As a Japanese to/from English conference interpreter specializing in cybersecurity, I usually work in meetings and negotiations, but recently I started writing a series of articles called Cybersecurity for Beginners for the Japan Association of Conference Interpreters, or JACI. (The series is in Japanese.)
Initially, I was very anxious about writing because I thought I was ‘just’ an interpreter and wasn’t sure I could really write. But, at the time of writing this blog post, I have already written five articles. In this post, I will share the background that led me to writing the series, as well as my struggle to put words together.
Cyber attacks on the rise
Cyber attacks are often under reported, for many reasons; we may not hear about all of them but in reality the number of attacks is increasing. Cyber space is the new battlefield, with numerous attacks targeting private enterprises.
But when an organization sustains an attack, in many cases they do not make it public unless there is a direct impact on the general public. Disclosing it means the company is informing the attacker of how much it has discovered in the attack. A disclosure can also translate into reputational damage and a drop in the stock price for the enterprise.
In response, Japanese companies have started to beef up their cybersecurity efforts. Since many of the cybersecurity products and services are offered by non-Japanese vendors, these vendors will visit Japanese clients and hear their needs and listen to their feedback. The need for interpreting services for these visits is also increasing.
With this in mind, on April 22 I presented an online seminar for JACI about the background for the cyber attacks, the attackers, their methods, the defense side, and the resulting potential interpreting jobs. This seminar has provided me with the opportunity to write a series for the association.
Struggling to write efficiently
I had such a hard time. Preparing an online seminar was a daunting enough task, but writing a text that contains a certain word count turned out to be much more challenging.
I have been working as a full-time interpreter for 15 years, during which time I just translated other people’s words and had never had an opportunity to put together my own thoughts or try to convey information on certain topics in my own words. As I built my career as an interpreter, I got better at predicting what the speaker would say next, but I felt my own vocabulary was becoming poorer.
Some tools to help writing
I had been gathering information on “how to think of an idea” or “how to write” for the past year because I needed to write my blog posts.
Mind Map: could not transition from mind map to actual text
As I collected information, I was particularly impressed with the use of mind map by Daphne Gray-Grant and the use of an outliner by the Japanese author Tak.
Initially, I tried mind mapping and writing, as Daphne advises, no matter how bad it was, but I was at a loss as to how to develop my writing from there.
Advice from a family member turned out to be very effective
So, I showed my draft to my husband. He gave me a lot of critical feedback on my text. I also added more text because the draft was too short.
My husband advised me to write based on the online seminar material that I had prepared and not to try and think of something new.
Once this direction was set, I wrote – and got his feedback – repeatedly, until I had my final version ready to submit.
Outliner: ended up having a list of bullet points
I also tried to utilize the outlining technique, but again, it was difficult to transition from a list of bullet points to actual prose.
For now, I use outliner as a header. Some bullets may be turned into sentences, but if I try to do that on all the bullets, I will fail.
Different people have different ways of writing
As I read blog articles and listened to various podcasts on how to write, I learned that everyone has their own writing style. I have also learned the hard way that I just need to write, no matter what. After I’ve written my first draft, I can think about what to do with the text, but before I start writing, there is no use trying to find some secret trick that does not exist.
By the way, I use Dynalist as an outliner. It is a web service and has a smart phone app as well.
I write my copy in a Word document. I have started using its outlining capability recently. I also use the web service Scrapbox to store my ideas, but I’m not sure I’m making the best use of it.
Readers, over to you. How do you approach writing tasks?