How to Write 9,000 Words per Hour and Not Wear Yourself Out — Jack Popjes

If you are like most writers, you keep a daily journal, not only for the ordinary events of life, but for the more interesting experiences—the stuff of anecdotes—as well as descriptions of people, locations, and ideas for story plots and twists. Those of us who started writing decades ago probably have shelves of handwritten journals, diaries and notebooks. I accumulated three decades of those daily journals before I switched to using a notebook computer. 

Nearly all my journals are hardcover lined notebooks with unlimited space for observations. They include all of the twenty-four years I lived and worked in Brazil as a pioneer missionary, linguist, educator and Bible translator. Obviously those thousands of pages are a writer’s goldmine. 

My stack of handwritten notebooks, however, presented two huge problems: 

  1. How could I safeguard these precious original manuscripts from loss or damage?
  2. How could I quickly find specific anecdotes or information that is buried in tons of other stuff?

If only all this material was in a computer word processor! It would be dead easy to back up and duplicate, and everything would be searchable. 

Jack-Popjes-dictateSo, how to get this stuff into a computer? My handwriting is so unique (bad) that only I can read it, so I couldn’t have a typist keyboard it, even if I could afford it. I was also averse to sitting for hours and hours keyboarding all these pages. My arms and shoulders ached just thinking about it.

The solution sounded relatively simple. I bought a program that supposedly would let me read my notes into a microphone and process them into readable, searchable text on my computer screen.

After I installed the program, it asked permission to read my documents to get a feel for my vocabulary and sentence structure. It also read all my sent emails. I then put on the headphone microphone and read some paragraphs displayed on the screen so the program could learn the sound of my voice, and how I pronounced words, etc. After my personal profile was set up, the program announced itself ready to go to work. 

I opened my email program and dictated a note to my wife. As I watched, it instantly processed my spoken words into readable, searchable text on the screen. Yippee! 

But then I read the line, “I just had a meeting with our new director, Dave Ohlson.” When I saw that the program had spelled the last name correctly, I dictated, another name from my address book, “Gary Olson.” It spelled that one without the “h.” Okay, that did it. I was in love, hooked and sold. 

That was ten years ago and I have just upgraded to the latest version of the program. It is a great improvement over the earlier versions and I can hardly wait to read the rest of my diaries into it. 

I recently introduced my grandson, who is somewhat handicapped, to this program and after we got his profile set up, he started dictating. I was delighted to see that the program automatically deleted the coughs, throat clearings, sniffs, and other extraneous sounds, processing only his words, which though they came hesitantly, and sometimes in a rush, were perfectly represented on the screen. 

The dictation program I use is Dragon Naturally Speaking and is made by Nuance. Google it and click on the Nuance site to get a choice of versions. 

For the past twelve years, I have used a free desktop search program called Copernic Desktop Search Home. It is vastly superior to any other search program I have ever used.

Wordman logoJack started writing stories for their missionary newsletters during the decades he and his wife were Bible translators in Brazil. For the past twenty years, he has blogged weekly on missions, church, Christian spirituality, and Bible translation. His current blog is INsights & OUTbursts. He has print published three books and e-published two books of story based articles—all selected from his blogs. His storytelling ability makes him a popular speaker who averages sixty speaking events each year.

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