Translating "in the zone"

Translators, writers, other creative people all know the wonderful feeling of working "in the zone". It's that blessed feeling when you're at your best, on a roll, seemingly without putting any effort into it. Your thoughts and ideas flow smoothly, your fingers touch the keyboard (or pen, brush, strings, keys -- whatever your medium) and produce exactly what you want.

When this happens to me as I translate, I feel as if my fingers have a will of their own... My eyes see the Hebrew text, and my fingers produce the English without "asking" my brain what to do next. It's a wonderful, exhilarating state. I think there's a name for it -- one's mind is in its Alpha state, or something like that. I read about that many years ago, when I was enamored with the idea of the Silva mind control method. For a while I tried practicing guided imagery according to Silva's instructions. I don't think I persevered long enough for it to have any effect.

One memorable period wherein I enjoyed this "in the zone" feeling was about 7 years ago. The end-client was The Israel State Archives, and the project was "Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel" -- something that ordinary folks never think about. But it's there, and it's fascinating stuff. I found the series of documents which I was asked to translate particularly interesting, because I remembered the period involved: the time just before, during and after the Sinai Campaign of 1956. Though I was just a child at the time, a schoolgirl, various names and expressions were etched in my memory. U.N. Secretary Dag Hammarskjold was a household name, mentioned daily on the radio (no TV in Israel at the time!). Finding out, as an adult, what went on behind the scenes, reading (and translating) correspondence between Israel's top politicians (e.g. Abba Eban) and major European and American political figures (e.g. Ralph Bunche, Guy Mollet, Anthony Eden) was riveting to me. I suspect that just hearing these names helped throw me back to a different era, making it come to life. Maybe this immersion in the past helped me glide into "the zone". Work proceeded with record smoothness and speed.

I was reminded of this near-hypnotic state recently, when working on a chapter of the non-fiction book I'm currently translating. At some point, it began to flow, I was in a sort of daze, suddenly "waking up" to realize that the hours have flown by and I'd done ten pages without thinking.

But of course, nothing so good lasts for long.
This time I mentally tripped over a simple little expression which catapulted me out of the zone.
The Hebrew expression was "zeh lo zeh". The context was, roughly: The writer is planning a "roots" trip to Poland and is searching for a guide, preferably from his parents' home town. At first, all he finds online is tourist guides from a town some 200 km away from Home Town, and he feels that "ze lo zeh" -- it just won't do. But guess what -- I  couldn't for the life of me think of the expression "it just won't do", which came to me without thinking now, as did a couple of alternatives.
So I snapped out of the zone.
Never mind -- it was time for dinner anyway :-)

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1. To read more about guided imagery and mind control, see my post about hypnotherapy.
2. Alternative translations of "zeh lo zeh" include: not good enough; not the real McCoy, not quite right, not the real thing, etc -- all depending on context, of course.


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