Why do I write in English?
“You should sign up for this writing course in Norwegian now that you’ve started writing,” a friend told me a while ago. She’s not the first to assume that I can easily switch between writing fiction in English and Norwegian. Many think my main desire is to write in Norwegian, for Norwegians, and that I write in English for obscure reasons – a confirmation of my strangeness perhaps. And each time, I try to explain: That I want to become better in my English writing, so I need to practise as much as I can – and since I have so little time to write, I want to spend it on this. That I don’t think in Norwegian, then translate it—I think in English when I write – it’s my writer voice. My writing would be totally different in Norwegian. I’m not sure they understand. Then again, I’m not sure I understand it myself.
It’s not like it’s a bed of roses. My English may be good, but my Norwegian is light years better. I struggle with all the things a person combats when dealing with foreign languages: the search for words, synonyms, grammar. You know the feeling when someone tells a joke and everybody laughs, but not you, because you didn’t understand the twist in the joke? Yes, that feeling. Not to mention how difficult it is to write a natural dialogue, maybe even using slang, or to instantly see the difference between US English and UK English.
But you know what? I´ve struggled many years with starting to write. And I do wonder if choice of language was the key all the time. When I write in Norwegian, I can be dramatic in my choice of words and how I express feelings, almost as if the harsh Nordic landscape and climate lurk between the lines. English flows differently. Its lexicon is so vast. I feel my writing becomes a smooth river, rather than a bumpy road. But I wonder if something gets lost in that river. Maybe I write in English because I can be distant. Could it be that my Norwegian voice still feels too up close and personal? Will I need to tackle this at some point?
Then there are the practical reasons, of course. The Norwegian publishing market for new writers is limited. There is little room for writing speculative, weird and dark fiction. Not much room for experimenting as a new writer either, unless you have inside contacts. And Norwegian works are unlikely to get translated into English, so the potential amount of readers is low. And you’ll miss the opportunity to build an international network with other writers, publishers and readers.
I’m so happy and humbled that people like my stories. Thank you so much to the editors who have wanted to publish this fledgling writer, and thanks so much to the kind and patient people who have read my drafts and helped me achieve my goal.