Category: profession

Ok, just let me get this straight. I don’t work for fun. I work because I need to, just like 98% of the population. What makes things harder on me, is that my time is mostly divided up between my several jobs that I tend to have, since none of them not even nearly covers my expenses, and none of them nearly gets me anywhere to some kind of financial security. But, hey, what’s it to me anyway. I am a translator, a free spirit, someone who is blessed to live the way they want to anyway. Right? No, wrong. Big time wrong.

It’s funny to see that my last entry on this blog was about the World Cup being used to cover up for a lot of what I would summarize under the Big Rio de Caca or Spain’s internal crisis. The truth is, now some 45 days on in history. I’ve had my own private Rio de Caca here and then. Why? Let me explain.

As I said, I work as a translator. What I do is that I try to get some jobs here and there to somehow get to the end of the month. That’s basically what I do. Things are not going especially well, not with some people not understanding that a real translation is something else than doing “copy/paste” with google translate. Plus, the market is full with so-called translators who don’t do this profession any favor by calling themselves translators. Anyway, that being said, I was ecstatic when I received an email informing me about an urgent job to translate from Castellano to English. I asked if this was a one-off, but no. It was meant to be a regular thing. Since I was in the last throes of my other almost regular job, I tried to postpone it, but no, of course, it was just now and then. So I agreed to make an appointment. The appointment went well, I got the job, and I was told to be working from now on from the own privacy of my home, a thing I very much appreciated, since the pay was just as much as to cover the actual time spent on the translation (as foreseen by my employer).

Ok, since I was being quite in the middle of a very hectic week, I agreed that they would prepare me things to sign, and since I had their word and a handshake, I thought everything was fine. At least, that was not some kind of back alley deal. That is a newspaper. This is group of different media companies (TV, newspaper, and what not) which have been here for years and years. So I thought, it would not be necessary to show any mistrust against them. A handshake used to fine in this case. So I thought.

In the very first couple of days, things went very chaotic, if not totally unprofessionally. I got sent texts of an amount where I needed to extract about an article of 20% the size and sometimes the titles were this large I was only allowed four to max. five words in the title etc. Plus the texts were sent very late, and many other things that were not really helpful in terms of me having a normal and useful working environment, because my only contact with the company were the emails that were sent to me.

I tried to get back in touch with the man who hired me. I asked him for a second interview even though I had a good mind of simply telling him that this way, the work is not really workable. Not in one or in one and a half hours, which was the base for the amount he was willing to pay. I was actually willing to quit after four or five days, it wasn’t even a week. So I sat him down and talked him through my pains. He listened very carefully and then told me he would change the system, and he could understand my concerns, etc. etc. In the end, he even lowered the amount of articles from 8 to five articles per day, which was absolutely necessary since they always arrived extremely late and it turned out that I had to not only translate them, but also revise them, sometimes rewrite them to make them fit into the small space they were given on one page. I asked for the texts to be sent earlier in the day so I would not wait around so much and could also make use of the afternoon or evening.

A couple of times, the arrangement worked, but mostly, it was simply very chaotic.
At the very beginning of our cooperation, I informed my boss of a course I would be doing in Barcelona but he would not have to worry, I would still be translating that week. I really wanted this job so much. I wanted to move mountains in order to achieve something. He had talked about giving me a proper job in the editors’ team.

Ok, fast forward 40 days. I started on June 15th. I was supposed to get my first cash on July 15th. However, since that was exactly during the week I was in Barcelona, I thought, no big deal, I will be paid the week after. Right? Wrong…


Last week I showed up at the office, throwing in an office day to say hello and ask about the payment, which I thought at the time, was no problem at all. I mean, they had been printing all my articles and they had thanked me for sending them the articles, so I thought, good. I need to pay my invoices just like anyone else, and so I asked when I could have my money. I was referred to someone in the administration and this someone asked me what type of agreement I had with the paper. I said 30€, went back to my desk, continued translating, was called in after I’d finished and was told that I would need to make myself self-employed, a thing which is absolutely impossible on 900€ (supposing the 900€ = deducted from 30 days per 30€ payable). The thing was we had spoken net amounts, and I told them, I could work on a normal parttime schedule, with the three hours every day and so forth. But then, I was told that the 900€ would be a brut amount leaving me with much less. When this happened, I asked them to send me a comparative study so that I could make up my mind which way to choose. Although I surely wasn’t happy about any of this. 30€ just about covers me, but 30€ minus 25% or even 30% that simply wouldn’t do it.

