#Blogshare – Healthy Writer Tips: How To Use Dictation For A Healthier Writing Life | The Creative Penn

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Healthy Writer Tips: How To Use Dictation For A Healthier Writing Life


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I came across this interesting article from the always informative author Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn.

The article gives us reasons and ideas about writing through dictation as opposed to typing our stories. I’ve heard about a few author friends of mine who use the Dragon program to dictate their work, as well as Voice to Text, but other than that I hadn’t given the idea much thought – but I’m getting interested now.


“The word ‘writing’ has become associated with hitting keys on a keyboard to make letters appear on a screen or inscribing by hand onto paper.

But the end result is a mode of communication from one brain to another through the medium of words. Those words can be generated by your voice, just as people can ‘read’ by listening to an audiobook.

Famous authors who have written with dictation include diverse creatives John Milton (Paradise Lost), Dan Brown, Henry James, Barbara Cartland and Winston Churchill. When Terry Pratchett, fantasy author of the Discworld series, developed Alzheimer’s Disease, he found he couldn’t write anymore, so he moved to dictation in his final years.

So clearly, dictation is a method that can work for many writers and it has become an emerging trend for authors these days as technology makes it easier and faster.”


So, why dictate?


(1) Health reasons

“You can dictate standing up or while walking, or lying in bed with injuries, or if pain stops you typing.

I started using dictation when I had RSI and used it to write the first drafts of Destroyer of Worlds and also Map of Shadows, plus some chapters for this book, which I dictated while walking along the canal towpath.

walking along tow path

Walking along the tow path, occasionally dictating!

Dictation can help alleviate or prevent pain right now, but learning how to write with dictation can also future-proof your living as a writer in case of problems later.

(2) Writing speed and stamina

Dictation is faster at getting words on the page than typing, especially if you are not self-censoring.

I’ve made it up to around 5000 words per hour with dictation, while I only manage around 1500 words per hour typing.

There is a trade-off with ‘finished’ words as you will have to at least lightly edit to correct transcription issues, but if you want to get that first draft done faster, then dictation can be the most effective way.”


(3) Increased creativity

“Some writers have a problem with perfectionism and the critical voice in a first draft. They struggle to finish a book because they are constantly editing what they have written.  Continue reading . . .


Are any of you here using dictation as a mode for you writing? If so, I’d be interesting in learning how you find the process by sharing your thoughts in comments.


Source: Healthy Writer Tips: How To Use Dictation For A Healthier Writing Life | The Creative Penn

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  1. I used to dictate all the time when I was young and had a secretary who could manage the dictation. It was quite freeing. And I am in touch with her now on Facebook which is remarkable.She is remarkable.

    1. Hi Cindy. Thanks for sharing here. I’d imagine dictation would be fabulous if we did have a secretary to type out our words too, lol. 🙂

  2. When I was writing my first two books I always wondered if I shall dictate or write, well I decided against dictating, but now I think I would try it. Thank you for your input!

    1. Hi Cecilia, and thanks for your input too. 🙂

  3. Oh those are great reasons. I’ve tried dictation and it’s still quirky enough, I find it distracting. But it gets better and better so I can see at some point in the near future (especially as my eyesight goes and my fingers don’t type so well), it’ll be a good option.

    1. I’d imagine it will take some getting used to, but I’d like to give it a try. 🙂

  4. Now that is interesting.. 🙂 thank you for sharing it Debby.. 🙂

    1. Great food for thought Sue! 🙂 xx

      1. I know… but I could just imagine hubby asking who was I talking to.. 😉 I will stick to Word for now.. LOL hehe.. xxx <3

        1. LOL sooooooo funny! 🙂 😉 xxx

  5. I see it in my future with laptops (have an old one with XP on it that I haven’t used in several years) for travel. Keyboards on them are so limiting–even with the largest and ergonomic, which I use with the desktop, is out of the question for travel. The only drawback for travel use is that you can scarcely dictate while on a train, plane or sitting somewhere in public, unless you can get an attachment like the court reporters use to talk into that resembles an oxygen mask. LOL

