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Lark or owl

Earlier this week I found myself in the position of having to get up at the crack of dawn to do a (paid) test translation for a prestigious international tender. Now, anyone who knows me will be aware that I am just not a morning person, so having to be up by 8 and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to do a good job on a test piece to be returned before 11 is no mean feat for me! Quite apart from the fact that I don’t think I’ve had to do a test translation under such specific conditions before! This came towards the end of a lengthy tendering process, having already had to send all sorts of documents, educational certificates extracted from dusty half-forgotten folders, details of inside-leg measurements (well, not quite, but you get the picture!)…. Receipt of the test piece had to be acknowledged within 15 minutes and the test duly returned (with no outside help – as if!) within the strict 3 hours – phew! No surprise to learn this was for a Swiss organisation….

Anyway, I managed to get up on time (setting my alarm clock and my iPhone alarm (just in case!)) and the mission was accomplished in the specified time, but I have to admit that I was glad to return to my normal later-rising habits the next day. For me, one of the joys of being a freelancer is precisely that I don’t usually have to get up at any particular time to suit anyone else’s requirements. I can, within limits, work when it suits me. And I’ve always been a night owl! Even on Monday, when I got up at 6.15 for the test, I still ended up going to bed at my usual bedtime, well past midnight. That’s just the way I am! I like the peace and quiet of being up so late: there are usually far fewer interruptions in the evening, no dogs to walk, no client telephone calls or the constant pinging of e-mails…. And my brain is on a roll by that time. I don’t always work in the evening – in fact, I go out and do various activities at least three nights a week in winter, more in summer – but since I’ve been living on my own, I find it’s often a good time to really get things done.

I truly believe we are wired a certain way and it’s very hard to change your natural inclination to be either a lark or an owl. Believe me, I’ve tried. You read so much about the importance of getting up bright and early and getting umpteen things done before breakfast – but the very thought fills me with horror! Many a year I’ve had “Get up earlier” (or its counterpart “Go to bed earlier”!) at the top of my list of New Year’s resolutions, only to lapse into my old ways before the first week of January is out…. I’m a lost cause, I’m afraid. But then again, why fight what suits you? Admittedly, I am very occasionally rudely awoken by a client telephone call before 8 – the problems of working in the UK, one hour behind, for a European clientele. But that really is a very rare occurrence – and I think I’ve got most of my clients trained these days!

Then there are the claims that night owls might actually be smarter than their lark colleagues. The Huffington Post published an interesting study last year to this very effect: higher IQ, more creative, ability to remain alert for more hours after waking than early birds…. I couldn’t possibly comment, of course! Teenagers are notorious for being nocturnal, but some of us never seem to grow out of it. I don’t lie in until lunchtime nowadays, I hasten to add, but I would prefer not get up before it’s light if I can help it. The very thought of getting up early to finish an assignment is anathema to me; I’d far rather work into the night (never all night – I need my sleep!) and my creative juices seem to flow much better in the latter half of the day too. That said, I always try and leave myself a clear day to proof-read my work whether I’ve worked late into the night or not; the added distance almost always leads to final tweaks for the better. My blog posts may come to me when I’m walking the dogs during the day, but it’s at the evening that I tend to put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard, at any rate!).

So what about you? Is there any truth in the rumour that most translators tend to be night owls? Or are you a leopard who has managed to change your spots and switch to being a morning person – or vice versa?

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