Blog, Writing

Dictation and Transcription

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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!


Pull Up a Chair This May Take a While

First of all, I want to apologize to my followers for the blast of fiction stories late last night. I could not sleep so I decided to copy some shorts from my old blog here. What I did not think through was the fact they would all be broadcast to followers. I do not have a lot more, but I will wait and post them one a day now. I did keep the original dates intact so they would not fill the home page of my blog.

Secondly, Happy Birthday to my granddaughter. It is hard to believe she is ten years old! When I think about the last ten years I can do nothing but smile. She is a smart, high energy, loving child and I could not be more proud of her! I do not post pictures of my grandchildren on my blog so you will just need to believe me when I tell you how beautiful she is!

And Happy Halloween of course! We do not do much for Halloween these days since our home is isolated. No trick or treaters and no one to stroll by and check out the decorations. It is a little sad because this was always hubby’s favorite holiday and he always decorated to the hilt. Our garage is full of Halloween decorations. Last year they were temporarily transported to my son’s house for a big Halloween/birthday party for our granddaughter.

We are back in a period of rain and cooler weather. Yesterday we had 6.25 inches (15.875 centimeters) of rain and more than two additional inches since midnight. Weather predictions are for rain off and on throughout the day. I checked our drought maps this morning and we are showing slightly improved but not totally out of drought conditions. Trick or treating may be a tumultuous time for many across the state as a cold front is causing weather disturbances. Our temperatures are predicted to drop to 31°F in the overnight hours — a 38° difference from our high for the day.

My friend Lauren (who writes a great gratitude blog) was threatened by a new fire in California yesterday. It is unnerving to see smoke from your back yard and having helicopters hovering nearby. Thankfully, as of yesterday afternoon, they were able to contain the fire. I have 3 or 4 friends in different areas of California who are a little too close for comfort. Thankfully, none have been required to evacuate. Wildfires are so frightening and destructive and with hurricane force winds, difficult to contain.

I have my logo and am building my Facebook page. It is not ready for prime time yet. I will be taking photos of some of the jewelry I have created and will weave in some creative writing. I am happy with the idea of the logo, but I believe I will be tweaking it along the way.

Tomorrow begins NaNoWriMo. I am going to write stream of consciousness. I have a story floating in my mind so I will see where it takes me. This will be a no pressure endeavor. I plan to get up an hour earlier than normal and write early to kickstart my day. Of course, the month of November is filling up with other commitments, but that is one of the tests of Nano. If you want to write, you will make it happen regardless of the interruptions.

Tomorrow is also the day we will take hubby’s truck in for its first service. I am also planning to upgrade my phone tomorrow. It is exhibiting unpredictable behavior and randomly calling people if I set the phone down with a jolt. That’s never a good thing. Having an upgraded camera will be nice as well. So, order of business today is to get all my backups done.

Thanks for sticking with me through this post. I hope you have a great Halloween regardless of the weather.


Goings On

I did not blog yesterday. We left early on Saturday and drove to Charleston, SC to help my husband’s aunt celebrate her 85th birthday. She is a widow and the last living sibling in her family, so we wanted to be there to help her celebrate. She was well-pleased with the number of people who turned out to honor her. What a nice surprise!

This morning I am taking some time to update some general information about my blog. Now that I am beyond the 365 day blogging challenge, I wanted to update the direction and reason for my blog. I expect it to morph into something new over the next couple of weeks.

I have also been thinking a lot about my upcoming month of writing that is NaNoWriMo. If you are not familiar, National Novel Writing Month is a time when writers all over the world try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It takes place during the month of November every year. It is a great non-profit organization that supports writing and fluency which I think is pretty cool.

Commitments for November are stacking up which means I must plan to write more than the compulsory 1667 words every day. I love the chaos that is Nano. It is a time in which I really focus on writing. I do not always meet the challenge, but I always give it my best shot. This year is no different.

I have also been working on opening a FaceBook page for my artistic endeavors. Part of that is getting a logo created. I did not want to spend much money on a logo because I am sure my ideas about who I am and what I hope to show will continue to change over time. So, bottom line, I went with Fiverr to get the logo made. The designer I have been working with has been responsive with the biggest problem being me not knowing what I want. I have settled on something, though and it will work for now. Once things are up and going, I will share it here.

So, that’s the bulk of what has been going on in my life. What have you been up to?

Blog, Writing


I did it.

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.

For more information, go here: ===>

Blog, Writing

Recovering from One of THOSE Days

Day 138

How do you regain your bearings after a difficult day? I spent most of the day on my old MacBook (which will not startup or run unless plugged in) finding some Illustrator logo files. It is a slow and clunky process. My old Mac needs an OS upgrade, but then my VERY expensive Adobe files will not run if I upgrade. Enter catch-22.

I plugged in an old USB drive and started slowly perusing. Normally this would be a mistake, but yesterday it was a much needed distraction.

Looking through old files I saw so many photos of people in my life who are no longer with us. It makes you realize how fleeting life can be. The pictures issued their gentle warning — take today my friend, but don’t dwell here.

Then I stumbled on a folder of old stories. Some started and never finished. Some I remember quite well (as well as the inspiration for each) and others I have no recollection of at all — did I write that?

I found quite a few unfinished pieces from my early NaNoWriMo days.

Finding these files and re-reading a few made me think more about my writing. I am going to set aside more dedicated time in my day to write. My style and voice have changed for sure.

In the interim, I decided to post one of the stories on my old writing blog. The writing itself is immature, but reading it took me back to that time and place. I laughed as I remembered it all so clearly.

A Little Bit of Soul

If you need a little chuckle today, check it out.

I’m headed into a new day.