Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Technophobe Does Voice Recognition

by Amanda Forester

I am not one who naturally adapts to change.  I confess my fashion sense has changed little over the years.  I refuse to give up my landline phone and resisted carrying a cell phone long after most of America had succumbed.  I even admit a lingering suspicion towards Wi-Fi, though I confess I am most irate when I wish to check my e-mail and it won't connect.

Even in writing I have been recalcitrant toward change.  I started writing with a pencil and notebook, granted I was eight years old at the time, but even when I decided to begin writing as an adult I thought I would write everything longhand first.  Something about holding a in pencil my hand felt "natural" whereas typing on the keyboard was "sterile" and I feared I would squelch my natural creativity.  Soon, however, the unpleasant reality of trying to transcribe my hand-scribbled thoughts back into the computer convinced me that typing was not quite as bad as I initially thought and would be a perfectly good vehicle to channel my muse.

My natural inclination to shun change led me to resist any thought of voice recognition software as a potential mode of writing.  After all, everyone knows that writing is done old school with a pencil or a keyboard, not by talking.  Despite this reticence, I decide to give the voice recognition software a try, mostly to prove to myself that it wouldn't work. To my surprise, I found it has been quite helpful.  In truth, I am writing this blog post now using the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. Of course nothing is perfect, and it does come with drawbacks, so I thought I would share my experience of using this software over the past few months.

First for the drawbacks:
1.       Say what?  The voice recognition software does not always correctly recognize my voice or my intent.  This means that after I dictate I have a more heavy edit than I would if I had written it out myself.
2.       Punctuation.  I have to dictate not only with words, but also the punctuation, so I have to say things like "comma" or "period", which can interrupt the flow of whatever it is I'm trying to say, and thus lead to more errors.
3.       Mommy, what did you say?  Unlike typing, which can be done in a coffee shop without alerting the entire world that your two main characters are heating up the page, voice recognition software is probably best done when alone.  I write romance books and I have young kids…yeah, for some scenes I'm going to stick with a keyboard.

And now for the benefits:
1.       Increased productivity. Since using the software, I've been able to write overall faster and I've seen my daily word counts increase.  I'm not sure why this is, since I had not considered myself a slow typist to begin with, apparently I talk faster.
2.       Writer's block buster. Talking helps to get past writers block. Essentially, I babble out loud until something starts to make sense.
3.       Pet the dog.  Although a have been told multitasking isn't particularly good for creativity, being able to write "hands-free" does allow me to choose to do something else with my hands, whether it be knitting a sweater or paying attention to your starved-for-attention pet.
4.       Dang girl!  I'm sure I look totally hot just like the photo above in my headset - an incredibly sexy fashion accessory.

Despite some of the drawbacks, I found that the benefit of being able to quickly produce words on the page is such a satisfying experience that I'm sure I will continue to use the voice recognition software in the future.  Have you ever tried a new technology that you weren't so sure about at first?  What have your experiences been?


  1. Great blog, Amanda! I'm kind of interested in trying this now!

  2. Interesting! I've never even thought of trying this sort of thing, but now I'm intrigued. Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

    1. If you do let me know how it goes. I had never thought it would work until it did!

  3. Cool idea, but as you said, there are some things we romance writers would rather not say aloud!

  4. I still don't use a cellphone (unless the hubby makes me take his with me when I'm going to be out), I have resisted getting started on FB and Twitter and most of the rest...but I still remember when computers were so new at work that I was afraid to touch one for fear that I would break I have progressed somewhat, lol.