Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Method of my madness

Let me share a little secret with you. I am very old fashioned when it comes to writing.

We have to keep this to ourselves because in my other life, I work with computers; I write computer software, consult on information management and create websites. When it is time to create literature, however, I find it impossible to do so at the computer, I must put pen to paper. I suspect that seeing the words on paper, the way that my readers would, provides some level of inspiration. I probably would have done very well with a manual typewriter.

This stumbling block makes writing a very laborious process since, having written the words, I must then transcribe my scrawls into an electronic form so that they can easily be edited and shared. Being a techie, I have done some research in an attempt to make this process a little less painful.

Intelligent character recognition software is one possible solution to my problem. I could scan my jottings and use optical character recognition software to electronically translate my written words into characters that can be edited with a word processing document. The problem is that no software has yet been created that can decipher my handwriting. Years of computer use have caused my writing to deteriorate significantly. The legibility of my writing is often exacerbated by the fact that I often write in the car on long commutes on bumpy roads and sometimes I scrawl a paragraph or two in the dark on the pad that I keep next to my bed.

At one point I dabbled with electronic writing tools, a pen stylus to be exact. I connected it to my computer and wrote on a Tablet. This was several years ago, and the technology may have improved considerably by now, however, I was extremely frustrated with this method. The main problem was that the software reading the handwriting relied on me to make each letter basically the same way each time I wrote it. You see the problem. When I am on a writing roll, my thoughts are often flowing faster than I can write and the last thing that I need to worry about is forming my letters.

One more option that I have considered is speech or voice recognition software, which would require me to read my work aloud into a microphone and then have my words translated into electronic text. This would work well for me, because as a writer of children's books, I find it very useful to hear the words as they would be read by a caregiver. I have not yet made the step to purchasing and testing the software, however.

I am very interested in hearing if I am in a minority in terms of writing on paper and also, how others are using technology to enhance the creative writing experience.


Charles Gramlich said...

I know a couple of folks who swear by a tablet PC. I've never used one, and like you, my handwriting is both hard to read and not consistent. I can't even read it sometimes if time has passed. I've learned to compose on the computer as much as possible. I use a laptop a lot so I'm not tied just to one place at a desk. That might be one thing you could do, try the laptop so you could move around. I also believe people can retrain themselves too, with practice.

Tom said...

Mick Foley, the wrestling legend, wrote his books longhand in notebooks, and hired a typist to transcribe them into the computer.

I've tried the handwriting route myself, but I am a chronic self-editor when I write, and using a computer makes it much easier for me.

I wish you luck in finding a solution that makes you happy. :)

Anonymous said...

Instead of thinking of the process of getting the text from paper to computer as transcription, why not think of it as editing? You can then take your time over it and treat it as a lightweight editing session. Just an idea.

G said...

I do about 75% of my writing by hand now.

I was diagnosed with Charcot-Tooth-Marie Disease, which a neuromuscular in nature. It decided to settle in a rare part of my body, the hands.

Thus, I find it easier to write (print actually) out my blog posts and my stories. 'Course, I had to teach myself how to write again because I hold my pen like a 3rd grader (complete fist).

Because I spend so much time on a computer at work (payroll data entry) that by the time the evening rolls around, I have serious hand fatigue (like while I'm composing this comment).

To transcribe my multiple pages of handwritten scribble, I use Dragon software. I picked it up in January of this year to help me with my writing, but I've developed a major block in moving from typing my stuff out to talking it out.

So I find that this is the next best way of doing things.

Oh, and for what its worth, the only thing I can normally write, is my name, which is a necessary evil in my day job.

Carol Mitchell said...

Thanks so much for the suggestions.

G thanks for the tip on the Dragon Software, I have already looked it up. I appreciate your positive and proactive approach to writing in spite of your diagnosis.

Carol Mitchell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bluestocking Mum said...

That's interesting Carol. I always write short stories on paper. However when it comes to the novels, I ALWAYS type straight into the laptop.

warm wishes

Jewel Amethyst said...

The last time I wrote a story out using pen and paper, I was still in high school. I write and edit at the same time, so I have to use the computer.

I don't know much about technology, but I'm sure there are data entry services that could enter them into the computer for you. That new audio translation program sounds like it could do the trick, but if your accent still is as heavy as mine, you may have a whole new wave of issues.

Carol Mitchell said...

You are right about the accent, Jewel, I have not really tried it, but I get comments that when I relax, my accent changes.

Liane Spicer said...

How about a device for letting you THINK the words on to the page? No? Okay, that was my lazy side kicking in...

I wrote my stories, including the first novel, longhand, but I've gotten used to composing at the computer now. I still have lapses though when nothing but a fine point, blue ink biro and a notepad will get me going.

I've been hearing good things about Dragon from other writers. Let us know how your search goes!

Stefanie Worth said...

Carol -- For my current book, I used a digital recorder a lot because I spent so much time in traffic. Mine came with transcription software that allowed me to listen to what I'd recorded and type/edit into story form. There are also digital recorders that come with voice recognition software. So you could record your thoughts and plug it into the computer and let the voice recognition software put it on the page for you. Just know that the way to get the most out of any voice recognition program is to put in your time training it. Good luck!