How to write when you don't want to write
Have you had days where you stare at the blank screen and nothing comes you? Nada. No snappy caption or quirky story. Nothing.
But the deadline keeps approaching and you have to produce something! So here's what changed the game for me.
Voice to text.
Or if you are old school, you might refer to it as dictation. But if you, let me assure you, it has come a long, long way since the days of dicta-phones transcribed by secretaries wearing uncomfortable headphones.
Today dictation is an assistive technology tool that many people use to assist with writing. Professional writers. Business people use it to craft emails and presentations and it is being more widely adopted for people with physical difficulties in writing or typing, and for adolescents with learning or thinking differences that impact their ability to write.
How does it help?
Simply because even when we can't write about a topic, we can still speak about it. So rather than remain stuck with an empty page, we begin to fill it with our words.
In order for this process to be effective, just note down a few main points or thoughts, and then start talking. Don't worry if the first hundred words or even several hundred don't make sense. They don't need to. This technique is designed to allow you make a start. Ramble. Throw out phrases. Make a start and then start again. It's OK.
In fact, that is what's it's designed to do.
This process allows you to talk through the muck that is keeping you from producing the quality of work that you want. As you talk, you have the opportunity to rearrange and organize your thoughts even while they are being transcribed to the screen, allowing you to move straight on to editing!
How does it work?
Voice to text simply converts spoken words into written text on screen.
It is no more complicated than either uploading a recorded audio file, or speaking live into the app or program.
If you are uploading an audio file, it may take minutes or even overnight to process the file. This is often recommended for many people when they begin using voice to text. In part that is because it can be off putting and even intimidating to see the your words appear on the screen. And it is so easy to loose your flow by always checking the screen!
The other way to use the technology is to dictate it live! This option is very fast and is preferable if you want to go straight from speaking to editing without wanting to take a break. If this is your preferred method, I would suggest setting your computer in a quiet room with space around it.
I prefer to walk while I dictate, as the physical movement allows my ideas and thoughts to flow more naturally. While you might not want to wave your arms around quite as much as I do in my process, I would suggest that it is a good technique for people learning this technology. Just remember not to wander too far away from the microphone!
Where can I access Voice to Text?
Thankfully there most phones, tablets and laptops have inbuilt versions of voice to text. Most of these are free and ready for immediate use.
One of the many programs that support ease of use and reasonable turn around time is Otter.ai. It is free to use when you start up, and only requires payment when you require over 600 minutes per month, with a limit per recording session of 40 minutes. This is just one of many free programs, and offers as many do, integration with programs like Zoom.
There are a number of different specialist programs designed for writers and other professionals. Many of these are paid programs, but allow much greater customization, and can 'learn' specific industry terms.
Voice to text isn’t perfect. It may not always be accurate and will require reviewing and editing.
Voice to Text allows you to move forwards on stalled projects
Voice to Text is fast, quickly taking things from your head to the screen
Voice to Text moves past the perfectionism often inherent in writing projects
Voice to Text allows you to move straight into editing and reviewing