Friday, July 27, 2012

Tools for Writing 1 - The Joy of Dictation

I use Dragon Dictate for about half of my drafting. By switching back and forth from typing to dictating, I have cut my chances of repetitive stress injuries in half, but there are other benefits:
  • Now that the program allows for a more natural flow of words (vs. one word at a time), I get to hear the prose, especially the dialogue, from the time of its creation.
  • I write about 20% faster with dictation.
  • I am discouraged from rewriting as I write, which keeps me in a creative mind and avoids interference from the editor in my head.
For me, adjusting to dictation was as difficult as my transition from writing by hand to using a typewriter and from using a typewriter to using a computer (about a month of upset in each case). But I will admit that I have advantages in being a bit of a techie and in having early experience (as part of IBM Research) with dictation. This is not to say that the experience is painless or perfect, even today.
  • Dictation seems to work better with nonfiction than fiction. The names and cadences of dialogue seem to throw the program at times.
  • Sometimes the emotion is muted because fully acting things out makes for strange errors. Also, I am tethered by my headset.
  • When I see an input error, it distracts me from the drafting. This usually is only a slight bump in the flow. However, I have been known to get frustrated and fight with the system (and angry voices do not transcribe well.)
Nevertheless, I would hate to go back to just typing. For one thing, I like the "feel" of dictating. Just as some writers edit better from printed copy and some brainstorming works better with a pencil and piece of paper (in my case, a poster-size page), dictating provides an option for capturing mood, emotion, and flow that other approaches do not. When I begin a writing journey, it's as if I have a fleet of cars rather than one vehicle for commuting. That gives me one more edge as I explore the limits of productivity.


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