    1. Lol, so funny! But a dictation program like Dragon is helpful because our dictated words go right to a doc where we can edit from. 🙂

  6. Our first experience of voice to text was in the late 90s when David bought a program.. it was hilarious… and the playback sounded Russian.. Anyway now it can be amazing and many audio books are using a variety of different male and female automated voices. Some are not too bad, but some still sound a bit wooden.. Great Share Debby.. ♥

    1. Thanks Sal. I know it’s still relatively new for writers to want to dictate their books and I should think the best way is to not only dictate, but use a program where our words will be translated to a Word doc so we don’t have to write what we dictated, just edit. 🙂 xxx

      1. Quite and there are a number of prgrammes that are use by sight impaired that are incredibly effective and that development has led to a much better interface. xxx♥

        1. Thanks Sal. I shall be investigating! Keep you posted. <3 xx

  7. So interesting, Debby, and I can see how it would speed up writing. Joanna went from 1500 to 5000 words per hour. I type 250 words/hour, so it would definitely speed me up. But I’m an edit as I go writer. I don’t know if I could dictate unless I could constantly back up and re-dictate. I wonder if the programs will accommodate that. Hmmm. It sounds like something to try out. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. Most welcome Diana. Good points. I think Dragon would accommodate that but not sure about Word. 🙂 I shall have to check it out! 🙂

  8. I’m thinking about using the Windows 10 text to speech program to transfer my handwritten journals to Word.

    1. I use text to speech to read back what I’ve already written in a doc, but I wasn’t aware I can dictate to it. Is this true? Tell me it’s true! LOL 🙂

        1. Awesome!! Thanks so much Rob! I’ll give it a whirl tomorrow. 🙂 😉

          1. Let me know how it works for you!

          2. So I set it up with Word. It works, but it misinterprets so many simple words, lol. I guess it’s ok for a rough, very rough draft, lol. As long as I can get the rough idea out of my head I can deal with the manyyyyyy edits. LOL 🙂

          3. It’s an AI program that you have to train; it takes a day or two but it learns your speech patterns and eventually takes flawless dictation.

          4. Thanks again Rob. 🙂

          5. Let me know if the speech recognition improves for you.

          6. Thanks Rob. Like I said, I only set it up and tried it out. I will definitely keep you posted! 🙂 🙂 Thank you.

  9. I tried voice to text on Google docs. Hilarious. I forgot to mention punctuation, stammered, the program stopped working etc. As well, it’s funny what the program understands and doesn’t. I do agree it’s worth a rip-roaring try as I cannot sit for long these days for one thing; don’t like the blue screen for another. Practice. Practice. Sigh. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Hi Tess! And thank you for the tip! Yay, I shall give it a whirl, lol. 🙂 xx

      1. It’s free so why not let it work for you. You can always use your cell too, but then you need to transcribe. With Google voice to test (look under Tools–I think) it looks like a bad first draft and they always need fixing. Wonder if the program needs to get used to the reader as well. 😀

        1. I think the program needs to get used to our voice for sure Tess. I’ll take a look at Google because I’ve set up the one for Word and I think the microphone needs a hearing aid. LOL Many misunderstood SIMPLE words. LOL. <3

  10. The discussion here is no less interesting than the idea of dictation! It made me chuckle 🙂 If I had to dictate my thoughts, I am not sure they would flow naturally. Whenever I dictated notes to my students, I had to prepare my written draft.

    1. Thanks Balroop. For me, dictation is just a good way to get my raw thoughts down, from there I have something to work with as edits begin. 🙂 x

  11. Great post, Debby. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I sometimes use my cell phone to record if inspiration hits in the car.

    1. Thanks Robbie. I’ve also used my cellphone when inspiration hits at unexpected moments and no pen and paper to capture those thoughts. 🙂

  12. I often walk around my house, talking out loud to myself, about story ideas. Sometimes I will dictate into my phone; other times I just like the freedom to discover my thoughts without the pressure. Totally agree that writing is not just about putting pencil to paper or fingers to keys. Most of writing takes place in our heads!

