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Reflections on Writing, Blogging and Translating

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Today, I turn twenty one.

I don’t feel old. I used to fear growing up, but I’ve come to the conclusion that even if the passage of time causes me to lose things, there are many more things that I will gain, simply by being alive.

At the same time, I’m amazed at how quickly time flies! It only feels like yesterday when I started up an anime blog with a stupid name. My blog still has a stupid name, but now it gets well over 1.5k views every day. I don’t post as often as the more dedicated bloggers, but I’m glad my readers have found something to keep coming back to. I still blush whenever someone leaves a kind comment.

A Short History of This Blog

Fun fact: this blog has existed since late 2011, but I never tried using it for anything much until around May 2013. Up until then, I was a fanfiction writer. I was fairly well-respected in the community for my ability to understand English grammar. The hurdle for being considered a good fanfiction writer… is not that high. (More on this later.)

I discovered the anime blogosphere in early 2012 and for a long time lurked around the usual haunts (Random Curiosity, The Cart Driver, etc.). I can’t remember why I started writing my own posts, but something tells me it was probably because I was upset that all the bloggers were talking shit about my favourite anime.

Yep, I’m pretty sure I started blogging because I wanted to share my appreciation of ecchi anime.

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My stance towards ecchi fanservice has become much more nuanced and ambivalent over the years (compare this old post with my recent writings on otaku sexuality), but I believe my complicated relationship with otaku culture and the aniblogging community spurred my more passionate writing. How can I consider myself a critical thinker but still be so entranced by such generic narratives? How can I be a feminist and also an otaku? I think my best posts are the ones that teased out these complex tensions.

At some point, I got really hooked on light novels. Most anime critics these days use “LN” as shorthand for “bad trope-y writing”. Well, there is truth in that. Light novel “culture” is pretty similar to fanfiction culture. When amateur writers just stick to reading each other’s works, their writing becomes endlessly self-referential and self-parodying.

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At the same time, there are plenty of light novels that don’t fit the template. And good translations really do make a difference, even with mediocre stories. I got into light novel translation because I wanted to bring out the best in light novels. I still passionately believe in that goal.

So yeah, that’s the basic rundown of my history as an anime fan. A lot of it revolves around words, words, words. 

Why write?

Blogging, fanfiction, translation… I’ve published literally millions of words online through my anime fandom. Every day, I produce some form of anime-related writing. And I do all these things without getting paid a cent. Sometimes, I have to stop and wonder why the heck I do all of that.

I think the biggest reason I’ve stuck with anime over all these years is because of the community. Without the anime fandom, I would never have had a consistent audience for my writing. Not only have I made a lot of friends, being an anime fan trained me as a writer and helped me to gain confidence in my skills.

I don’t want to romanticise fandom. Fandom is rightly criticised for its insular tendencies. But fandom is also really broad, malleable and a part of everyone’s lives in some way. In a lot of ways, it is what you make of it.

What has always appealed to me about fan writing is the openness to experimentation. I do a lot of experimental writing on my blog, and I also did it a lot with my fanfiction. Because fan writers have free reign over what works they produce, it often leads to excessive self-indulgence, but it need not be so.

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The boundary between fan writing and professional writing is becoming increasingly blurred. Many fans are professionals. Even fans who are not necessarily paid professionals are perfectly capable of writing to a schedule and imposing rigorous standards on themselves. For example, Nano Desu, the translation group I work for, assigns editors to each project and requires prospective translators to pass a test before joining.

I think that if you approach fan writing with a critical mindset, you can get a lot out of it. You can minimise the bad habits and maximise the benefits. I encourage every person to read widely. Don’t just interact with the same community and the same ideas. You must continually try to challenge your perspective.

Every piece of writing is a hybrid product, stitched together through various life experiences and influences, both consciously and unconsciously. I think the very best writers actively engage with the world around them and make use of their influences in a very purposeful way to touch someone else’s life.

Because I write every day, I think about these things a lot. I’m always thinking about how I can become a better writer who can contribute better things to the world.

One day, I would like to get paid to translate or to write academic articles. But getting paid is not the end goal. Writing is the end goal. As long as my words reach someone, then I will be satisfied.

And even then, I will continue to write.

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Posted on April 18, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Though translation is also a form of editing, and you *are* a writer when you translate, and your skill at prose and vocabulary definitely matters, how do you feel about “translating as writing” as opposed to, well, other writing? To some degree, it’s very much not your own writing that others are reading, more than it is yours.

    I wonder if as an answer, a good analogy would be it’s someone else’s thoughts, through your voice, or accent.

