Would you like to write at the speed of sound?

This blog was written entirely using voice recognition software, your speed of composition is increased dramatically by talking into a microphone and having words appear on the screen

This blog was written by my voice and speech recognition software in a matter of minutes.

Modern speech recognition software really works.

Just by speaking into a headset, you can have your “robot stenographer” type words as quickly as you can speak them. Right now I am writing these words, using NaturallySpeaking by Dragon.  I’m a little rusty at this, and I’m using the old version 10, which works fine.

You “train” NaturallySpeaking by reading sample texts aloud

The software needs to learn how you pronounce words.  It also pays attention to corrections you make by hand to how it “heard” you.  Once NaturallySpeaking has learned the sound of your voice, you can speak at a normal pace and get words on the page much much faster than typing.  In fact the real challenge is devising something interesting to write, since the software captures your words so quickly it doesn’t give you much time to think.

Composing at talking speed may get you closer to your reader, who reads about twice that fast

According to Wikipedia, “The average American adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute.”  “Audiobooks are recommended to be 150–160 words per minute, which is the range that people comfortably hear and vocalize words.”*  If you are like me, you don’t type nearly that fast!

NaturallySpeaking is remarkable for transcribing interviews.

Although it’s not really feasible to train NaturallySpeaking to understand a tape of your interview subject, it’s quite simple for you to listen along, and repeat everything your subject says.  The software is not perfect but it’s faster than transcribing the tape and a lot less work.  Highly recommended.

Get a Good Headset with Microphone

The older version of the software is pretty cheap and it’s quite simple to install and train, and you get better at using it (and it gets better at understanding you) with just a little practice.  To go with NaturallySpeaking  I purchased a very comfortable and easy to connect Logitech USB Headset which has worked flawlessly.

This is the first time I’ve tried NaturallySpeaking with WordPress, and it works like a charm.  Sure I’ll have to clean up the text a little bit, but I just wrote this entire blog in a few minutes.  I can imagine using speech recognition for “automatic writing” as a method to help overcome writer’s block.

Careful, NaturallySpeaking is quite powerful

When you learn the commands it’s possible to open programs and perform other kinds of functions using only your voice.  This “feature” can get a little tricky when the software begins switching pages and opening menus by itself!  No one believes me but it ordered some chrome parts for my spacecraft, which I had to keep and look cool.  Now I’m going to use the software to see if I can fill out some meta-tags.

Postscript:  Naturally Speaking’s propensity to access menu buttons can make it very difficult to compose a “self referential” article on WordPress or blogging features since Naturally Speaking leaps out of the writing interface and goes to commands beginning with words like “WordPress.”

* Wikipedia article “Words Per Minute” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_per_minute


Is Technology Getting In the Way of Your Writing?

when writing tools break words stop flowing

You Can Write

But are the WordPress plugins’ “tools” and “features” and “settings” and “tags” becoming a  distraction?  Today the WordPress “admin bar” stopped showing up at the top of my blog site.  Ordinarily I can log in, write something, preview it as it appears on the site, click on the dashboard, go back in and edit.  Now I can’t do that and have no idea why.

WordPress Plugins are great.

But they don’t always get along.  And the ways they change the writing interface can become a real pain.  The HTML tab on my Add New Post interface mysteriously greyed out and stopped working awhile back.  I don’t know why.  I can still insert HTML by clicking “edit your profile” and clicking “disable the visual editor when writing.” It’s a pain.

And this latest glitch has my blog not recognizing me as an admin, so my own clicks register in Google Analytics.  Hmmm, another exciting computing problem to troubleshoot.  In the meantime, I’m not using tools, I’m repairing them.

Which plugin is causing the problem or what setting? Was there an automatic update that changed things?  Questions demanding turning things off and back on.  Fiddling.  Wasting time.

The goal of writing is to organize words to fashion a transparent window on ideas

When your reader notices the writing, he or she is not immersed in content.  The window is dirty, or it creates a distracting distortion or lensing effect, or in the worst case, your reader’s window has become opaque.

Writing tools need to be similarly unobtrusive.  If I’m looking at the little submarine window in WordPress and constantly wondering about font size or headers (which drive SEO, don’t forget about SEO).  Or thinking about anything other than communicating with my reader, the tool has become a filter or even an obstacle.

When writing tools are not easy and fun, and especially when they aren’t predictable, they discourage writing.  Is my blog going to stop working entirely?  When tools generate problems, they turn a writer into a tinker.   So today I realized that the technology that is supposed to let me share my work had generated so many idiosyncrasies that I am no longer writing.  I’m peering into a tiny box, wondering what will go wrong next, and worrying which conflicted setting is going to hijack my concentration.

Today I feel like doing a Thoreau

I want to, simplify, simplify, thoreau WordPress away, and abandon this do-it-yourself technological Rubik’s Cube.  Maybe I will buy a professional theme that comes with all the caching, and compression, and internal links, and everything else the plugins do.  I want to stop thinking about buttons and switches and think about words instead.

Postscript — Appears to have been a setting, discovered at the expense of about an hour.

Post post script:  Found a great plug-in that solved multiple problems created by other plug-ins.

8 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

When writing comes easy, the soul and the fingers seem to be choreographed by a magical spell, with an ease like throwing a ball or feeding a hungry baby: a Muse. Which leads to Tip #1:
The Muse Ain’t Coming

Writer’s Block: Figment or Fact?

