in Found in Translation

The Voice Inside My Head vs. This Blog

This is how I sit and think. At a colorful threshold. When I have a team of professional photographers documenting my moves. How fun would it be if this were an every day thing!? Photo by Kyle Hepp (www.kylehepp.com)

A confession: I love and resent this website.

I love that it has given me a way to keep in touch with faraway friends and family. I love that it has connected me with like-minded people all over the world. I love that it has given me the opportunity to review books before they go on sale.

But I resent how it fuels a steady stream of doubt.

At least five times in the past few months, I’ve showed up at a meeting with a Chilean I’ve met through mutual acquaintance. Almost always, this is a man with an engineering background. We speak Spanish.

Not far into our conversation, he’ll politely say, “So, I looked at your website. It’s interesting, but I don’t get it. What are you and why do you write that thing?”

What are you – qué eres – is a way to ask if I am a journalist, a lawyer, a publicist, an engineer, or something like that. A title. Defined by a university degree, which often takes five or six years to complete.

My history does not fit those categories. I usually say I am a translator or an entrepreneur.

I should revise this blog to say that. Make it specific, concrete, perhaps in Spanish.

But the doubt doesn’t just come from potential collaborators; it comes from inside my head.

Changing sidebars / pages / design forces me to think: what, how, why. To do. To write.

Am I writing to update friends and family on the coolest places I’ve been lately? To share my research on mineral rights regulation in Chile? To reflect on how my perspective has changed? To illustrate why you should hire me?

Face to face, I’d never bring up those topics in the same place, in the same way, especially since I live in more than one language.

Asking those questions makes me not want to write.

At least not here.

I write a lot. Scribbles crowding unlined notebooks.

But those scribbles don’t seem fit for this Google-friendly, quasi-official version of who I am and what I do.

I want to work face-to-face with professionals here in Chile who value how my experiences living in three very different cultures can help them explain why their work matters. This is translation: a form of translation that goes beyond words and digs into what is left unsaid.

I also want to show young North Americans that it is possible to build your career overseas. Not easy, but I can help you find your way.

I should write for those audiences – or even better: just one – not for people who have been following me all along. (I love you Mom!) But I’m not sure how.

I must be brave: to stand for my vision and stick with it long enough to see what works. I must listen carefully, filtering through contradictory advice, especially from the people closest to me. I must stay humble enough to change course.

I am lucky. I’ve won a contest that might help: a Voice Profile by Abby Kerr. She describes her role as Copywriter and Voice Ally, and she has profiled the distinctive voices of dozens of online entrepreneurs. I invite you to read more about it on her blog.

Hopefully this will help me choose words that better answer that troubling question – qué eres? – especially in translation.

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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this beautiful and honest post, Leslie. Sharing any of our true perspectives online — no matter who our audience is or who we’d like it to be — is a vulnerable {and often crazy-making} prospect. I’m so happy to get to read your current body of work and reflect back to you. You’ve got a lovely and important voice.

  2. This is so… perfect. I’ve been going through something similar, perhaps. Or maybe not. I have a pretty decent idea of what I’d like to do but have no idea how to do it, or what I need to get started. It’s hard because I haven’t blogged in about a month, unsure of what direction I want to go in. I’m just full of uncertainty; but it was nice to read this post, I feel less like I’m flailing in vein.

    I thought perhaps it might be the Spring Equinox that we just had; new beginnings and so on. I’ve been wanting to start a new blog for some time, but I definitely feel it more strongly. Just… yeah. :3

    GREAT POST. I feel less alone now. Which is always nice.

  3. Thank you Tatiana. I can definitely understand your resistance to blogging while feeling uncertain. I’ve been there many, many times.

    I think one thing that’s tricky about it is decision fatigue. There are limitless options for design and description and angle and objective and such, and that can be paralyzing.

    But it’s something that can be overcome, in my experience, by either ignoring the resistance or writing about it, or doing something that uses a different part of the brain like posting a photo of something cool on the sidewalk.

    Also, working abroad is definitely an option. I am working with a team of young internationalists to create something cool on this topic. Stay tuned!

    And thanks! I feel less alone now too.

  4. Those are great questions to ask, and you can always write and blog your way to the answers. Lean into what feels right, and see who keeps showing up. Trust your instincts, and you will slowly but surely figure out that special voodoo that you do (even as the voodoo itself grows and evolves) :)

  5. Thank you, this means a lot coming from you. That special voodoo is something that takes time to figure out, and the people who keep showing up do matter. A dialogue that goes back and forth and into the past and the future.

    :)

  6. Leslie,
    I am always on the lookout for writers who must write. They don’t necessarily care that someone reads their writing. They must write. This shows passion. Your passion comes thru this blog. Keep up the good work.

  7. Thank you for sharing, Leslie! Your photo reminds me of Eat, Pray, Love. I just watched “The King’s Speech,” so I’m happy that you’re making your voice heard here. Perhaps you may choose to tailor it to an audience, but don’t ever change it. You wouldn’t be Leslie then. You’re beautiful, unique, and unabashed even when you don’t know it. That’s why we read when you write.

  8. Steve, thank you so much for your encouraging comment. I’m glad you can appreciate my passion. I’ll keep writing.

    :)

  9. Carol,

    I hope you mean the book version of Eat, Pray, Love (which I found way more engaging and believable than the movie… haha). I like Elizabeth Gilbert’s approach to creativity. Have you watched her brilliant TED Talk?

    Yes, I’m happy that you enjoy reading what I write. I’m working on tailoring it for a specific audience, one step at a time.

    Hope all is well with you, my sweet friend!

  10. Hi Leslie, I don’t know how I found you, but I’m glad I did.

    I’m from Chile, I live in Beijing (3 years here), I lived in the US 1 year and I studied in PUC … I think we have many things in common, it would be very nice talking to you, maybe we can do some things together, I think your company and my company also have things in common!! Please send me an email: beto@winnergo.cl

  11. It’s not easy trying to find your way. I think you are doing a great job, Leslie. You’re very intelligent and insightful. Keep at it, one day you’ll just stumble upon some of the answers…

    I tried finding you after the speech by Ari last Saturday, but you disappeared. Let’s catch up soon!

  12. See? Always articulating what I’m thinking/feeling a step before I figure it out. :) I know for a fact that you’ve got great stories to tell, and I know you don’t have to stop telling them! One thing I’ve decided to do is to take some of the stuff that I was putting on my blog and post it on my facebook page instead (interesting links and other things I find inspirational). Twitter is kind of the place where all of my randomness meets, and the blog is now focused a lot more on Germany. Sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out the medium for the message, ya know? But I’m confident you’ll have it all figured out soon.

  13. Beto, Small world! I just sent you an email.

    Gonzalo, so sorry I missed you at Bizcamp. The last few weeks have been crazy busy and I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Let’s meet up soon.

    Tatiana, thanks for the encouragement, my sweet friend! Yes, I think the trick is to find the right medium for each type of message. I need accept not having it all figured out, and embrace the process of figuring out how to best apply my ambition and curiosity and talents in a way that is actually useful for other people. One step at a time…

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