    Every piece of writing is a hybrid product, stitched together through various life experiences and influences, both consciously and unconsciously. I think the very best writers actively engage with the world around them and make use of their influences in a very purposeful way to touch someone else’s life.

    I often think about the difference between being widely-read/experienced and stitching together disparate things, and showing how they’re similar or relate, versus the ability to focus on one thing and make it appear fresh, on its own. Of course, more experiences probably help with focusing on but one thing as well.

    Happy birthday, and good luck with your continued growth :)

    • One of the things they say about literary translators in particular is that the better the translator you are, the more invisible you are to the reader.

      Trying to sound like someone else might be a big constraint on your self-expression, but one of the things about constraints is that you can be expressive in a subtler way. It’s sort of like how computer programmers tell me that coding can be very artistic. The constraints can channel your creativity rather than stifle it, because you focus almost entirely on details and fine tuning.

      Which kinda brings me to the other point you mentioned. Being able to zoom in and focus on finer details is equally as important as being able to zoom out and appreciate the bigger picture. I think that being widely experienced makes contextualising easier, but you still need to train the skill.

      And thanks for the well wishes! :)

  2. Happy birthday to you and best of luck further improving your already impressive writing career.

  3. Happy birthday, Frog-kun! (Assuming time zones haven’t made me late, in which case “Belated etc.”)

    I’ve enjoyed reading your writing, and in particular it’s nice to read someone looking at anime both academically and lightheartedly / with a sense of joyful whimsy. Looking forward to more in the future, certainly. :3

  4. I had my attempt at fan-fiction, but I got disillusioned at how some of the stories I read were just so ridiculous. And looking back now, some of the stuff I wrote was a bit ridiculous too.

    I guess that’s the way of telling me I’m slightly better at writing fact than fiction.

    And happy birthday.

    • Oh man, I can relate. Fanfiction is a crazy world :P Although you probably shouldn’t write off your ability to write fiction based on just that.

      Anyway, thanks for the birthday wishes!

  5. Happy birthday, dear frog~

    It’s been a joy to connect with you. Hopefully I haven’t been too annoying.

    Your writing has become better with time, no doubt. Like you’ve said before, you do still have times when at l east I feel you struggle to get your points across – but it’s much less than in the past. So rather than see it as a negative, see it as a positive that you’re growing!

    Looking forward to reading more from you. And I should become better at commenting.

  6. happy birthday and good luck on your future endeavors~ ^_^

  7. You write just because you have to, right?

    I think your most successful point, like other aniblogger, is that you managed to find a distinctive tone for yourself.

    (That is also very important in translation, especially in poetic. Re-defining a work need something of yourself, your audience and the author.)

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  8. Happy birthday man.
    Here. You’re welcome.

    (Not sure if your blog uses BB code or HTML, I’ll just use a link, lol)

    Also, like everybody had said, good luck with your future writing endeavors.

  9. Happy Bithday, Froggy!

  10. nosohryuforyou

    Happy birthday! I applaud your passion and dedication to writing, which I once shared but lost when I decided that my words could not, in fact, reach anyone. Now I lurk and am content merely to read. Thank you for your enjoyable and thought-provoking words; they have indeed reached me.

  11. I love that first image jajaja!

    Happy birthday Froggy!

  12. Before discovering your blog I never thought the otaku culture could be so deep, often I have to analyse a lot after reading one of you posts. keep up the good work! good luck with your future endeavours and Happy Birthday!

    Here’s your present:

    *Voucher that worths a free ecchi Image*

    :v

  13. I wish you all the best, Froggy! Happy birthday!

    I really like how serious you are about your passion, but simultaneously not too serious and grim. Hopefully you can make your dream come true and you never lose your romantic view, I will root for you! :)

  14. “I discovered the anime blogosphere in early 2012 and for a long time lurked around the usual haunts (Random Curiosity, The Cart Driver, etc.). I can’t remember why I started writing my own posts, but something tells me it was probably because I was upset that all the bloggers were talking shit about my favourite anime.”

    I hereby take full credit for getting Frog into blogging.

  15. Twenty-one, ah, the most overrated age (at least in US xD)…
    I hope your birthday went well.
    Also, that’s a terrible reason to start =P

    ” Don’t just interact with the same community and the same ideas. You must continually try to challenge your perspective. ”
    — Probably the best piece of advice I’ve seen from an aniblogger since… ever.

  16. Your amazing! Your writing is so eloquent. Wow. So you basically started your blog 4 years ago. Not too long ago.

  17. First time commenting here, but I wanted to wish you a belated happy birthday. I enjoy reading your entries, especially related to Light Novels. I’m looking forward to more in the years to come.

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