On Being Translated

About a year ago, I received an check with no explanation from the publisher of my book, Music at the End of Life, Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage. It was big enough that I knew it could not be royalties (Believe it or not, books about music and end of life care do not exactly fly off the shelves of Amazon.com). I sent a brief note to my publisher to find out more.

I received an apologetic email the next day explaining that the Japanese rights to my book had been licensed to a publishing company in Japan for translation in 2014. They were planning to publish the Japanese edition at the end of next year.

In the last few months I have heard from the Japanese translator of the book, with detailed questions about certain phrases and word choices. It is a very mysterious thing to be translated. When my book came out in 2010, I received an email from a colleague who said, “I just keep looking at it and thinking, ‘Jen chose that word, and that word, and that word…’” She was right.  Writing, even when it is heavily researched and full of quotes from other people, is simply a choice of one word after another.

But in translation, writing is two people’s choice of words, one right after the other. I think about people reading my words, our choice of words, in a language I do not speak. There is an entire chapter of stories in the book, descriptions of music-thanatology vigils, that will be read and understood in a new language. The reach of the book will be much wider, thanks to this translator’s careful work.

What about you? Have you ever been translated? What was the experience like?

“It’s a great day to make a mistake!”

As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I was delighted to find this video from Jennifer Gresham. She reflects on the paradox that while most scientific discoveries occur as the result of a mistake, many of us are still afraid of making mistakes. We stay in situations where we are not comfortable or challenged in order to avoid making mistakes.

When Dr. Gresham noticed that she was teaching this type of fear to her daughter, they came up with a solution together. Take three minutes to watch this lovely piece, and see if you would like to take on their mantra in your own life:

The Perfectionism Cure

The Harp and the Ferryman: New book about Music-Thanatology

My colleague Peter Roberts, a music-thanatologist in Australia, has published a book called The Harp and the Ferryman. Co-written with Dr. Helen Cox, the book traces Peter’s journey from businessman to music-thanatologist, as well as the research Dr. Cox has done on the effects of Peter’s music on patients.  I had the pleasure of reading the book before it was published, and it is a moving account of this field and his work.

Peter’s recordings are exquisite.  Spend some time listening to the samples on his website.  You can learn more about Peter’s journey in this profile, “Compassionate Care Through Music.”

Genius and Creativity

I have listened to this talk by writer Elizabeth Gilbert many times.  I love her brilliant reflection on not being afraid to do the work you believe you were put here on earth to do – whether you’ve published nothing and are afraid to never succeed, or whether you’ve published a huge best seller and are afraid of never doing anything worthwhile again.

Are creativity and suffering truly linked? Why do we find it so easy to believe that artists must suffer? She examines the difference between being a genius and having a genius, and discusses the ways that creative people can get a certain distance from their work that allows them to be less afraid.

“And what I have to, sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that, is, don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then “Olé!” And if not, do your dance anyhow.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, 2009)