On Ambitions and Opportunities (My 2015 InCoWriMo 9 of 28)


Dear M,

Greetings from Australia. Glad to meet you on paper via InCoWriMo 2015. What do you do as a career? If you have already retired, what used to be your job?

I have a series of professional titles, but the ones I use most often are “bilingual writer” and “translator”. These days I do more translation work than writing, because I have made promises to people who rely on my skills to fulfil their dreams. I love translating literary titles, although there is also plenty of work for non-literary projects.

But I love writing even better. Particularly when I get to have some time to write my own stuff – which is rare – it feels like staggering into an oasis after crossing a whole desert. Here the water is cool and fresh, the shade pleasant and the dates so tender and juicy they nearly melt in your mouth. You climb down from the camel’s back and move towards a lake, ready to swim, splash and splatter in words. Eventually you fall asleep on the green grass by the water, dreaming about your words growing wings to fly you far, far away.

The beginning of each year seems to be full of opportunities. Everyday I see grants and funding to apply for, contests and competitions to enter, conferences and journals calling for papers, proposals and presentations – windows of all shapes and sizes that potentially open to a brand new piece of blue sky. Facing all these possible chances, which may lead to dramatic changes in life, how do you suppress your ambitions? How can you not dream large? Most importantly, how do you refrain your imagination from going wild, so that you can concentrate on the tasks at hand? How do you stop daydreaming?

Today I saw this quote from one of the books I have translated from English to Chinese. “The moviemakers have some bright ideas. They have great imaginations and they have all the tools, but they still rely on facts. Moreover, they have the sense to hire expert advisers who keep them within the bounds of reality.”

Well, the lesson I learned from this quote is that every daydreamer needs to have at least one expert adviser to keep their feet firmly on the ground. To help them remain “within the bounds of reality” and focus on the tasks they are already facing. To encourage and even force them to fulfil their promises. Perhaps more importantly, every daydreamer needs to have a “devil” on their left shoulder (or the right one if it suits them better) that keeps telling them off all the sidetracks. “Do you really think you can handle all that extra work? Why don’t you just stick to your own stuff and leave the opportunities to other (more) talented people? To hell with your crazy ambitions!”

Finish one thing before starting on the next. This is my lesson. I would be very grateful for your advice in this regard.

Sincerely Yours,



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