This is my first time dictating a blog post! Yay! A few weeks ago I read a book by Kevin J Anderson entitled Million Dollar Productivity for Authors. In it, Mr. Anderson details how he is able to write so many books every year: he dictates his rough drafts. Now, I’ve heard of people dictating their writing before, but I never thought it would be something that I could do. For some reason I so closely associate writing with typing that I have trouble even imagining the process of speaking words onto the page.
But when I stop and think about it, I realize that human beings are hardwired to use all these teeth and tongue muscles we have to tell stories. In fact, the process of reading and writing is completely unnatural to our brains. But telling stories around the campfire? We’ve been doing it for millennia. And we’ve only been writing for a few hundred years. And we’ve only been typing for a little over a century. And we’ve only been using word processors for the past 30 years, give or take. So… with that in mind, I’ve decided that I can train my brain to dictate stories.
There are several reasons why I think that dictating my fiction will benefit me:
- I’m less likely to get distracted by Facebook, email, and all of the very interesting things on the Internet.
- My hands will not get sore, and I will be able to better avoid repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. I can walk around the room while I am dictating, and thereby avoid getting a sore neck or cramps in my lower back as I do when I am writing at the computer.
- Even though I can type 70 words per minute, I can still speak faster than I can type. That’s even with the mistakes that the dictation program makes. For instance, I just said 70 words per minute, and the dictation program wrote “LXX words permanent.” But it was fairly easy to go back and correct that.
- With dictation, I can write my books and stories and blog posts and pretty much anything else while I am away from the computer. I can take a digital recorder or just my smart phone with me wherever I go, and speak into it, take it home, upload it into the dictation program, and have my rough draft ready to revise without ever having touched the keyboard. This means that I can go for a walk or hike and be writing my novel at the same time. I can write my novel while I’m driving (not in heavy traffic.) I can write a blog post while I am washing dishes, waiting for my daughter to get her shoes on, or while cooking dinner.
- I believe that dictating will go along way towards silencing my internal editor while I am making my rough draft.
- It’s also a good way to add redundancy to my writing career. If I ever break my hand, gods forfend, I will be able to dictate and still meet deadlines on time. If on the other hand, I have a bout of laryngitis, I will still be able to type.
Therefore, I have determined that I must at least give it a shot. So, I decided to practice my dictation skills for 1 to 2 hours daily, for the course of the month. I figure it will probably take that long, if not longer, to become practiced enough to produce most of my drafts through dictation.
I started yesterday. With my smart phone in hand, I went to the lake near my moms house for a walk. For 30 minutes, I spoke into the microphone, trying not to pause. It was extremely uncomfortable. First of all, I just couldn’t think of what to say. I wasn’t trying to write a blog post or a story. I was just trying to get comfortable speaking into the microphone. So, I did stream of consciousness which is basically like blabbering, and it’s very uncomfortable to walk by people at the lake on the trail when you are blabbering to yourself into a smartphone. Nonetheless, I kept with it for the full 30 minutes. I talked about what I was seeing as I walked, I talked about my reasons for wanting to learn to dictate, I talked about a story that I had been writing and trying to figure out where my plot had gone wrong, and I even recited the lyrics to “Hotel California” by the Eagles. I don’t think I got anything useful out of that session.
Today was a bit better. I went hiking on a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway near my home. I dictated for a full two hours. For the first hour I did stream of consciousness again, and for the second hour I did brainstorming for the second half of the plot of the novel that I worked on in November for National Novel Writers Month.
I just tried to say “NaNoWriMo”, but the dictation program wrote “bananarama.”
Brainstorming by dictation felt really unnatural to me. I was using a lot of “ums” and “ahs”, and I felt like I was going really slowly. But at the end of the hour, I had a lot of material. I think that as I was trying to keep talking steadily without pausing for an hour, a lot of ideas were forced out of my head that would otherwise have been stifled by my internal editor, had I just been sitting at the keyboard.
I haven’t bought any dictation software yet. This is because the program that I would need for my computer is a bit expensive. Luckily if you have a PC, You can get a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking pretty cheaply. Last I checked on Amazon, it was about a $50 on sale. But Dragon Dictate for Mac? $200. Yeah, that’s more of a luxury item for me. In the meantime, I’m using the dictation software that comes prepackaged with Mac computers. I can’t upload my smartphone files into this program and have them transcribed automatically, but it’s good enough to get started.
So I decided that I should try to get fluent in dictation before I purchase software. I’m pretty committed to practicing for an hour at least, each day for the next month, now that Bananarama is over.
I’ll let you know how it goes.