It’s interesting what you do if you just have to. I’ve been having some ongoing shoulder issues, so I’ve been learning some hard lessons about slowing down and adjusting my work habits. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had a steroid injection in my right shoulder on Monday and I’m having to rest it for a week or two. That means no computer work, minimal writing, and minimal housework and cooking.
Let’s all take a moment to consider which of these restrictions is bothering me the most.
I don’t know about you, but not being able to work drives me absolutely nuts. I’m in a brilliant place with my proofreading, editing and writing service and there’s no way I want to stop building momentum. Furthermore, I’ve had some promising news about publishing possibilities for a short story collection I’m working on, and to think I may not be able to write for a while is infuriating. Still, as my partner / osteopath / doctor / everyone I know keeps reminding me, my health is the most important thing right now, and if I don’t get on top of the shoulder issue then I may be facing some bigger hurdles in the long term.
So, I’ve had a think and have come up with a solution that’s not perfect, but better than nothing. I’m a pretty good proofreader, editor and writer, but as my friends will attest I’m a brilliant talker. So I’ve turned to the dictate function on my phone, tablet and laptop, and I’m talking my way through quite a bit of work.
It’s not without its challenges. I’m still in the process of training the voice recognition software on my laptop (sounds like a pesky pet dog), and I’m encountering some interesting transcriptions of my voice. I’ll say something like, “send this email to Peter”, and on the screen will appear if one asterix call home supernatural commerce broccoli snot, and then the whole screen will go blank until suddenly up pops the latest edition of the Abu Dhabi Daily News. So I’ve got a wee way to go with that one. I find if I speak in a cheesy American accent my laptop understands me a lot better. Maybe I should have tried that when I attempted to explain to my partner how childbirth feels.
Some people find working with voice recognition software a little strange, because they feel self-conscious talking out loud. I don’t really mind. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to performing on stage (I do musical theatre). Or perhaps I just love the sound of my own voice. I have friends who would no doubt vote the latter. Anyway, I’m discovering that this way of working has its advantages. It’s a completely new way of looking at writing. You speak your ideas instead of ruminating on them and walking your fingers through them.
Normally I find my ideas and creativity flow as I write, without a lot of conscious thought about structure and plot and what’s coming next. It’s interesting to ponder how this process changes when you speak. I’m dictating this blog post, for example. That’s pretty straightforward. It’ll be more interesting when I try to speak fiction. Will the story flow like before? Will my delight in crafting sentences and phrases still remain? Will speaking out loud ruin the silence, solitude and stillness in which I produce my best writing? Will the magic still happen? Bottom line: will it be as good?
I don’t know.
I certainly think it could help with dialogue. I always read dialogue out loud anyway, to ensure it sounds natural. Perhaps dictation will help me tap into all sorts of different ways of thinking and creating. Anyway, at the moment I have no other choice.
Perhaps this temporary health hiatus will serendipitously open a new door to heightened creativity. Either that, or all the writing I do during this time will read like a plumbing equipment instruction manual. I’ll keep you posted.