Translators, similar to writers, often get attached to the fruits of their creative work, the words they’ve crafted, creative solutions they spent hours pondering. That’s why handing over a project to a client can elicit mixed feelings—on the one hand, you’re thrilled to take on new challenges; on the other hand, you’re parting with your brainchild that, in a way, carries parts of you. Translation offers a glimpse of your personality, reveals your thought process, exposes some of your biases, beliefs, and values. Even the most technical of translations has your unique style in it, your choice of words, your voice.
While it’s rewarding—even necessary—to take pride in what you do, holding your work too close to your heart can undermine it. Pouring your heart into what you do and leaving a piece of you in every project won’t go unnoticed and your clients will appreciate your passion. It’s about finding a healthy balance between dedication and detachment that will help you carry your signature throughout your work and get better with every word.
Here’s why letting go of your translations will make you a better and happier translator:
1. Letting go of your words will make you more receptive to criticism. Distancing yourself from your translations will help you take feedback and potential criticism constructively, and transform them into improvements to the original text. If a translation is an extension of you, then any form of criticism, even the most benign and well-intentioned, is going to feel as an attack on you. If you happen to work with an editor or peers who scrutinize your work, knowing exactly where you end and your translation begins will save you from unnecessary self-doubt. An adequate distance between you and your work where you focus on quality and solutions that best suit your context will help avoid tensions within your team.
2. It will help you think critically and grow. Be proud of what you do. Yet keep your mind open to better ideas. You can only take a step back, evaluate your work, and question some of your decisions if your translation is loved from a distance. By cutting ties with a text, you’ll see rationale behind your decisions and know why you did what you did, and how you can do better next time.
3. Acknowledging your mistakes will be easier. Typos in early drafts are inevitable. Did you miss a footnote? Or did your editor point out an inconsistency? If you detach your work from yourself, you will find that owning mistakes and correcting them will become easier.
4. Do it for your self-esteem and emotional well-being. Distancing yourself from the work you do for your clients will help sustain a healthy self-esteem and shield from forming a negative perception of yourself with every comment you might receive about your work. Waving good-bye to your translations will never become easy, especially if you truly love what you do. Don’t let your dedication, zest, and love for translation get in the way of professional growth and job s