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Chris Dunmire : How Dragon Naturally Speaking Can Help Writers

Writers: 5 Ways Dragon NaturallySpeaking Can Enhance Your Creative Process

By Chris Dunmire

Have you ever tried writing without using your computer keyboard and mouse? I'm not talking about using pen and paper (or typewriter) here, but rather, of speaking your thoughts as they come to mind and then watching them appear as text right before your eyes? Wouldn't that put a creative twist into your day?

Some writers actually do this with dictation programs. Dragon NaturallySpeaking, for example, is speech recognition software by Nuance that allows you to control your computer by voice commands. It lets you multitask hands-free between programs, surf the Web, and turn your ideas into words in your favorite applications — creating documents, spreadsheets, e-mails, blogs, social networking updates, and more.

"Keep up with your brain." It boasts. "Capture your thoughts and ideas as fast as they come to you. Dragon lets you focus on content — not typing — so you can communicate better." An interesting prospect for the myriads of multitasking writers out there, not to mention a helpful solution to the flip-side for many computer power users: repetitive-use strain and injuries to hands, eyes, neck, and shoulders.

Dragon's features are promising. I've been working with the Premium version to see how it can help with my writing workload and alleviate the physical stress I get from long days at the computer. After becoming "mouse-bidextrous" five years ago (I can mouse with my right- and left hands) and dealing with neck, back, and tendon issues, it's important to have more flexible options available to me to carry out the physical demands of my work.

Dragon fills an important need for me. After the initial installation and set-up (easy), I've settled into the usual learning curve all users of new programs do, and recommend going through the training tutorial and user's guide from start to finish to get acquainted with the programs' features. There's a lot of tasks the program can do for you, which takes time and practice to learn. Plus, after reading the software's disclaimer, I've found it best to use Dragon in addition to my mouse and keyboard:

"Although you can use Dragon to do almost everything on your computer by voice, some things are still easier to do using the mouse or keyboard."

As serendipity would have it, it didn't take long for me to welcome Dragon as a companion tool to my work and creative process — it's a great non-judgmental listener, idea capturer, and virtual assistant. Here's five things I like about using it:

1. Dragon lets you speak before you think.

In business and social situations, thinking before you speak is the graceful order of the day. But in creative writing, speaking before you think — expressing your initial ideas in their purest, rawest form — is powerful. "Those first thoughts before censor have tremendous energy," says Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones, whose rules for writing include not pausing, rereading, editing, thinking, or getting logical as you write; nor worrying about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. "The aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels, not what it thinks it should see or feel. It's a great opportunity to capture the oddities of your mind. Explore the rugged edge of thought."

2. Dragon soaks up your brainstorms.

Related to capturing first thoughts without judgment is the creativity technique of brainstorming. Brainstorming is used to generate ideas for a solution to a problem. A "problem" is also a challenge, such as the challenge a writer might face in resolving a plot issue in his current work of fiction.

Brainstorms are meant to be captured and displayed for further inspiration — as evidenced by the whiteboards and flipcharts adorning office meeting rooms. And when you're brainstorming alone, Dragon makes a sharp recorder on the whiteboard of your screen — capturing every idea you rain as soon as it leaves your lips. Save your brainstorms with Dragon for easy printing later — and no dry-erase markers needed!

Facebook Status Update 1/3/11

My Facebook status update using Dragon

3. Dragon encourages free-flow writing.

Creativity thrives in spaces where it's allowed to be without explanation. Free-writing is encouraged by writing experts including Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. Want to be a free-flowing blogger, poet, or pundit? Here's where creative process gets the floor in full conversational tone, uninhibited by technical brain slow-downs from one-finger typing and style guides. Compose your blog posts, e-mails, discussion board rants, Twitter tweets, Facebook updates, and private glurgings on your own speaking terms. There's a time and place for formal essays and journalistic writing, but most casual online hangouts and "morning page" gackings thrive on natural creative banter.

4. Dragon converts digital recordings into text.

Need to transcribe your recorded author interview into an article? Create crib notes from last month's writer's teleconference? Format a script for a guided imagery you made up? Dragon comes through again to save you time and energy by converting your high-quality digital voice recordings into text to use elsewhere.

5. Dragon gives your body a rest.

Pain and fatigue are sure to shut down your creative spark. If the work must go on, Dragon's hands-free option will lighten the physical load. True, some things are still easier to do with your mouse and keyboard, but using all in combination will alleviate some physical stress on your body. Just think: Dragon will respond to your voice commands even when you lay down, lean back in a chair, or put your feet up. When you're more relaxed, your creativity flows easier. If your body's draggin' it's time to try Dragon.

Learn more about Dragon NaturallySpeaking at •

© 2011 Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.

About Chris Dunmire

Chris is a deeply engaged creative spirit, lover of wit, words, and wisdom, and the driving force behind the award-winning Creativity Portal® Web site. [...]

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