Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Inspiration, Craft, Tools Part I

by Rain Trueax

Creation begins with an idea, a concept-- inspiration.  Something is required to get from idea to reality, whether that is a book, an invention, a painting, or any physical manifestation. What carries that idea forth is a combination of craft and tools.  Idea ---> tools---> craft/rules---> Product. I know some don't want to think of a book or painting as products but whether you sell it or not, it is when it takes on reality.

Years back, when I began writing, I thought the tools I used, pen or pencil, encouraged my creativity.  Some writers never change their mind on that and always write their rough draft in longhand.  For me, I have changed tools as I've found something that lets me take the ideas formulating in my head to a first draft of a book.

An old, upright style, Royal typewriter was my first step beyond handwriting.  I still have it.  To me, it is quite pretty. It was a kind of thrill to see the neat type appear on the paper. It took strong fingers to make the letters equally dark. After taking typing classes, it was much faster than a pen.  Mistakes were covered up by small jars of white and a brush. Later, it was little sheets of white paper where you typed the mistake to cover it up-- mostly. Big mistakes led to wadded up paper in a trash can.

When the opportunity arose to buy an electric typewriter, I had no doubts that I could work with it.  No more worry about uneven letters. A different sort of tool, it was in the same family with which I was familiar. Electric typewriters took me through many rough drafts with boxes of manuscripts under my bed, a few sent off to editors only to be rejected. I loved the satisfaction of seeing the stacks of paper and knowing my books were saved for possibly a future time when editors would look with more favor on them.

When my husband suggested my using an Atari to write, I resisted as it seemed a step into something different.  Where it comes to new technologies, I am a Luddite. I was concerned that it would block my creativity. The typewriter was familiar and comfortable.

Then, I tried it.  Oh my gosh, it allowed me to move whole paragraphs when they were not in the right place.  I could erase whole scenes, with no paper and no white-out.  As for my creativity, this technology only made it better and faster.

The arrival of new and improved computers constantly lead to faster and better ways to write my books.  My Luddite side didn't protest and saw only advantages to a Thesaurus, spellcheck, punctuation checks and best of all allowing me to save the document multiple places. Word processing changed the process so much that it's hard to imagine thinking anything was better. I began typing all my existing manuscripts into it. That was a lot of work but better than boxes under the bed. I had no idea how much innovation lay ahead when eventually a book could be sent to a publisher and soon people could buy it.

One might think, that there would be nothing new beyond improved computers.  Or perhaps, I might have thought, except, I started hearing about those who were using voice technology instead of a keyboard.  They were able to see their words appear on the screen and in their document by speaking them into reality.

Luddite mentality kicked in.  How would my creativity, my inspiration work when I wasn't typing?  Would speaking scenes become a limitation?  I decided , while it sounded interesting another amazing step forward in technology, it was not for me.

When I noticed some early symptoms of carpal tunnel.  I posted my interest and questions in Facebook.  One of the other authors, Jacquie Rogers, told me she would be happy to talk to me about it in a phone conversation.  We had an enjoyable talk, and I learned more about the potential of voice recognition.  I learned I already had it on my computer with Word. She felt it worked better than some of the other programs that were for sale. She told me she writes about half of her books with it.  It also allows her to stand up while writing and even walk around-- that last is a biggie.

Part of my weight gain over the last six years has been sitting too much.  If a writer considers what she is doing as a career, it takes hours sitting.  They now say that for health, that is as bad as smoking.  It certainly hasn't done much for how I see my body.  I am fat, where most of my life, I had either been about right for weight or overweight.  Being fat is hard to take.  I wasn't sure that having voice recognition would get me enough exercise to change weight, but it would be healthier.

The question was, of course, the one I had worried about with each technology advance.  Could I think using voice instead of a keyboard?  In the beginning of November, I determined that I would find out.

The microphone Jacquie Rogers suggested was a Sennheiser.  I had doubts about it fitting over my head, but it had the advantage of keeping the mic close and in the same place for my voice. I ordered it and began going through the tutorial, reading suggested text. You are supposedly training the computer to recognize you, but it also helped me see when I had to slow down and which words were likely to not be recognized. I printed off that terms I'd have to use. You can't say quote. You say open quote. There are pages of instructions-- for now I don't need most.

That still left the question-- how would it impact the creativity I'd always felt concerned about. I didn't want anything to become a distraction for that inspired scene... I hoped. As might be expected, I started into it with the usual trepidation.  And then, the story began to flow.  Answer to whether I could tap into my inspiration was - -yes.

Some suggest, that you do not edit as you go.  I mostly do and correct when I cannot say the word in a way that the computer recognizes.  Surprisingly, the bigger issue turns out to be small words not the bigger ones that I would have expected.  To teach my computer to learn my voice with those words, I highlight and repeat them, eventually choosing from a list of possible words. The computer is helped by my taking the time to do that. It learns my vocabulary.

I still type, but this was written with speech recognition and a keyboard edit to follow-- especially in places where there was no way the computer would be able to learn a word.  Overall, it has been fun to learn something new and save my hands for other tasks. I am a fast typist; so it's not faster. It saves my fingers and wrists, and it works.

Next Saturday, I will write about craft as it impacts writing a book, a blog, a poem, etc..  That will take me to the following Saturday and what is the more exciting part of writing-- inspiration.

Craft and tools are part of the writers arsenal.  Without both, whether that involves a pencil or electronic device, inspiration is going to stay just within the creator.  I never dreamed that I could write a book with dictation.  But then, I never dreamed of all a computer might be to a writer. The beauty of where we are today is we can still use that pencil. We have the choice.


4 comments:

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

Interesting how you can teach the computer to recognize your vocabulary pronunciation. since I do not do well sitting i might think of using voice recognition technology.

Rain Trueax said...

The key is to go back and highlight a word when it gets it wrong. It helps it to recognize it next time. I've learned it has trouble with some words and then I slow down.

Brig said...

Interesting, thanks for that little bug in my ear. I haven't tried it, but sounds like it would be good as I don't care to set for long periods of time.

Rain Trueax said...

I thought originally, Brig, that I would have to buy a program. It was a bonus to find I had it. I am still learning to use it. Unless it doesn't understand me, it has the advantage of properly spelling the words.