July 28, 2012

Gizmos for Non-Writers


I'm happy to host the amazing A.K. Flynn today, who got her post to me despite spending most of the night in the hospital with pneumonia. If I'd been fighting pneumonia, I'd have cancelled or postponed my blog tour, but A.K. simply persisted against all obstacles. I'm in awe.

~Marie


Salutations! My Name is A.K. Flynn, I'm a 27 year old bright eyed bushy tailed Child and Youth Worker to be, who is very ambitious and absolutely in love with writing all sorts mind perplexing Fiction. I also tend to pour my emotions out on the screen as it is the only thing that keeps my hectic life sane. As of right now my website and second novel seems to be a major focus and writing is my major outlet so it all pans out perfectly. Oh did I mention I was a redhead? Well now you know! So you know my writing has got to be good, because redheads are very spontaneous... (runs off into the distance babbling to herself).

I can proudly say I am a non-writer, I do not hand write nor do I really type anything. I manage to do all of my written or typed work using a program called Dragon: Naturally Speaking by Nuance. This program allows me to write my novels using a minimal user interface to transcribe my speech into text. I am also able to use specific commands to navigate my computer without needing to touch my mouse. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

I can honestly say without this program I would not have been able to keep up with my college demands, blogging, e-mails, novel creations and professional written documents needed in my profession. The reason I use this program is because of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) my fingers feel like they are on pins and needles, and when I try and type it’s a very unpleasant as it can become a painful experience. (I write at a speed which would probably provide shame to an arthritic snail.) In the case of other individuals they sometimes use the program to accomplish much more while multitasking. Think about it, most people speak over 120 words per minute, but type less than 40 words a minute.  Also it works wonderfully for recording lectures and transcribing them into text. I’m a visual learner and I need to see what has been said in order to grasp concepts and for this reason alone Dragon has been a great help. 
In terms of writing specifically, I found that I catch my mistakes much faster than I would normally by just typing, plus editing is easier because I do not have to hunt down specific words throughout the text. Dragon will jump from each word asked and scroll through it on its own making it much less frustrating when you have over 25 pages of text. I also can speak to my computer when I have an idea, before losing it, as sometimes typing can distract from the thought process and you end up losing some of the more detailed intricacies of the idea. The software has enabled me to change something about my writing process.  I mentioned earlier that my style of writing fiction is to write slowly and I tend to consider each word carefully.  Using voice recognition software has changed that activity for the better in one important regard.  In the past when I’ve sat down to write a first draft of a story or blog and I have frequently struggled to keep the overall ideas in mind as I write, and this also pertains to losing the entire idea all together too.  This problem was caused primarily by my slow typing speed allowing me too much time to think.  Now when I sit down to write a first draft I find it far easier to go with an almost “stream of consciousness” style of writing.

The benefits of this program do outweigh the negatives, but there are some things to consider before going out getting a program like this.  First of all the program states that it is 99% accurate, now with that said this program needs to be trained to obtain this accuracy. There are also training sessions that help you understand the basic functions of the program with the commands needed to navigate through your text and computer. I however found this process very tiring, as it is something that you are not use to doing and how Dragon predicts text is by the fluidity of the sentence and how long it is. The longer your sentence is the better for its accuracy. Saying singular words can become frustrating quickly, especially if you are reading from a text. I find dictating much easier than reading something back to Dragon though. Learning all the commands for Dragon can also be very frustrating as it does breakup your thought process when you have to tell it to insert a period. Also when dictating dragon does not always pick up on the different spellings of something that sounds similar such as their, they’re and their; this can be frustrating when trying to edit.
When I first started with the program I thought this will be easy, because all I have to do is talk to my computer. Upon actually working with Dragon I quickly realized that I could only do approximately 15 minutes at a time before my patience ran too thin. It takes time and it is mentally draining to constantly dictate, however it does become easier with practice and your ability to dictate for longer periods improves over time. The more you practice and talk with Dragon the more accurate and fluent it becomes.  I must say though that Dragon does not pick up on speech well if you are sick and your voice is compromised, so keep that in mind. In my opinion despite some of the issues this program is one of the better programs for speech to text and it works seamlessly with other programs; it certainly trumps the built in program from Microsoft under the accessibility menu on your computer.

Overall regardless of some frustrating moments I am very thankful for a program like this as it enables me and many others to stay connected and accomplish our written passions, whereas if this program did not exist I would not have been able to write this post. Down below are what you will need to run this program and some other gizmos I use to sustain being a non-writer.

What you will need for this Software:
·         A decent head microphone (I am using HP’s premium headset.)
·         Dragon Naturally Speaking By Nuance Communications (I am using the premium version)
·         Patience (I am running on unlimited)

Some more Programs and Hardware I use:
·         This converts your blogger website into speech (podcast) for the hard of hearing and it is free: http://www.ispeech.org/integration/blogger
·         This multitasking pen enables me to keep up with lectures ,college, and professionally related information: http://www.livescribe.com/en-us/  (I use the Echo pen)
·         Free editing program that I sometimes use when I can’t get someone to edit my essays. http://www.gingersoftware.com/

Although I use all of these programs “A procrastinator’s work is never done.”

~A.K. Flynn