Language Lab: The Art of Letting Go

YG Mason | Language Lab: The Art of Letting Go
By Huhu Uet (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s advice from my translation tutor: “You have to learn to let go of ideas in this business.”

We’d been discussing a particularly mangled sentence in one of my translations, which had ended up in that condition because I’d clung so firmly to the idea I’d got of its meaning on first reading that I’d ignored the actual definitions¬†of individual words.

He was talking about translation, but it applies across other fields too; it reminded me of a blog post by author and former literary agent Nathan Bransford on The Pernicious Momentum of First Ideas.

When working on a creative project, such as a novel or a line of products, the ideas are the beginning, the motivation, and to change direction mid-way (or, whisper it: give up) can seem impossible or terrifying, especially when there are sunk costs of time and money involved.

But often, the wrong idea is the only thing standing in the way of a plot that makes sense, or a painting with a composition that works, or even a coherent sentence.

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