When I write, I write alone. At some point I show part of what I have written to my writing group. Talking to them is immensely helpful. And then I go back to writing on my own, until a piece is ready to go to a journal.

Translating is different, because I’m collaborating with other people. We have a system. It is mostly asynchronous. So I still work alone . . . but I get feedback on drafts that are still a little rough, and I need to give feedback on other people’s drafts. I feel the presence of my collaborators even when I’m working on a first draft, because I know they will see it soon, and I know the kinds of things they will say.

I find that I feel very tentative about suggesting changes to other people’s versions. I always feel I’m being too colloquial, even though I know my own drafts are too literal, not colloquial enough. And I hate getting my own work back with lots of comments where someone else thought a different phrase would be better. It’s like getting your homework back with lots of red ink all over it. So it is very hard to start going over a passage that has come back to me for alterations.

But that’s just ego. And once I make myself open documents and look at the comments, it’s okay. My ego is a lot sturdier than it claims to be. Red ink doesn’t actually hurt. Accepting or rejecting changes is just a task. I find the ones that are a matter of style or preference irk me more than the ones where I was truly wrong. For example, if I mistook a verb for a different verb, and so struggled to make sense of a line, I am glad to learn what the right verb is, and have the whole passage make sense with that change. But even if it’s a question of, say, “move swiftly” vs. “swiftly move,” I don’t care enough to fuss about it. If someone else cares, then I’ll make the change.

How much time have I lost, over the years, to a drama-queen ego that thought red ink would damage its fragile little self, or that it could never stand to be in the same room with Derek Pearsall’s CV?

Just do the task that needs to be done, whether it’s reading, outlining, writing, translating, correcting, or accepting correction.

One thought on “Ego

  1. I agree that reading comments and revising is always much worse in my imagination than in the actual experience. Getting myself to the point of opening the reader responses still always takes a bit of pushing even though I’m usually energized for the editing after reading all of the suggestions!

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