Dragon Dictation, Vlingo, or to Type, Type, Type

©2012 Christine Oneto

During the Christmas holidays and throughout mid-January, I had an issue that no writer would like to have: I could not type! Although I can often type faster than I write, my fingers wouldn’t move – quickly or otherwise – as carpal tunnel had reared its nasty head! The worst fear I had ever had was now coming to fruition: Could it be that someday I could not physically write?

Some writers, myself included, have said that actually writing pen to paper can be more productive – and I believe, more creative – than either typing, dictation or anything else. There is something to that brain/hand connection that produces this stream of thought that would not otherwise exist. I have experienced this with both my poetry writing, and more importantly, my non-fiction. And, I say ‘more importantly’ because: isn’t non-fiction mainly just based on facts? However, as writers, we must inject creativity into even the driest of topics, in order to draw the reader in and keep them engaged. Thus, I find this pen-to-paper, brain/hand connection a key to my writing, always.

Back to my problem at hand (no pun intended). I could say it was my neglecting of my writing and all-at-once, marathon sprints to do so. Not the case. I blamed the iPhone; I blamed the touch pad on my laptop; I even blamed my poor posture. But, that Saturday morning when I woke up in such pain from the wrist to the knuckle-joint in my right hand and forefinger, the thing that made me cry more than the pain itself was the unthinkable thought: What if I can never write again? That fear momentarily crushed me.  Writing has become my life, my energy store, my release. Two days later — after babying my hand with contrast baths (a method I had learned through a past accidental tendon tear) and keeping it wrapped tightly – I went searching for a solution. I found one, online — it was Dragon Dictation.

Dragon Dictation and applications like it (Vlingo being the most popular flavor), allow you to speak into your phone or device, return it to you on the screen in typed version, and there you have it! The choice, then, is yours to 1) email it, b) text it to someone, c) copy and paste it into any other program, or even d) post it to your Facebook or Twitter feeds. What a great find, right?

Well, yes, in theory it does save me considerable typing keystrokes. But (you know there always is one) like any text-to-voice program (does anyone remember MyTalk from the late 90’s?) it does have flaws and limitations. Since the dictation is usually not 100 percent accurate, one does end up needing to edit; for example, when “mai tais” becomes “my ties” on the page. This is fine for someone who does not expect a software program to be absolutely, seamlessly perfect.  Except, for a writer, it needs to be. Thus, if someone who wishes to (or, out of medical or physical necessity is forced to) not place her hands on the keyboard at all, this becomes a new obstacle instead of an intended solution.

So, the search goes on for the perfectly functional, yet easy and user-friendly voice-to-text app. As you read, I am writing this original draft by hand, praying I can decipher my carpal-tunnel-infused scribble tomorrow. If you, dear reader, are reading this today (after many a flare-up, before and since that initial episode which caused me to fear that, as a writer, I was doomed) it is due to some good acupuncture and heavy self-care, exercises and patience that I am typing this today. Dragon Dictation, Vlingo and all their cousins in the app world have a long way to go for anything to produce writing that is longer than a 140-character tweet or a quippy, wit-filled Facebook post. I, for one, am holding out for something better. Your suggestions welcome!   And write on.

Christine Oneto is a writer, as well as marketing and PR professional, currently working on her first book, a non-fiction anthology. A former Editor for Girls in Tech, her passions lie in supporting causes which promote global women and girls, which is what her main body of writing and blogs focus on.  She is a contributing writer on GirlsonIt.com and for the International Museum of Women’s ‘Her Blueprint’ blog.  Her own blog is: WiFi: Women in all Fields Imaginable, where since 2005 she’s been writing about Women’s lives, ambitions, and how they can influence our world. As a self-described fierce women’s advocate, she aims to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Pat Mitchell (the Paley Center) and Jennifer Siebel Newsom and organizations such as the UN’s GirlUp, strengthening the image of women & girls in the media, and highlighting press which does so in her writing.