We rarely speak of “doing the dishes block,” yet even professional writers complain of this malady called “Writer’s Block.”  What if you told your boss, “Oh, I have attending-meetings-with-management block.”   Is writer’s block just an excuse for laziness or procrastination?

When you do the dishes, you grab the nearest plate and start scrubbing.  But the writer has to grab at phantoms within, wrestle with ideas and words, delve deep into the mind’s recesses to land a fish that the world will measure and weigh.  What is my idea?  Who is going to read it?  Will I be criticized for what I write?  Will it sell?  What have I done lately?  Have I lost it?  Did I ever have it?

The blocked writer’s mind is alive with imagination, all directed at the writer.

When writing comes easy, the soul and the fingers seem to be choreographed by a magical spell, with an ease  like throwing a ball or feeding a hungry baby:  a Muse. If you’ve experienced the golden inspiration of  the Muse, you may want to wait and hold off on writing until you can duplicate that warm and wonderful experience.  Which leads to Tip #1.

The Muse Ain’t Coming

Along with the Doing the Dishes Muse, the Writing Muse is busy frolicking.  You are going to have to write this thing on your own.  Accept the brutal facts: writing must proceed in the absence of pure and golden inspiration.  The Muse may come later, or not, but you have to get started.  Start.  It may not be great writing, but it’s writing.

Writer’s Block is Often Another Problem

Is there something about your topic that is disturbing the heart/hand connection?  Is your book on the history of scabs and scab-like skin problems among military leaders not exciting you? Is there research you haven’t done, or is it just a vague feeling that you haven’t figured out a strategy to explain an idea?  The subject matter must be within your mastery.  If you don’t have something to say, you will get writer’s block.  So figure out if you are looking for for info or for an angle.

Is the Audience Someone You Dislike or Don’t Know?

If the future reader of your writing is someone you don’t like or trust, this will lead to Writer’s Block.  Every good writer keeps before him or her a mental picture of the audience.  The reader is a partner, the person who will understand your words.  Who is your reader?  If you dislike or fear your reader, the Muse will not touch you with a ten-foot pole. Strategy:  Write it for someone else.  Yes, you will turn the piece in to whomever, but write it for someone you like who is smart and likes you, too.  That’s a reader worth writing to.

Is Something IMPORTANT Going to Happen When You Finish Writing?

Whether you are writing your doctoral thesis, a proposal for a big project, or the great American novel, is there is some consequence outside the writing itself?  If so, your subconscious mind may be mugging the Muse behind some bushes.  Is there an unknown element about what will happen if your work is accepted or rejected?  Are you ready to leave graduate school?  Are you prepared to work on the Big Project?  Is your suit cleaned and pressed to appear on Oprah when your novel takes off?  Separate the writing from its consequences and don’t become paralyzed with dread.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Great But It Does Have to Be Done

The perfect is the enemy of the good.  Start writing as well as you can, be prepared to edit or accept editing, and let others worry about whether it’s any good.  Did Fred Astaire worry about every dance step?  Did Johnny Unitas think about the audience?  No. If they did, they would choke, get stiff, fail.  Repeat this to yourself:  What other people think of my work is none of my business.  You need to love it, feel it, write it — that’s your job.   The reaction of the crowd is their lookout.  Write for that smart person you like.

Writer’s Block Often is a Signal of Something Else

You and your subconscious mind need to figure out what what is causing Writer’s Block and your subconscious may not be talking.  Freezing up, paralysis, excessive caution —  these are appropriate reactions to fear of the unknown.  So begin training your subconscious to see a bright treasure in that dark tunnel.  When you finish a piece of writing and hand it in, don’t take yourself for granted.  Do something as a reward.  Do this every time.  Train your subconscious mind like a dog.  If it’s dinner out or a new toy, make it clear to yourself that a predictable and inevitable outcome of finishing the writing is an identified reward. Follow through and don’t let yourself down.  Your subconscious mind will begin to catch on and start welcoming that Muse just to get to the treat.

You Can Beat Writer’s Block Like It Owes You Money

Every moment you can think about the competence, the professionalism and the beauty you want to express in your writing, you are beating Writer’s Block.  Sit down and write for 15 minutes.  Just start writing stuff.  It doesn’t have to start out good, it just has to start. Treat it like doing the dishes.  Do you ever ask yourself, “Is this the best dishwashing ever performed? I wonder what a crowd of people would think about my dishwashing?  Hmm, is my life going to be the same when I finish these dishes?”  Of course you don’t, you’re not a complete idiot.

When Writing Is Like Doing the Dishes You Are a Pro

Writing is just another kind of work. Yes, your heart and soul are on the line and they need to be.  Just as your hands have to be in hot water to do the dishes.  Put your heart into hot water,  let your mind work hard, and keep that subconscious critter in you looking forward to the reward you have devised.  Every minute you can apply the seat of your pants to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard are beating the living hell out of Writer’s Block. Go ahead and beat Writer’s Block like it owes you money.  Because it probably does.  And when that Muse comes back, and she will, give her my best and ask where the heck she’s been.

A short and inspiring book for writers:  The Elements of Style

And here’s a terrific article on writer’s block I just found.  Long and worth it.

People used to write on these monsters and they loved it.

writer's block is an old problem