When I write, one of the best tools I have is a view that I can stare at without distraction. A mountain scene, a parking lot, the sky out of my window – each of these will do because all I need is a vista that doesn’t provide a great amount of human action or variety.
This staring into empty space is really important because I need to disappear into my own mind when I write. The truest writing comes from that place beyond words, where my mind has a concept that I have to shape into language.
I was first able to understand this process as translation when I was in graduate school. As part of my MFA program at Antioch University, I was required to take a translation seminar. In that class, we received transliterations of poetry in languages other than English (the language that most of us had as our own), and we had to try to find the meaning beyond the words and then translate that meaning back into language that worked more easily with the poetic form.
It was here, as I tried to conceive of ideas that stood larger than the words that represent them, that I began to think of all the writing I do – all the writing that is done in fact – as a process of translation, translating our ideas – which exist beyond language in images and emotions and all the things that make us human – into words, into a method that lets us reach out to others.
So when I write, that space to stare and drop into my own mind where I move among the images and emotions to find the words, that space is crucial. Indispensable, in fact. The place where I can feel free to explore and translate. This is where the writing comes from.
What do you think of this idea that all writing is translation? What metaphor describes your writing process?