Thursday, August 13, 2015

How to Train Dragon

It's been difficult trying to work Dragon into my writing schedule. Software like this would've been a lifesaver back when I was in middle school and high school, when my typing was just not up to my writing speed, when having to physically type the words that I wanted to say actually held me back. I can't say I really was good at typing until I wrote my novel back in 2009. But I got good at it since then, and I find that my words naturally flow to my fingers more than they flow through my voice when I'm writing. At first it drove me crazy to use Dragon, as it really slows me down. But I've gotten better at it. I was recently discouraged about trying to use Dragon – it felt like I was giving in by not using my hands to type at home and to do all the things that truly matter to me, but continue to use my hands at work every day. I know I don't have the option of using Dragon at work, since it would disturb other people if I were saying everything out loud, but still. I just didn't like the idea of messing with how I do my personal stuff without changing what I do at work. But when I was discouraged and talk to my friend Eli about this, they reminded me of something: I want to learn things like this on my own. I truly value experiences in which I mastered the skill on my own, without taking a class, without being expected or required to learn it. I just recently wrote about my first goal, and how much it meant to me to teach myself how to jump rope. And I realize now, after talking with Eli about it, that may be learning to use Dragon is the same. I mean, no one is forcing me to use Dragon. While it's true that my hands hurt very much when I type, it was 100% my choice to get Dragon and to learn it. And I'm always talking about how I'm not willing to go through pain or suffering for anything, so finding an alternative way to write without hurting my hands is exactly the kind of thing that I would do!

I started out practicing Dragon by speaking song lyrics, but using punctuation and quotation marks as if the song lyrics were a paragraph. I knew that this would help me to get used to using Dragon by getting used to saying things like, "Comma" "Period" "Cap" "Open Quote" without having the frustration of being slowed down in something that I really want to say. I knew that if I got good enough at using Dragon when speaking meaningless things to it, I would eventually get up to speed enough that I could use Dragon for important writing. So I found a technique that works for me, just like the way I did when I learned how to jump rope.

So on Monday night this week, I used Dragon for practically all of the writing that I did that night, which included a blog post and working on the results sections of my quiz book. It was slower than I would've liked, but not so frustrating that I just couldn't do it at all. And something amazing happened: when I went to work the next morning, my hands were significantly less sore than they normally are! All it took was ONE NIGHT of using Dragon in place of my normal personal typing routine for my hands to feel better the next day!

I know I can't always use Dragon – I can't use it when I'm writing a blog post from work, I can't use it when I'm in bed late at night because I talk louder than normal and it would most likely disturb my neighbor, and on Tuesday I did quite a bit of typing because my friend was shouting out ideas at me and it would've been too frustrating to try to coordinate Dragon while I was taking notes. But I can use Dragon for lots of things, even simple things like speaking my search terms into Google or YouTube. My hands have gotten a bit sore again because I did type on Tuesday and Wednesday night, but I am hoping that if I use Dragon for everything tonight, I'll feel an improvement tomorrow at work. If I continue to primarily use Dragon for my personal typing, I should see a huge improvement in how my hands and arms feel.

There are still a few kinks that I need to work out: I haven't figured out how to teach Dragon not to correct certain things, such as automatically changing "gonna" to "going to" or "cuz" to "because." I do not wish to be grammatically correct on my blog, and Dragon has a tendency to do everything the proper way automatically. So that's something I'll need to figure out how to fix. If I sound slightly more formal in the meantime, you'll know why. It is not intentional.

As I'm speaking this blog post right now, I feel amazing. I've made so much progress in terms of learning Dragon in such a short time. It was only a few weeks ago that I got Dragon and found it too frustrating to use for anything important. Now I'm already getting the hang of dictating with my voice, and it's starting to feel natural. I could definitely get used to this! :-)

[Using Dragon]

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