The introspective humdrum life of an eccentric hexagenarian.

Visit my other blogs: "Elderberry Bike Rides of Delaware
," organized bicycle rides for families, senior citizens, and anyone interested in getting back into biking; and "Cloister Voices," the collected thoughts of modern and ancient hermits, eccentrics, solitaires, wanderers, mystics, and others who inhabit the monastery within.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sony Digital Recorder and a Dragon - A Writer's Best Friends

Writing nonfiction articles for a blog cam be laborious if you collect a lot of references to use in the blog. First you search for the references that are on target, and then you dump them into a
subdirectory to be combed through later.

The problem is that going through them for nuggets of gold is a drag when you know you have hours of reading, highlighting ideas, developing the concepts into your own words, typing them into a draft file, and hoping that at the end of all of this you still even care about the subject.

I can't tell you how many subdirectories I have containing research material. They gather dust. The Kelpius subdirectory alone spurred the need to buy multiple flash drive to store all the data. I managed to squeeze out one paltry blog about Kelpius but it didn't satisfy me since so much of the material I had collected was just too cumbersome to review all of it.

Then I bought the Sony digital recorder and Dragon Naturally Speaking Recorder Edition version 9.5 voice recognition software. I was suspicious at first. I get a lot of "brilliant" organizational ideas that in actuality are sometimes just a ploy to avoid doing the actual writing. I am happy to report that in this case, that is not true.

Over the weekend, I've been thinking about an article titled, "The Memory of Water" that explores the mysterious, magical, mythical, and scientific anomalies about water. Good little researcher that I am, I compiled a subdirectory of about 100 references on "water."

You know how those subdirectories look with unintelligible filenames and sub-subdirecotries with miscellaneous gif files and the like that are part of saving a website view. It's enough to discourage anyone to look back at the garbled list of files and figure out how to begin.

No problem. I had Sony Dragon on my side. I just started at the top of the list of files, opened them one by one, scanned through them for ideas, put the concepts in my own words, and dictated it into the digital recorder. And then on to the next file and the next...

I then fed the file into the Dragon software and watched with amazement as my words were turned into text and magically typed themselves across the screen. Painlessly you have a workable draft file that avoids that "blank screen" terror when you are beginning a new piece of writing. After that, it's all downhill coasting as you edit, rearrange, re-edit, and finalize your piece of writing. Writing can be a solitary business but with the Sony Dragon you feel as if you have collaborators who are always willing to help you out at any time of day or night; they never get tired and cranky, and they never make fun of your writing.

However, there are moments of amusement while Dragon is getting used to recognizing your voice. This is when I discovered that Dragon is a hawk while I am clearly a dove.

I spoke the words, "The unique physical and aesthetic properties of water give it a mysterious component that fires mythological and religious ideas about water." (Okay, it's not deathless prose, it was a DRAFT, remember? Dragon doesn't give me a hard time like YOU do!)

I found it very sweet that Dragon didn't roll it's eyes at my draft copy; it just did its darnedest to accurately transcribe what I had said. Clearly though, Dragon still has memories of spitting fire and annihilating enemies because this is what it thought I said, "The unique physical and aesthetic properties of water give it a mysterious component that fires missiles and religious ideas about water."

Of course, now I have a new to trick Dragon into saying the most bizarre things. There ARE rules however to this game. No lisping is allowed (wouldn't that be like kicking someone in a wheelchair?) No foreign words are allowed which is good since I can't speak any. Of course Middle English is fair game. "Here Dragon, transcribe this: "Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote, the droghte of March hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in swich licour...."


  1. Great idea. Something that I will certainly look into. In addition to using it in the way that you do - although I do very little of the research that you seem to (maybe I should?) - I am always have ideas that I struggle with when I actually try and type them. Maybe, as a life-long civil servant and bureaucrat, I THINK too much when it come to transposing thoughts on to paper. Or the computer screen. I feel instinctively that I would do much better letting my thoughts flow freely out of my mouth rather than through the tips of my clumsy fingers.

  2. I think you will find it a new way to be creative.

    In earlier years I was able to type about 120 wpm so it wasn't an issue; the brain just let it rip and the fingers kept up.

    Both my brain and my fingers have slowed down a bit these days so necessity is the mother of invention.

    If you keep the Sony recorder with you (it's VERY small!) you never miss an idea that pops in your head. The only place I haven't been able to use it yet is while I'm riding the bike!

  3. That is a great dragon pic at the top.

    The biggest problem I had with the Dragon was that I couldn't really speak very naturally, and by the time I was articulating the way it seemed to require, I didn't remember the whole fabric of where I was headed. Maybe it's gotten better since the last time I tried.

    If I could only find a tool that didn't require voice recognition training and wasn't too fussy about background noise! I have tapes of other people that I need to transcribe...

  4. VirusHead, I think you find the new version (9.5 or 10) of Dragon to be much more evolved than the old versions. Also, the Sony recorder does so well that even in noisy areas, Dragon can understand the words.


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