My Sources of Inspiration, Part V: Boredom

This might be a terrible idea, but one of my main sources of inspiration is boredom. To be honest, I do not have that much going on in my life. Yes, I will be moving out in two weeks, but for now, I am stuck in my home town where I am supposed to study for my exams. I definitely study for them, but that does not take that much time. In fact, I have way too much freedom at the moment. While it is amazing not to have to show up at university for days, it also can get quite tedious when you are all on your own. Coupled with depression, it makes for long-winded days. No parties, no hanging out – everyone is studying back in our university city (well, it is only 15 minutes away, but they are too busy). Still, this boredom works as an amazing source of inspiration for me. Looking at pictures at the Internet is not all that interesting anymore after a week. By then, I want to actually do something. Being bored is what gets my mind racing. It makes me dream of the most horrifying tales I could ever come up with. While my life seems a little empty right now, my mind itself is full of life. Maybe it’s because of my studies, but I am starting to doubt that; translation philosophers are not the most interesting people when you try to write stories on aliens, vampires and urban legends. I love urban legends, let that be clear. Today, I spent most of my time looking up shadow people and black eyed kids, just because I could. My boredom is forcing me to spend my time doing things, whether it is external or internal research. The gears are turning. I am ready for anything.

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The Science of Translation

My upcoming exam will be on translation sciences, as translations make up a great part of today’s literary world. Don’t get me wrong, but when I chose a course called Translation Sciences, I was under the impression that we would be taught how to translate. Sadly, that’s apparently not the way universitary courses work. Instead, they are all theory and no practice.

Ever since I was able to read English, I have dreamt of becoming a translator. More precisely, my dream was to translate my own manuscripts into English, hoping that they would be able to spread out over the world that way. That is probably idle hope, though. If I wanted to become a translator, I should have attended a school of applied sciences instead of a regular university.

Personally, I’ve given up on the idea of translating my Dutch manuscripts into English. To me, it is absolutely impossible. The Dutch and English grammar look alike at first sight, but there are so many differences between them that even looking at Dutch texts confuses me. In English, the Dutch “ik woon hier al mijn hele leven” is translated as “I’ve been living here my entire life” (“woon”, in this case, is “have been living”). It is terribly confusing when two languages use different grammar, yet I have to use both at the same time. That is why I have to do without. It may not be a bad thing, though; not being able to really translate has forced me into writing my stories in English. Writing definitely can happen much more quickly when you do not have to use interim measures. I will become a translator someday, but not from Dutch into English. For now, I’ll just be a student, a writer and a wage slave.

The Masters of Literary Theory

No, I am not a master in anything, nor do I think I am. However, after today, I am supposed to at least be adept in the various theories of literary analysis. To be honest, I do not believe most of them – but the test was not bad.

For example, I could try to analyse my own finished manuscript. I’m most likely prejudiced about it, but here we go!

From a feminist point of view, The Face Stealer is probably deemed slightly sexist or otherwise repressed, since the main cast consists of male characters – the two brothers – and they often get into fights with the girls because they are rude and sometimes just mean.

From a postcolonial point of view, I am going to guess that The Face Stealer is viewed as a racist story. Not because it is meant to be racist, but because of the mainly white cast – honestly, what do they expect from a small English town? My main characters are redheads. To the postcolonial criticists, I am sorry that my English boys are Caucasian. Even worse, the monster they have to fight is snow-white! Maybe my professors went a bit too far, but these strange ideas apparently are everywhere.

From a Freudian/psychoanalytic point of view… Well, if you know Freud, you’ll get the point. Of course it’s not an innocent children’s story, there must be some perverse thoughts hidden in there!

To be honest, I really enjoyed this course. It was interesting to find out about all these possible interpretations of stories, although I’ve got to admit that I think most of them are a load of nonsense. I don’t think I am sexist or racist or perverted. Perhaps these theories should not be applied to children’s stories. That would make the world a much better place.

Writing and Speaking

I am a writer, not a speaker. I know how to write and typically do so effortlessly. However, a great writer is good with language in any shape or form – a great writer should be a great orator as well. I am neither of those, but the latter quality certainly is lacking in my case.

Today I had to take an oral exam in order to show off my proficiency in English, on a topic I had never heard of. That was part of the challenge: a great orator is someone who can talk about anything for hours on end without knowing the slightest detail on the subject. In the real world, it does not work like that. My oral exam may not have gone horrible, but as soon as I got out of the room, I was trembling all over and hyperventilating. In my writing, it probably is not visible, but I naturally am a shy person. I do not like speaking in front of groups, especially when it comes down to a pass or a fail. Maybe this means I can never be a writer, as writers are supposed to be able to talk about their work with ease… However, if I love the subject, I love spreading its message. I believe that hating oral exams mainly means I can never be an orator – and am a relatively normal person.

EDIT: I failed…

Why I – excuse me – suck at grammar

Today I had to take an exam on the English grammar, consisting of multiple choice and grammar improvement questions. This might seem crazy for someone aspiring to become a writer in the English language, but I have a feeling that this test did not go well. I suck at grammar – or most precisely, at its rules.

The past participle and the gerund are about the same. The epistemic and the deontic modal sound the same – but they are not, because right now I’m looking them up at Wikipedia. Thankfully I am able to distinguish the present perfect continuous and the present continuous.

While I love making posts about the rules of writing, I am not the kind of person that typically sticks to these rules. Whatever I do is based on whatever feels right. Thus, whenever I write in English, I go with whatever seems fitting. However, that is sadly not the way exams work. As a student, I am supposed to know the exact rules, and not just be able to use them. I love writing. I love studying English. I do not love studying an excessive amount of rules that nobody has ever heard of. Sadly, I should have seen this coming. It is my own fault to choose to study a subject like this. Let’s just hope I did not fail the exam.