Thank you for your wonderful response to my idea of the “behind the scenes” series. This month, I’d like to look deeper, look behind the nice images and see what’s going on below the surface of working as a translator. I asked you both in my newsletter and on Facebook to suggest the areas and topics you’d like to find out more about in this series.
One colleague in her response said it would be great to know what worries and insecurities other translators have, or is it just her. Well, it’s definitely not just her because I share some of her translation fears, worries and insecurities. Do we all have them? Let’s take a look at some issues that I collected, and added a few of my own.
There won’t be another project
Perhaps most often, all translators seem to fear that the next project will never materialise. It’s totally irrational, difficult to explain and unreasonable. There always is the next project, but try to tell me that the day after I finished one assignment and there’s nothing lined up. Three days without a project and I’m getting paranoid. And no matter how hard I try to take a logical approach to it, I subconsciously fear “what if”. Then of course I laugh at myself when three new projects come in all at the same time.
I’m not good enough
This constant doubt and striving for perfection can, of course, be good. The majority of us are perfectionists and in a profession like translation, it’s generally a good sign that we’re doubting ourselves. I’d like to say that with time, this fear goes away, but I think it just diminishes but accompanies all translators throughout their careers. My weapon to fight it was to take all tests and obtain all qualifications possible to use these as arguments against my doubting self. But then I started thinking “ok, I was good for this project, but this is a completely new thing… what if I’m not good enough for this?”. Is there a way out of it?
How do I know I’m doing things the right way?
Working alone has its benefits, but it’s also limiting our opportunities to secretly benchmark ourselves against co-workers. In a normal office environment, as far as I experienced it, you get an idea of how others work, how they perform and what their results are. You can more or less assess yourself against others and get a bit of peace of mind. You can also ask them how they’re doing things, or just follow their way. In my own business, I develop the rules, procedures, ways of doing things. And while there’s a lot of advice available out there, how do I know I was right? What if I’ve missed something important?
I’ll get sick
This may be just me, perhaps not all translators. As a sole breadwinner for years, I developed a real fear of getting sick and not being able to work. This fear applies to anything from a slight cold to imagining serious, chronic conditions. My head (and my business continuity plan) is full of scenarios and emergency measures to deal with sickness, accidents or unforeseen circumstances. Am I alone in this?
I’m doing too many things at the same time
Especially in the current climate where we’re told that multitasking is wrong and reduces our productivity, one of my colleagues said that she feels she’s trying to do too many things at the same time, spreading herself too thin and ultimately not being as efficient a translator as she should be. Of course, monotasking is the trend now, and questions such as “do you even have any time left to translate” don’t take the pressure off. Perhaps this fear is partially based on the underlying thought that others won’t take us seriously if we’re doing too many things. While many or too many things, or time, is subjective, sometimes cutting down on extra or side projects is counter-effective. There are people out there thriving when doing many things at the same time.
The fear of being wrong, applying much wider than just to freelance translation, often underpins many behaviours and reactions. I’m scared I’m wrong when I’m proofreading or editing somebody else’s work, I’m scared I’m wrong when I’m giving advice, I’m scared I’m wrong when I’m approaching new clients. The good side of this fear is motivating and pushes me to be better. The dark side of this fear turns some of us aggressive and defensive.
Have you experienced any of these fears? Do you have anything else you’ve experienced yourself or observed in others?