Different Assistance

Getting a writing session started is a never ending challenge. One method I use stems from the advances in technology. At first blush, a Siri-type program seems like absolutely the wrong first step in settling down to write. Making noise is a good way to burrow within your mind? Yet I have found that dictation can serve a valuable purpose in the daily struggle to get under way.

My original intention was to record my editing notes while reading a manuscript for the first time. Yet I found that using Siri has led to more extended purposes as well, such as recording notes for an editorial letter. You will notice that these usages are all in the realm of note taking. I am the sort of person who is intimidated by expressing emotions into a microphone. Note taking has the advantage of being a bloodless sport—I’m merely discussing the prose at one remove.

Think of the advantages, however, if you break through what is, after all, an artificial barrier. In the days of yore, stories were passed down orally through entire generations. Many authors still recite their prose aloud, both in private to check a passage’s flow and, to everyone’s benefit, at public readings. Even in the privacy of my study, I have frequently found myself mumbling lines of dialogue aloud and then writing them down.

For our purposes here, I’ll confine the suggestion to use dictation to the limited aim of starting the writing session. If you are blocked in the hush of a dark morning, trapped in the sludge of unconscious thoughts that do not want to be ordered to your benefit, why not break free of that mire by making notes to yourself about what you’d like to do? Once you begin, the process of dictation comes to feel more natural. You do not feel as self-conscious about that weird voice invading the space of your silence.

Dictation becomes another tool in your ongoing assault to reach your creativity. And because the words are appearing on the page, you may realize, while reading what you’ve spoken, that you can correct it to create a more precise version of what you really wanted. Once you have edited one sentence to your liking, you may discover: the light is green. You’re on your way for the day.

Exercise: My use of the method was greatly increased by buying a headset. That way I didn’t have to contort my body to speak into my computer’s microphone. Again, feeling a band of wire across the top of your head may feel off-putting at first, but with more frequent use, the distraction factor lessens. To be honest, when I have it on, I feel more obligated to get down to work. And how hard, really, is it to take off a headset once you are rolling?

“Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.”
—Pablo Picasso

Copyright @ 2020, John Paine

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