However, they never send me the comparative study. In the end, I was notified, after I had again send them an email and still kept on working, that the situation had changed. All of a sudden, the word was that I would be reimbursed with 500€ flat, as it had been agreed upon in the very first meeting, before I had even finished three days at work, and when there was no talk about working seven days a week… But no, 500€ instead of 900€ and that was it. No questions asked. I just couldn’t believe it.

I made a short calculation, saw that this amount would simply not cut it for all the hours I lost each and every day. So, I told them, again, in the nicest way possible, that there has got to be a mistake. But right now, I don’t think that any of my doubts, are being heard. I haven’t heard back from them, even though I yesterday (Sunday) sent out a reminder to ask for my due pay for working 40 days non-stop. This company owes me 1200€. And they don’t care that I have worked for them like a clockwork. Never failed them once.

It is now 45 days after my first day at work. I tore the ripcord, stopped writing for them, last Friday (after being informed that my monthly pay would be 500€! For 30 days, for 3 hours, and 5 articles daily). At first I could simply not believe it that a newspaper will act this way. Basically, they are not willing to pay the amount we had an agreement for. This was 30 € / day. I averaged in between two to three hours work, but there were days when I needed four to five hours since I waited for the articles to be sent or because the big article was still missing or they would have problems with the headlines or whatever. So let’s speak of an average of three hours (which under normal circumstances, could have been two hours, but that’s about as low as it gets in terms of time). They claim now that we had a different agreement, which rounds of at 15.60€ / day which is truly quite unbelievable.


I had a similar case happen to me in spring. When I translated a comic or let’s say I proof-read it and didn’t get paid. I had given them a lousy and ridiculously low price. But even so. It’s still money, and it’s still time I invested into someone else’s work and where I didn’t see any benefits.

But this is so much larger in terms of scale. I am so sick and tired of being ripped off. If I had known this, I would have stopped working for them much earlier. But as things are, I need to stick around, fix things somehow, it just breaks my heart cos my kids ask me to go to the beach, summer time, to relax and enjoy the time, but I can’t. I need to say no, since I am here, in my home office, looking for a new job, a way to get back on top of things. Being ripped off for one and a half month of good work is quite something.

One thing for sure, I am sad and angry. I feel treated like I am some kind of idiot. I feel ridiculed.

Now I can remember what my old primary school used to say “You’re my first class here. Act like you know that you are going to pave the way for many many new primary classes to come. If you blow it, it’ll be on your head.” That was always something that impressed me lots. We were an exemplary class.

I just hope that this company will make the same bad experience one day. And I also hope that then they will realise the true extension of their antisocial and irresponsible behaviour. They are paving the way to being “antisocial” being accepted as a “business model”.

I’m not finished with them.

