How to train your Dragon

Guess what I got for Valentine’s Day? A Dragon!

No, not this kind

This kind!

(Although I wouldn’t have minded a Night Fury…)

Dragon Dictate for Mac is a speech recognition program. It transcribes whatever I say into whatever program I have open — Microsoft Word, Google Chrome, etc. See, after just a few days of writing full-time, my wrists were killing me! Not for the first time, but given how quickly the flare-up came on, it could easily have become the worst time.

I mentioned this to Andy, and he agreed that I needed to fix my workstation pronto. Now, we could have solved this in a few different ways (ergonomic keyboard, taller chair, laptop stand) but I think Andy purposely chose a solution that would wear my voice out.

Setting up Dragon took about 15 minutes, and right away it was about 95% accurate. Unfortunately, one of the words it couldn’t get right was my name. You see, “Kristin” and “Kristen” were pre-programmed into the software, so overwriting them with my “Kristan” wasn’t easy. (This may have been the first time EVER that I almost wished for a normally spelled name…)

I tried several suggestions that I found in the software’s forums, but none of them worked. For a while I gave up and just started signing my emails as “K.” But I hated the idea of giving in to a computer. Ken Jennings may have lost to Watson, but I was determined to triumph over my Dragon!

Long story short, I think I found a solution. (I created a Command so that “Kristan” would get higher priority over mere Vocabulary words “Kristin”/”Kristen.”) Let’s do a little test:


Looks good to me!

Anyway, my name doesn’t appear in my stories anywhere, so I’ve been using Dragon to dictate my writing for the past week. I actually use it in combination with typing, because corrections are easier to do by hand. But for quickly writing e-mails, or drafting a scene, it flies. In fact, my last two blog posts have been dictated to Dragon as well. And my wrists are a lot happier.

Now, I can’t take my Dragon everywhere. I mean, can you imagine talking to him in the middle of a Panera or a library? So my hands will still be expected to carry some of the load. But my half-sister Trisha called to give me her tips on how to minimize wrist pain, since she and our oldest sister had typing-intensive jobs for years. I think between her advice and my Dragon, my long-term health is in good hands. Pun intended.

15 responses to “How to train your Dragon”

  1. Aisha Avatar

    Wow what a great present! Andy rocks!

  2. T.S. Bazelli Avatar

    I’ve never tried voice recognition software. It sounds like it could be handy though :D

  3. Shari Avatar

    Okay, that is seriously just too cool. What a smart idea!!

  4. Albie Avatar

    How does it handle punctuation?

  5. Sonja Avatar

    Writing is such a quiet, internal experience for me. What’s in my mind is directly communicated to the page via my fingers on the keyboard. I wonder what it would be like to make noise and create externally via sound, plus have that physical space between me and the words.

    I’m glad you managed to fix your Kristan problem. Sigh. If only I could do the same.


  6. Elissa J. Hoole Avatar

    oh, wow! I’ve often wondered how the process of creating in writing would be different if it were spoken aloud versus beaming directly into my fingers, so to speak. I am constantly typing something, backing up and rewriting, changing my mind, ctrl-z, etc, so I can see it taking some getting used to, but I imagine it might also unlock some of the blocks for perfection, especially in that first drafting stage. I’m excited to hear how it goes for you! :)

    I sometimes have a wrist issue that it turns out is related to a pinched/compressed nerve in my neck. it means I have to be *very* careful to do certain exercises and such or else I will have debilitating pain all down my right arm and esp. in my wrist. It’s scary, when computer time is so essential to your life!

  7. Les Avatar

    Pretty slick! I think I’d get a lot more writing done if I had that…

  8. Amanda Avatar

    Very cool gift you lucky girl! You might remember I had major wrist probs when pregnant and it was my ergonomic keyboard that really helped there, it’s adorable :-) although doesn’t sound as cool as having a dragon of course.

  9. Sherrie Petersen Avatar

    Very cool! I had tried a voice recognition software years ago but it didn’t work too well. I’ve had carpal tunnel for years so I’ve learned how to do a lot with straight wrists and just stop when the pain is too much. I’ll have to check this one out. Thanks!

  10. Margot Avatar

    OMG. OKay this is seriously bringing me back because when I was in 6th grade…..6TH GRADE PEOPLE – I got the Dragon speaking thing. I was obsessed with it. I really wanted it and made my Dad go buy it for me. Now, this was waaaaay back in the day and my Dragon was terrible. In order to get it to work I had to read to it like 6 hours a day for a month. Needless to say, I gave up after about 5 minutes and never used it again. I wonder if I still have it lying around somewhere. It’s like an electronic antique now. Thanks for the memories Kristan!

    PS- The Dragon could NOT get my name right. I can’t tell you how many times it would write down “Mario” instead of Margot.

  11. Juliann Avatar

    That sounds so cool! I want Dragon!

  12. Kristan Avatar

    Yes, he does. That is a fact. :)

    I have to say all the punctuation, which is a little weird, but you get used to it.

    Hardeeharhar. :P I worried about that too, the disconnect between me and my fingers, and the new connect between me and my voice. But honestly, I end up thinking/composing about the same way. Kind of like writing by hand versus typing: your writing voice is still the same, but the transcription method is different.

    Ditto what I said to Sonja. Even with Dragon, I do end up doing a lot of backspacing and rewriting.

    “It’s scary, when computer time is so essential to your life!”

    Exactly! That’s why even though I was uncertain about this software, I wanted to give it a shot. If it can preserve my health and allow me to write for my entire life, then it’s worth a little bit of awkwardness. (Again, it’s just one of many solutions, though.)

    I’ve heard that speech recognition software has come a long way in the past few years. I definitely have to make corrections sometimes, but if I speak clearly, Dragon pretty much get what I’m saying the first time around.

    1. That is hilarious. And totally sound like something that little Margot would do.
    2. Funny enough, I got it to spell your name correctly without any training. :P

  13. gingermandy Avatar

    that’s awesome! i’ve never tried anything like that but i slur my speech so bad it would probably misinterpret everything haha.

    i have had the wrist problem going on for about a year now, carpal tunnel in my hands and wrist started happening quite fierce shortly after i started working from home. i just started using a portable mouse rather than the pad on my laptop and it has helped tremendously. there were days when my hand would literally throb because of how much typing i did.

  14. Kristan Avatar

    Eesh, that is bad sauce. Did you never try and ergonomic keyboard? Everyone is telling you they’re very helpful. I’ve also heard that switching the side you use the mouse on can help a lot.

    I definitely had days where I could not type for the pain. I’m looking to avoid any more of those.

  15. sarah Avatar

    Seriously, you and technology is good for me because it forces me to think about trying new things. I may get a kindle one of these days. :) A Dragon? I think just saying that I have one is way cooler than trying to figure it out. One day I’ll adapt.