Writing with voice recognition software?
How could that be called writing, first off; I know. But it’s been an intriguing prospect for me for many years. It’s probably been that way for me because I didn’t pay much attention to Mrs. What’s-her-face in keyboard class in junior high. That’s the IBM Selectric keyboard as opposed to the Korg or Steinway varieties, to be clear. Anyway, typing is not my strong point. I’ve managed to get this far by using two or three fingers on each hand, and going back to the proper method would be quite painful.
All this to say that I’ve been waiting, pretty much ever since the time I got my first digital watch (as a reward for winning a T-ball game at eight or nine), to command my computer a la James T. Kirk: with my voice and not my clumsiness.
Enter the Dragon. Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking, that is. This software is in a class of its own, really, as there don’t seem to be many competitors out there. According to the company’s Web site, Dragon is 99% accurate “right out of the box,” and works with your iPhone or iPod as the microphone (eliminating the need for a sexretary to take dictation), or you can use it to input directly into Word and other MS Office applications, “turning talk into text.” That’s more exciting than an early Christmas morning in the Richie Rich household.
Since I’ve not yet tried this particular nugget of tech though (and since I‘m deeply suspicious and hateful of technology in general), I won’t presume to provide any kind of review on its functionality. I’m just speculating here—because if the ad copy hype is anywhere near accurate, the learning curve would be quite easy, methinks, and in no time at all I’d be turning out 10,000 words a day. This blog, for instance, would be done by now.
But that raises the ultimate question. What effect would this technology have on the creative process for writers? Don’t think I’ve not noticed that there are times when my fingers cannot keep up with my brain. There’ve been times that I’ve lost completely the train of thought I wanted to record on the page simply because of butterfingers. And after all, we writers are just storytellers anyway, and weren’t Homer and his ilk orators in the final analysis? Too, and obviously, one would not be able to use this kind of software in all the indie author’s usual haunts; the coffee shop, the library, the kitchen table with the children buzzing past making WW II bomber noises. But think of all the places it could be used, and quite effectively. Like in the car. On a walk, perhaps. At the gym? That would be brazen. You’d make no friends that way.
I don’t know if I would use Dragon—or even try to use Dragon—to write a novel. And obviously the editing process would involve a keyboard still. But for blogging? Short stories? Dragon might just be the ticket. They’ve even got a social media plugin; woo-hoo. Before the year is out, I’d like to give it a shot. I think, used properly, voice recognition software has the potential to increase efficiency for most of the things I do as a writer, and that means I’d better try it and find out if my hunch is right.