– To be continued –

Sometimes it makes me wonder to understand the person I used to be. When I look back upon certain times when I just wrote for myself mainly. I could not stand the thought of someone other than me reading this stuff. I can hardly understand that I really ticked like that. Maybe it was because I did not feel sure enough of what it was I really wanted to express. Maybe I felt that being a writer on its own isn’t quite good enough for this life. I don’t know. Writing for me was a means of survival in some ways. Maybe, I made sure to create a new universe for myself and shield this universe from all too curious looks. Well, I am different now. I must admit, some of the stuff I wrote when I was younger is not quite that good, but some of it is not half bad either. So how many years are we talking now? I would say since I am 41 now and I started out to write when I was 16, roughly 25 years. Most of the really early writings are lost anyway. But I did find some stuff I wrote when I was 18. It was such a time travel to read up on teenage thoughts. So. What is the big difference now and why this blog article about the need for feedback? My argument is that writing is really a very sociable thing and that all writers are somewhat socially interactive and they are interested in the thoughts and the universe created by other people. In a nutshell, if you start to write a novel or a short story or even a poem even, you want to capture a mood, you want to show how you felt, you want to share a certain experience or maybe you want to confuse the reader and lead him astray. Whatever the intention is, you want to communicate with the reader. And therefore my proposal is have more forums and have more possibilities to exchange thoughts with other writers. I see this from a very liberal point of view. At the end of the day, we are basically human. We all know what it is like to be human and we all share certain feelings: falling in love, falling out of love, being infatuated, being disappointed, suffering from heartache, feeling free, enjoying life, or – on the other hand – being devastated, being torn apart by suffering, fear, hate, greed, and crime. After finishing miraculously my first novel (the one I wrote 12 years ago does not count since I never ever finished it properly… “xxxx” rest in peace.) I really had a weird but somewhat lucid moment and thought, wow, that really felt good. That was almost as good as talking to someone. You could compare it to writing a long letter to someone you really care for. But then I started to think. Is that it? That is like a dead end street. You write it. It’s finished, all the energy is out. The thought you had is out of your system. You have finally gotten down to make it appear on paper. And then? What? Someone needs to do something. Someone needs to read it. So what is reading then? If not picking up on a conversation someone left you with? I don’t want to say that all authors are waiting for everyone who reads their books to automatically pick up a phone and tell me… Bla bla, Mr Whatshisname, I really liked your book and I wanted to tell you thank you cos I feel the same about this topic… It is not as easy as that. Cos now… Things are getting a little more interesting. What is the overall subject, what is the real topic and what lies behind it? There can be so many layers to a book, it is incredible. With real good books, I noticed that, even having read them through, I start to pick them up again and read a certain passage I really liked for whatever reason and try to get back into that moment. So! There you are, you have an interaction between author and reader. Why is it neccessarily this passage and not the other? Why do you re-read it at all? Yes, and that is the beauty of books, they are also like friends. They tell you stuff, they even give you advice, they will tease you, but best of all, they keep their mouths shut when they need to.

I know this may be weird coming out of my mouth but it’s true. But now I know what I sometimes lack. It is structure. Writers need structure if they want to get anywhere. Up until now I more or less always wrote when I felt like writing, and about anything that I wanted to write about. Sometimes I would take out any notebook, or a page that I would have with me just in case.

However, today I was in a weird kind of anxious mood that I might not be able to finish my book that has the working title “black story”. Guess what? On second thoughts, I basically know that I can write this story no problem, but the main issue is this: 1) How am I going to write the story? 2) How well will I write it? and 3) Will I feel happy with the outcome?

Maybe, there is this misconception about writers being some weird people, sitting there in their ivory tower, waiting for the muse’s kiss and then writing day and night no matter what. That may be good for those people who don’t live in the real world. For those of us who do live in the real world, this behaviour is not just impossible, it would make writing itself impossible. Of course, we all know these moments when you have a big idea and you keep rolling it around inside your head, toying with this or another scenario that could fuel the action. But if truth be told. When you want to develop a sense of style, a sense of direction, a sense of writing something that has a start, a middle part and an ending, you need to get away from this romantic preconception about the writer being removed from the outside world. The writer has to be absolutely within the world outside in order to write something that has an impact on the outside world.

Plus: If you have the feeling that you are remote from the world that other people live in, chances are that the truth is not too far at hand. If you don’t know anything about what’s going on in other people’s lives, that means you can’t write about it. You could create a postulate like “art pour l’art” but that is not helping either. To me it becomes clearer and clearer that poetry / prose (take your pick, it holds true for both) must be connected with life itself and the living people of today. People should have the feeling that you have something to say. Otherwise all writing is in vain.

So, what is my conclusion? I guess that some people will say that this is rubbish but I still hold against it when I am saying this: A poet needs to have structure: in many ways: in the way that he / she writes, in the way that his writing will be connected to the real world. In the way that he needs to sharpen his pen at least every couple of days if not every day in order to be on top of things.

Writing has so much to do with your inner self, with your personal views, with your innermost feelings.

