About a month ago my friend Jeff Kisseloff showed me something interesting. Jeff is a writer, too. However, he’s way ahead of me where technology is concerned.
Jeff showed me a program he uses called Dragon Dictate. It converts speech into text. You talk into a microphone. The program converts your spoken words into written ones. In other words, writers don’t have to write anymore. They can just talk.
I’d heard of programs like this before. My friend Judy Rau, who is a speech therapist, uses them in her work. Judy works with older patients, often stroke or accident victims, who have lost the power of speech as a result of disease or injury. Judy told me that programs like this have become quite sophisticated.
However, I never considered the possibility of such programs for writers until Jeff showed me what one can do. The program Jeff uses is Dragon Dictate. He let me try it out on his iPad. I was skeptical at first. I tried a few basic sentences: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog; Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.
To my astonishment, the program printed out the sentences as fast as I could speak them. Accuracy was better than I achieve on the keyboard—and I’m a very good, very fast typist thanks to Mrs. Rogovin in Junior High School who drilled us over and over again with “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” and “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.”
The implications for writers are enormous. Instead of writing, you talk. You can talk out your revisions, give the computer directions: SAVE, COPY, SEND. In one sense, it’s almost like going back to storytelling. That’s where writing began. People told stories centuries before discovering writing.
I’m a storyteller. In revision, I always read my work aloud to myself. This adds a whole other dimension. I asked Jeff if he found using a text-to-speech program strange. He told me it took practice and getting used to, but in the end it makes his work faster and easier. He urged me to get the program myself and try it. I think I will.
Even so, I feel the future coming at us at a frightening rate. Everything changes. Why learn your number facts and multiplication tables when a cheap calculator can do that figuring faster and easier? You don’t even need a calculator. You can use your phone! Why spend hours learning handwriting when most, if not all, of our future writing, will be done on a touch screen or keyboard? Why learn how to spell when spell check programs automatically correct our spelling? How important is spelling in a texting world?
Now this—why learn to write at all when all you have to do is speak? The program will convert it into a written text.
This makes my head spin. I keep thinking about Truman Capote’s famous (and unfair) words about Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing. That’s typing.” Similarly, is this writing? Or is it talking?
Like it or not, the Future is here.