I worked as a secretary for many years early in my career. Other than a high school typing class, it was not a conscious career choice or one that I prepared for. My first job, a waitress. My second job, the Air Force. I have done factory work and taken any opportunity I could. Working as a secretary, however, was the first step toward my career in IT.
I once held a position as a secretary for a pulp and paper mill construction company. We purchased a state-of-the-art word processor. (Yes, word processors started as specialized software in specialized equipment). Our company purchased a CPT 8000. It was the first time I remember being able to see a document on the screen before it was printed. Pretty snazzy.
This is where I first learned (but never fully mastered) how to use a dictaphone. This device allowed someone (our engineers and inspectors) to dictate construction reports to a micro-cassette. When ready for transcribing, the tape was put into a machine with foot pedals that allowed the person typing to rewind, fast-forward or erase (which I did inadvertently one day) the tape, all hands-free.
I never took shorthand, although I did teach myself some shorthand our of pure curiosity. If I had a formal shorthand class, I think I would have been really good at it. Transcribing was never my thing, although I did it and did an accurate job. I never enjoyed it, though.
Where the heck is this rabbit hole story going you ask? Excellent question!
A few nights ago, I found myself behind in my NaNoWriMo word count. I was tired and my typing accuracy was waning. Then I remembered this feature in MS Word for dictation and I thought I would give it a whirl. Well, let me tell you what I learned.
I must have a bit of an accent because the transcription of my dictation had a few problems. Perhaps I was tired and my enunciation was poor. Once I could see where it was not working, I was quickly able to readjust and move on.
It was also a learning curve to add punctuation. I still have not mastered using quotations for dialogue.
Writing for me is a very tactile experience. Moving thoughts, through my fingers and onto paper or computer allows me to slow my thought process a little. My English brain kicks in. Spelling and punctuation are part of the writing process. I can think ahead about what is coming before it reaches the paper.
Dictation is quite a different animal. Speaking dialogue adds the sense of hearing to the process. I found myself adding emotional emphasis in my voice that does not translate well to the end result. I also found the process unfurling faster and messier. The time it takes to move from the brain though the hands is valuable for me as a writer.
No one wants to hear me talking to my computer for any extended period of time.
These few sections of my novel will require much more editing time. This is DEFINITELY the ‘messy middle’.
I discovered that dictating has as many complexities as transcribing. The tools are much more advanced, but these tools are not always a writer’s best friend. But what a great boon for the writers that need the accommodations that these tools provide. Hooray!
For me, though, it is back to the keyboard. I am at a major turning point in the story and having the extra time for thoughts to move through these brain connections will be important.
I am feeling very nostalgic about writing on an IBM Selectric typewriter, though. There was something comforting about that constant whirrrr. I wonder how many people write on an electric typewriter these days? I do not think my hands could handle a completely manual typewriter.
Lots of editing ahead. Lots and lots of editing. At least I am on target with my word count now!
The WordPress Gremlins ate a post I have been working on for weeks. It had 15 saved drafts. Today I published it and it has gone into oblivion. Not in the trash folder, not in drafts and certainly not in published.
I have no desire to write in Word and copy and paste and deal with reformatting.
I do not have the energy to re-write the post. I do not think I could capture the essence of this very sensitive topic.
I signed up for the craziness that is NaNoWriMo. I also messed up my profile which makes me look like a newbie at this, but that is ok. I have been attempting NaNo almost every year since 2003.
If you are not familiar, the acronym stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. It is a time where writers all over the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.
This exercise is always good for me, although, depending on your frame of mind, it can be stressful. I have eased off the pressure I traditionally put on myself because it seems every November some big thing comes up in my life that interferes greatly. So, I give it my best and every year I approach it hoping I will be successful.
My daughter and a few friends signed up to write this year, so I am excited to have a few buddies to share my pain. The people who participate make up a lovely and supportive community. Many cities also have local write-ins where you can gather with like-minded people during the challenge if that is your thing. I am more of a solitary writer.
If you are interested, you can click over to the website and read about it and perhaps sign up. It really is a very cool experience and an exercise in persistence and vulnerability.
While I have been in Florida, I have re-watched a few episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. There is so much I could say about this story — religion, politics, dystopia Vs. utopia, equal rights, fear, will to live, self preservation…the list goes on and on. Instead I want to talk about the power of the writing.
First of all, I know the book or the series is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is hard to watch. For me, watching it generates an emotional and almost primal response, fight or flight. I find myself wondering what kind of inner strength I have and wondering if I could survive. After watching, it takes a few minutes to leave that world and step back into reality.
“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.” ―Margaret Atwood,The Handmaid’s Tale
I enrolled in Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass months ago and completed the entire class. Today I decided to go back and revisit the classroom and remind myself of the advice and cautions she gave. The imagery spun by her words is unsettling. Her characters are fully fleshed out and the circumstances and unpredictability make this story a feast for a reader.
Her characters are not entirely good or evil. They walk that line which makes us trust no one. We find ourselves liking aspects of the characters while also fearing them. It takes a commitment from the reader to take sides and decide who to root for.
The sad part of all this is that I have never read the entire book. Having only seen the series on Hulu, I want to see all the seasons through before I read it. I checked my library today and while there are 44 digital copies available, 53 people are in the queue to read it, so the wait time is well over a month.
I might just break down and order it on Kindle. Then I want to revisit the MasterClass again. What an inspiration.