. . . aspiring writers . . .
Here’s an exercise for you . . . When I was taking a photography class (analog -film) I was introduced to a process for helping to determine what your photographic subject interest was . . .
The process involved shooting 100′ of black and white film, processing the film, printing contact proof sheets (thumbnail images), and then examining the approximately 33 sheets.
What you were looking for was images with similar content, subject matter; and, with a red china marker you drew a rectangle around all the similar images.
Then what? Well, after reviewing the contents of the red rectangles, you bought another 100′ feet of film and shot 30 or so more 24 exposure rolls of film, focusing on the red rectangle subject matter . . . Yeh, you get the idea . . . The process was repeated about four times . . . if you hadn’t figured something out by the end of 400′ feet of film or roughly 120 cassettes of film, or approximately 3,000 images, then you probably never would, and the instructor politely suggested that you should probably stick to family snapshots, baby pictures . . . or scenics!!
So how does this apply to writing . . . it’s about discipline and how to determine if you got the “right stuff” for becoming a “serious” writer.
Here’s the exercise:
First pick your fav novel or author . . . then select up to 140 words from your selection. Dial-up BabelFish, Yahoo or Altavista . . . Pick your favorite non-English (native) language . . . I use “English-to-Spanish” . . . copy the paragraph, sentence or whatever (140 words) and paste it into the box . . . then hit the translate button. I use 140 words as a maximum cos that’s what BabelFish sets as the limit for the number of words to be translated in one go.
A new dialog box will open above the box containing your selection with the translated text!! What if you’re not fluent in your fav foreign tongue? . . . no matter, you’re not going to do anything with the translation except copy the text, delete the original English text and paste the translated stuff into the “translate” box . . . you got TWO dialog boxes open now.
O.K. change the “translate-to” language choice to “Spanish-to-English” (in this example) and hit the “translate” button . . . what happens next is, you will get your original text input with skewed syntax and more often than not, similar words substituted for originals . . .
All this process does is present alternative ways of describing things . . . it helps to reset synapses without drugs or . . . you should have outgrown the drugs by now . . . that phase of life is nothing more than a reference source, a data bank . . .
O.K. as an example I’m going to use the ever popular “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” . . . “English-to-Dutch” translation cos word structure in Dutch sometimes is very close to English.
From: CHAPTER VII. A Mad Tea-Party, Lewis Carroll
“Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.r”
“Alice keek al ronde de lijst, maar er waren niets op het maar thee. ‘ I don’ t ziet om het even welke wijn, ‘ zij merkte op.”
Looks a bit like too much tea and mercury vapor (misste – Dutch for fog) methinks . . . wat cha think?
O.K. onward and upward as the saying goes . . .
Translate the Dutch back into English . . .
“Alice looked at already round the list, but there were nothing on but tea. ‘ I don’ t sees any wine, ‘ they noticed.” . . . we’re just getting started . . . remembr (too much tea, methinks) . . . this is an exercise in discipline.
Copy and paste, then “English-to-Dutch” . . . ” . . . Hal . . . Open the pod door Hal.”
Result: “Alice bekeek reeds om de lijst, maar er waren niets op maar thee. ‘ I don’ t ziet om het even welke wijn, ‘ zij merkten op.” you should begin to notice changes in the Dutch and some really obvious warping of syntax . . .
Back to English . . . “Alice examined already for the list, but there were nothing on but tea. ‘ I don’ t sees any wine, ‘ they noticed.”
. . . if “de lijst” translating as “the list” is confusing you . . . translate “the table” into Dutch . . . “de lijst” is what pops up . . . so you need to reset your parameters . . . like if you do the translation thing with whatever is confusing you . . . word substitution, syntax . . . it will give you a different perspective, how you string words AND thoughts together.
. . . .Dutch: “Alice onderzocht reeds voor de lijst, maar er waren niets op maar thee. ‘ I don’ t ziet om het even welke wijn, ‘ zij merkten op.”
And finally, “Alice examined already for the list, but there were nothing on but tea. ‘ I don’ t sees any wine, ‘ they noticed.” same as the previous Dutch-to-English iteration, so that ends the exercise.
For a bit more or a better understanding of what just happened, here’s more from the beginning of the “Tea Party” . . .
“There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. ‘Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,’ thought Alice; ‘only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.’
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: ‘No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw Alice coming. ‘There’s PLENTY of room!’ said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.
‘Have some wine,’ the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. ‘I don’t see any wine,’ she remarked.”
Expect some frustration, outrage that someone is telling you that creative “inspiration” is crap, and be willing to dedicate 5 or 6 hours to the exercise . . . and to keep you on-task . . . “White Rabbit” . . . Grace Slick . . . Oh yeh!!
. . . Big Brother is watching you . . .