23 Aug Calling All Potential Blog Authors
Interested in contributing to our blog? The NAJIT Observer needs you!
The shared experiences of other members of our profession can lift us up. A lot of what we do is done alone – a translator plugging away at a lengthy document or an interpreter preparing for an assignment, for example. Often, in order for the work of translators and interpreters to meet expectations, it is necessary for them to spend long hours studying, memorizing, reading, and writing.
One of the great strengths of a professional association is reminding members that they are not alone. Although “we’re in this together” has grown to become somewhat trite in recent years, associations do help translators and interpreters see themselves as part of a much bigger picture – a group of professionals at the service of two or more interlocutors who don’t speak the same language. This blog, along with hundreds or even thousands of other blogs dedicated to our profession, is a corollary of that. Many of our articles encourage our readers or are filled with useful tips and insights.
As you may have seen, over the last few months, an increasing number of guests have volunteered to offer their writing talent to The NAJIT Observer – and the Blog team would like to express its gratitude to all contributors so far. Why write a guest piece for The NAJIT Observer? This writer wishes to go over a few reasons and perhaps motivate you to come forward if you have not done so yet.
Reasons to contribute a post to TNO
NAJIT has a wide following. Perhaps you’d rather remain incognito? I can’t fault you for that. But to those of our readers who love their profession, who love what we do, and who feel enthusiastic about it, your contributions are welcome. When you speak joyfully about what you love, far from being “self-centered” or “self-referential,” your enthusiasm can truly edify others.
Furthermore, since language is our specialty, writing for an audience can have indirect benefits on our everyday rendition if we are interpreters, and even direct benefits on our work if we are translators.
Perhaps you would like to contribute an article but feel daunted by the task. Some guest contributors have confessed that their article-writing took them a whole day of work, and the task should not take you this long! So, if you need some helpful writing tips, please read on. Those of you who are already great writers, feel free to stop reading here (and please, consider this call for articles). But perhaps you are like me and find yourself endlessly editing your first sentence, then getting discouraged upon realizing that you’ve just spent way too much time with little to show for it. If that’s the case for you, read on.
This exercise is for those who have impetus but no idea of where to begin. It is also useful when you have several ideas and wish to organize them. I personally recommend doing it with a physical piece of paper and a pen, and not with mind-mapping software (paper and pen/pencil are more conducive to creativity).
Take a blank piece of paper and write the first word that comes to mind about a topic. Another will immediately come to mind as you write the first one; branch that new idea out from your central node. Perhaps from that word another will branch out; very well, let a few ideas come from that node. Or perhaps you’ll have another idea originating from the central node. And so on; you can see where I’m going with this. Once you’re done – this will take less than five minutes – you’ll have a neat web of ideas and of the links between them.
Prioritize your ideas
Here’s where that traditional “essay structure” we all learned about in high school comes in. On your mind map, what stands out as the central theme? Make your first paragraph about that. Forget about “finding a topic sentence”; that will only slow you down. Then use a word or two for each of the next few paragraphs, each expressing a different idea from your mind map. Of course, your last paragraph will tie it all together. This is just a basic skeleton; the next step will give it flesh and blood. Realize also that for now, your article is an invertebrate animal, and its skeleton can go all over the place; your structure is not set in stone, and you may reorder your ideas entirely. You merely want something to start with.
Write. Just write.
Now just write. Write as fast as you can without being incoherent; get everything down, no matter how many mistakes, redundancies, repetitions, and nonsensical sentences you put together. Write this way until your article is full. Quash out the inner critic in you. Its time will come.
Rearrange, toss, slash, and burn.
Now comes your first shot at putting a bit of order into this “glorious mess” you have created. This is the first or major run of editing your draft. Move entire paragraphs from the beginning to the end of the article if you have to, and vice versa. Delete entire paragraphs. No one has to know they even existed. This is your space!
Edit again, this time at the sentence level.
You could compare this process to the work of a sculptor, putting together a lump of clay, followed by macro-adjustments and gradually proceeding to smaller and smaller details.
And finally, proofread.
This is where you correct for spelling mistakes, misplaced punctuation, and so on. On that note, I’ve seen recommendations to turn off your software’s internal spell-checker until you get to this stage. For example, it’s hard to free-write – that’s the process of writing as much as you can, as fast as you can – if you have a computer constantly telling you with red underlining, “You made a mistake here, and here, and here.” You can turn on the spellchecker at this step.
Once you are done, you will see that writing a six- to eight-hundred-word article – including review by the Blog team and your approving or rejecting changes – takes less than two or three hours, if that.
Content is one thing, but the vehicle, or form, of an article matters too. I hope these tips are helpful to you in writing an article for The NAJIT Observer or anywhere your writing talent will be a force for good. Thank you all again for your attention and contribution!
Jules Lapprand grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, and spent a significant part of his adult life in Montreal, Quebec. He completed a translation certificate from Spanish into English at McGill University (Montreal) in 2016 and a Master’s in Conference Interpreting at York University (Toronto) in 2019. He has worked as a freelance translator and interpreter since 2018. Outside of work, he enjoys literature and music, martial arts, and road trips. He lives in central Michigan with his family. E-mail Jules at TNO_editor@najit.org.