to focus on work without being interrupted all the time. One way to prevent this is to visit your parents’ house more often. The attachment of a baby to his mother all year round is a lot greater when there is no grandma around. At least, this is what I think and of course I might be wrong.

Notwithstanding everything, parents have powers they only realise while raising their children. They can miraculously handle lack of sleep, impatient children, activities, overlapping deadlines meaning that they can become really good at freelancing.

***Like it? Share it. Have something to get off your chest too? Share it! Also feel free to send me a personal email at mgdp05 (at) gmail (dot) com in case you want to vent off-line).***

picture: Woman at the Virginal Jan Miense Molenaer 1630 – 1640