Translation And Creative Writing

The world is a much smaller place nowadays. And something that’s helping bridge gaps is translation. And creative writing is becoming a much more central part of that process, especially when it comes to translating fiction.

Writing has been subject to translation ever since the first ever book was written. The initial purpose of communicating across time and geographical distances have now been given a new dimension: that of crossing language barriers.

With some mistakes, such as the one that led to a horned Moses, scores of books have been translated into many different languages. The success of some of the true classics, such as Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and Harry Potter speaks volumes on its own when we look at how many languages they have been translated to.

In this guide, we’ll explore what a translation of text is and how the process can be like creative writing.

What Is A Translation? 

So, what is a translation? As professionals working at The Word Point would agree, translation is NOT translating words or even sentences. It is actually a translation of meaning. Creative translation is a carefully built habit, skill, and mindset that allows you to communicate ideas more freely and more poetically than a technical translator could. 

For this reason, translating a book like The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe would be a notoriously difficult task. The onomatopoeic words and nuances of meaning have been coded in English so strongly that it truly takes a master of translation to bring it close to the original. And while it takes a considerable effort to do, entrusting the task to anyone but the best would lead to a disappointed audience.

Why Is Translation Like Creative Writing? 

The thing is that good translation, and especially creative translation, takes a lot of experience and time dedicated to practising it. In reality, most literary works function on several levels, and the keys to unlocking each next level are to be found within the wording of the next and nuances of meaning.

Therefore, the phrase ‘the rattle of freedom’ would be of special interest to a translation since the collocation of ‘rattle-freedom’ does not exist. A ‘rattle of chains’, on the other hand, does. 

It’s prose writing like this that helps readers build a vivid image in their minds.

Why Is Translation Different to Creative Writing? 

So, is translation in any way different to creative writing? Well, truth be told, it is. When you are a writer, you come up with a story. Millions of student blogs around the world show that almost everyone can write and code complex ideas using language.

translation creative writing

Creative translation, on the other hand, does not. It uses existing ideas from the text to be translated and codes them using a different language to achieve their original meaning. 

However, this does not mean that translation is less creative, although, paradoxically, it means less is created in the process. Translation is difficult and is not for everybody. And while it may seem like it can be done with ease by professionals, even they scratch their heads at some constructions.

Poems, in particular, can be very difficult to translate since line breaking and line length can sometimes have a lot of meaning. Being confronted with very limited space, poets have to be extra creative with coding the intended meaning.

Some famous examples include Beowulf (see the Seamus Heaney adaptation, as well as JRR Tolkien’s), and Ser Gawain and the Green Knight (which again Tolkien masterfully translated). 


So, creative writing is best left to those who do it the best, but the same is true of translators. However, there is a significant overlap between the two these days. When writing, many may choose to use specific phrases from other languages. This is a common problem that even top writing services have to deal with and do so on a daily basis. Truth be told, there is even a linguistic process called ‘borrowing’ which means that whenever you are lost for words, you simply take them from another language. 

The Shakespearean “eyeball,” “puppy dog,” “anchovies,” “hob-nob,” and “breaking the ice” are all borrowed words. There is no lack of creativity here. Finding the right wording in another language can be a notoriously difficult task. 

Final Considerations

With all this in mind, it becomes clear why translation is like creative writing. Besides their obvious differences, there is not much to separate the two. After all, translation IS rewriting a book. If you consider studying translation, you should definitely start reading first. 

Mark Wooten

Mark Wooten loves reading and translation. He finds technical translation a bit hard to do, so he prefers to stick to creative texts and books. Mark loves reading creative texts and literature works, with the classics of American literature being among his favorites.

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