But then, and this is the point, it also is a craft. And a craft needs to be learnt, sometimes through trial and error, and furthermore it needs to be practiced.

What can I learn from this?

I should probably make a plan of 3 or 4 topics that I want to write about, just for the sake of writing, and also for the sake of practicing. Maybe, I should even pick out topics that I don’t usually write about to make things gradually different. And after writing these 3 or 4 entries, I should try to scale these texts in terms of quality, in terms of coherence, in terms of language.

Writing can be fun, but in the first place it is something that no-one reaches mastery without a couple of bad texts in between.

Don’t cry. Work.

So. Waiting for the exam is over. Waiting for is over. I will know more in roughly ten days. Sometimes, I wish I wish I wasn’t a writer. But what can you do? The exam was fair. Being smart would have been wise and it would have saved me from thinking that I might have failed the exam.
But who needs wise when you can have wild, stupid, on the edge and irresponsible? I will always be the quirky one. The one where you think, yes, weirdo. But that’s me.
Catalan is a beautiful language which I will study each and everynight as much as I can. That much is clear.

Exam outcome and all that
will be released 7 th of june.

By the way, yesterday was not only exam day but also another Sunday spent on the beach. So, yes, that might sound erratic but there are days I need to disconnect and just pretend to be anyone with
a beach towel and sunglasses. Good night


writer's tools

Exam outcome and all that
will be released 7 th of june.

Ok, so this is official. It always takes me about a month to write another blog entry. And it does not seem to be casual in this way. It just happens to my rhythm. Ok, a lot happened in between.

Sophia’s leg got better and we now can go for a swim. But with all the tourists around and the hot weather, I don’t have a lot of intention of spending the day at the beach.

So, it is middle of August now. Another ten weeks of heat I guess. But we are in the middle of the high season.

Finally, my worst ever summer flu is over. It took me more than 4 weeks to get over it. And a cure at antibiotics at the end of it.

I read a lot, just fiction, some books in Catalan, a lot in English, a little in German. Mostly in Catalan until now, but now I am focussing again on literature in English and German. Too bad that my sleep / wake pattern is somehow messed up since I stay up a lot, and in the mornings I need a lot time to wake up. But hey, thank God, it is the school holidays, and it’s still another month to go.

There are a lot of options, but I have made my choice.  Writing professionally is the target I have. I’ve always written, all my life, I co-founded a school newspaper, I was member of a university group of creative writing, I participated in a lot of writing workshops throughout Germany, I did a couple of readings, I even printed my poems in a once-off edition of 30 selfmade copies and sold them to bookshops and to the audience who came to my reading. That was when I was 22. In my late 20’s / early 30’s I did have some stories published in anthologies, but never closed a book deal on my own. Now I am 40. This is what I want to achieve. It struck me that I in between university and now, which is roughly 20 years back, I never got around to pursue this with more force and with more energy. I remember that I entered my short stories in a lot of competitions and contests but never won. I remember that this was somehow very discouraging for me. It really felt bad. It put a grinding halt to all my literary ambitions. That must have been 2004 or so.

I never thought about getting some help through an agent, or seek an editorial that may be interested. Maybe, I did not think much of it. Maybe, I simply did not take myself serious enough. Which is weird, but it may be true.

The past couple of years I was a busy mother of two, and then I moved to Spain 3 and a half years ago. But now, there is not much to keep me away from writing and pursuing my path. I feel that writing is my thing, I feel a bit more mature plus but I feel way more focussed and organised. Let’s see what will happen next.

I need to sit down and write day by day, at least two hours to practise my writing and see how I get on. I need more everyday routine when writing is concerned. Up until now it was very erratic, like poof! I would have an idea and I would jot it down, there, never change it. Now I feel I want to develop an idea and then sit down and clothe this idea with words. So writing has become a more conscious process. Here is a difference.

Plus I need feedback from others.

Right now, I am putting an exposé together. And I am writing new short stories for a collection of short stories.

Step by step, I am moving along. This time around I will muster the endurance and stamina to hold on to this idea and pursue it.

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