Translating is only the half of it!

I left my old job last summer to give myself more time to spend with my newborn daughter and my new career as a wannabe literary translator. I have never had a problem with the oodles of work you need to put in if you ever want to get into print. The reading to find something you’d like to translate, the background reading, the reading around the subject, the reading of countless book reviews and columns, the unpaid sample translations, the letters to publishers and authors, the updating your CV, the summarizing of the novel you’re trying to sell to a publisher, the looking out for grants and awards, the blogging, the non-stop promotion of your last translation… and so on. This is all fun stuff, and all part of the job I enjoy.

But as 2012 dawns and we all take a look at how we go about our work, I can see I’m having trouble tearing myself away from the fun parts (namely the reading) and getting down to the nitty-gritty (the translation). Because not only am I trying to deliver my next contract (I’m delighted to say I’ve started work on a translation of Les aventures de Radisson for Baraka Books in 2012 – more on which, no doubt, in a later post… it’s such an interesting, exciting book!), I’m trying my best to plan ahead. Another novel is in the works for 2012 (although the contract has still to be signed) but it’s all pretty quiet after that.

Such is the lot of the freelance translator, I know. I’m sure there are precious few freelancers out there who could say they’ll be busy this April and I suppose we should use the downtime to recover from our repetitive strain injuries, catch up with our spouses, and plan our next attacks. Trouble is, it’s a funny, secretive old world, the world of literary translation. There are so many books out there, but I’m like a kid in a candy store with every new one I pick up – I want to translate that one! – the problem being that who knows if the rights to that particular book are still free, if it’s the third novel in a trilogy I’ve never heard of and the other two have already been translated by someone else, or if another translator is just putting the finishing touches to her sample translation of Chapter 1 before mailing it off to House of Anansi first thing tomorrow morning.

A big part of my problem is my personality. I have a hard time saying no. I have 362 unlistened-to podcasts in iTunes, all of which I want to listen to… some day. Until last night I had around 100 unread emails and newsletters. The stack of Le Devoir newspapers by my television stretches back to last summer. The magazines I subscribe to are stored on bookshelves and read months, years later. I am currently reading 11 books on Goodreads, with another 20 marked to-read…

So my resolution for 2012 will be to try to restore some order to my working day again (he says, as his baby starts screaming upstairs). I’m going to come up with a cunning plan to devote a certain number of hours to translating X number of words per day, with time set aside for all the background work that goes into publishing every novel. And finishing that magazine…