Transitions: Hand To Mouth…
I’m typing an essay once again. It feels good. It’s been a while…
I’m currently looking through the window from seat 9A on Southwest Airlines flight 1045 with service to Denver and Charleston. I’m stopping in Denver. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve flown and almost as long since I have typed an essay, though I have written nearly 30 in the past 12-months. It was last May when I began dictating most of my essays, blogs, and social media posts into my smartphone, rather than type them on my laptop.
The process was frustrating at first, but that frustration didn’t last long. The learning curve was quick, and adjustments came daily. Voice-activated technology has come a long way. Within a matter of weeks, I was writing daily, by speaking essays into my phone and doing so seamlessly.
Speak Slowly And Clearly, Please…
In the age of the answering machines and later with voice mail, my father’s message was loud, distinct, and always the same…
“This is Al Cohen. Please speak slowly and clearly at the tone…”
That was his voice message from 1975 until the time of his death in 2013. In writing this, I realize that message is the memory I most associate with my father. To hear it, one felt a responsibility to speak slowly and clearly. Those two lessons, learned from my father’s answering machine when I was a kid, ensured a smooth transition from typing my thoughts to dictating them. Even from the grave my father is telling me what to do, but it works so I’m grateful.
- Speak slowly
- Speak clearly
In most of my dictations, background noise and other voices notwithstanding, if I speak slowly and clearly, my smartphone lives up to its name. That said, proofreading before posting or publishing is more important than ever. Words like our can turn into are and been can turn into men easily. My smartphone makes little distinction between do and dew, though better recognizing context has been a part of every software revision. Also, shizzle can easily turn into drizzle, though that one doesn’t come up often.
Probably the most important lesson I have learned in this transition, is the lesson of decorum – of when to type and when to speak. Writing from my laptop has always been restricted to the location of my laptop – my bed, my desk, my front porch, and my sofa. These are places of absolute privacy. By talking into my phone, I can now write just about anywhere – the park, the coffee shop, waiting in my car while my mother shops, and even in a fast-moving jet headed to Denver – or maybe not. In a crowd like this, I prefer typing, which is what brought this essay on.
When I took seat 9A this morning, with service to Denver and Charleston, I began talking into my phone — an essay on another topic. The woman in the seat next to me began to stare. I immediately realized it would be inappropriate to dictate an essay in such close proximity and this essay, on talking rather than typing, was suddenly born.
With Ease Comes Guilt, Always…
There has been an inescapable guilt though – the guilt of a thousand Jewish mothers, that I still use term writing when speaking is how my essays come about.
“What are doing, Son…?” my mother asked when she saw me talking to the center of my hand one day.
Me: I’m writing an essay….
“Oh” she said, “writing. I see…” She rolled her eyes as she turned away. I had just lied to my mother. I was speaking an essay, not writing one.
Let’s say this essay goes viral and ends up in the hands of a well-connected editor or publisher. He sees the fruit in my wisdom and the art in my imagination and offers me the opportunity to write for a broader platform; would I be a writer or a speaker…?
If asked about my craft, I can’t imagine telling a person beside me in a café that I’m speaking an essay or worse yet, that I’m speaking my first novel. So, I feel guilty in calling myself a writer since I have always viewed writing as an action of the hands. But that extends the question further – since typing onto a keyboard has been the mechanism for most writers, going back many decades, has anyone using a keyboard truly been a writer…? I ask myself again, is writing an action of the hands or of the head…?
I’d like to introduce you to a fine typist, Mr. Norman Mailer – that just doesn’t seem to flow as sweetly.
My track record predicting the future isn’t that good. I can scarcely predict the past. I can say with certainty though, that dictating my thoughts into my phone is far more efficient than typing them into my laptop – this essay notwithstanding. Going forward, a majority of my writing will continue to be done via my lips and will be dependent on the ever-improving voice-activated technology.
In taking it all in though, I wonder if mind-activated software isn’t around the corner. If so, will I be thinking my essays and possibly thinking a novel before I die…? How efficient might that technology be…? And how about the editing process be…? Will there be an algorithm so efficient that it will know drizzle from shizzle before I ever think it…? I hope so. It could be a big time saver… Jhciacb
If you have not already, please roll up and subscribe to this blog. And please check back in couple weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Steve Gibbons Band. Enjoy…!