    1. I’m totally with you Kate. Often our best ideas come when away from the keyboard. 🙂

  13. Thanks for sharing this fascinating post, Debby. I commented on Joanna’s post also. I love the process of head to fingers (with pen or laptop). I don’t get the same kind of magic flow when I just talk/dictate. But YAY for those who do! Interesting stuff here. xo

    1. Thanks Pam. I know it’s not for everyone. I think I’ll attempt to use it for a blog post and see how it goes from there. 🙂 xx

  14. Interesting, one to try. I have a recording device somewhere. Thanks for sharing Debby

    1. Welcome Marje. Worth a try! 🙂 x

  15. I went to The Creative Pen last week after you posted the blog about editors. Really enjoyed browsing around. When you go to the Editors Page, you’ll find a new listing at the bottom. Thanks for introducing me to this great informative website!

    1. Fabulous Deb! Joanna is a wealth of information, she’s one of our Indie pioneers. 🙂 x So am I guessing now you’ve been added to her editor’s page????????????? 🙂

    2. Fabulous Deb! Joanna is a wealth of information, she’s one of our Indie pioneers. 🙂 x So am I guessing now you’ve been added to her editor’s page????????????? 🙂

  16. Hi Debi – I used to get a chap, who was very dyslexic, dictate his memoirs to me via Siri straight into email … and then I’d need to ‘translate’ them …but that was fine – he didn’t need to worry about spelling … I just needed to worry about what he’d said, so it made sense when I typed it up … it helped him. Cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Hilary. I too have heard of people dictating into Siri (or the like). I think it’s a handy idea for us writers when we’re on the go and come up with a good idea too. 🙂

    2. Thanks so much for sharing that Hilary. I too have heard of people dictating into Siri (or the like). I think it’s a handy idea for us writers when we’re on the go and come up with a good idea too. 🙂

  17. No, but I’d like to give it a try. The only downside I have heard of it is if the software you are using is not very good at picking up your accent. I know Sacha uses ‘Dragon’ so I will need to speak to her on how good she says it is when using it. I do sometimes use a dictation app on my iPhone, especially to log down an idea (before I forget it).
    Talking of accents, the other day I asked Alexa to bark, and she responded something to me in German. I’ve no idea what she said back to me.

    1. LOLLLLLLLLL you’re so funny! But I’m with you. So far, I do use my phone when I have a lightbulb moment and nothing to write on. And yes, I know few authors who use Dragon and love it – even though they say it does take some time getting used to for it to get familiar with your voice. 🙂 xxx

  18. I am not using dictation at all, but I have played with the idea to put some thoughts on my voice recorder, to “lighten my brain” at times. It would be a good tool for that, especially when I don’t have a notebook at hand or feel like I can’t write things down, like in bed before sleep, on the toilet or in a vibrating car. 🙂 Great share, Debby!

    1. Thanks Liesbet. I totally agree with you. Talking into a voice recorder or mobile phone to capture some great ideas is a a great idea for those times we’re out and about without pen and paper. 🙂

  19. Hi Debby,
    It’s an interesting article. I know of people who use speech to text software for health reasons (rsi) but I haven’t tried anything. I did give my father a cassette recorder years ago so he could record his thoughts when he was in the garden, rather than have to write them. He tried it for a little while. The transcription wasn’t much fun for me though. 🙂 I think it’s a great idea for capturing thoughts, and probably for getting that first draft done quickly. I do edit too much as I write oftentimes. However the writers interviewed make it sound as if the novel is almost done after the dictation has been transcribed. I can’t imagine not having to edit and revise, and then edit and revise again.

    1. I’m with you Norah. I think it’s a great tool for capturing ideas to be fleshed out later. Or to put out a first draft with raw thoughts to be edited. I can’t imagine putting out a perfect story through dictation either. 🙂

      1. None of my first drafts are ever good enough. 🙂

        1. Nobody’s are Norah! 🙂

          1. Some seem to think theirs are! 🙂

  20. I never thought about dictation from a health perspective before. Good choice of share, Debby!

    1. Thanks Christy. Good food for thought. 🙂 x

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