Left Brain, Right Brain


Approximately 97% of all creative ideas are not thought of during work time. People often joke that their genius is at its peak in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep, in the bath when they can’t write it down, or in the middle of a conversation with friends when they can’t stop to think it all out. There may be a scientific reason for this all too common occurrence: creativity is sparked in the right hemisphere of the brain, which is more active in casual, relaxed atmospheres than it is in pressured or stressful ones. In many cases, when we arrive at work and get down to business, our left brain takes over and we inadvertently block out the part of the brain that sparks creativity and could help boost our productivity in the workplace.


This presents a problem to those in creative professions—including translators. Translation is, at its heart, a creative process. While the translator may not be composing the actual ideas in the text, he or she is still creating a new piece of literature in whatever language the translation may happen to be. Certainly the left brain is still needed for order, structure, and specific detail in the translation. But the right brain also plays a key role in finding a translation solution to that complicated phrase, or deciding on a target language equivalent for that not-so-easily-translated idiom. Not to mention that it’s the right brain that helps a writer create a text that flows well and sounds natural and organic, rather than stilted or awkward.


So in those moments when the words simply won’t come, and you feel the frustration at not being able to craft that perfect sentence—take a break. Go for a quick walk, get a drink of water, lie down and close your eyes for a minute (maybe set an alarm if you’re on a deadline—just in case). Let the strict and structured left brain relax and the right brain take over, and often the perfect solution to the translation dilemma will reveal itself at the most unexpected moment. Aspiring musicians recognize that often the best way to learn a complex bit of music is not to relentlessly pound it out over and over for hours on end, but to walk away, take a minute to resettle and let the mind absorb the music, and then return to the piece. It is the same with translation. Unleashing a bit of right-brained creativity can go a long way on a complicated translation dilemma.


Read more about the right brain and translation at the Lingua Greca Translations blog.


*This post also appears at http://samedaytranslations.com/blog/


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