For years I have taken for granted having a career in which I can work from anywhere, at any time. Have laptop, will write! I have worked through the flu, through childcare crises, when my car was broken down, during blizzards, and through various and sundry physical ailments (at various degrees of misery, but I could still work). What a blessing, I have always thought, to have a job that did not depends on too many external factors. My husband has a recurrent foot ailment which often makes his long days of teaching (on his feet at the front of the classroom) extremely difficult. If there was something wrong with my foot, I would simply prop it up on the couch and keep typing.
But this month I have finally learned what it would take to make my job very, very difficult: Last week, I broke my hand. On the plus side, I broke my left hand, and I am right-handed. On the minus side, I broke my hand. I had to have surgery, and I am not expected to be back to full mobility for another six weeks at least. Even overlooking the pain and discomfort associated with my injury, I spend my days typing. I spend my days touch typing, with two hands. One of my hands is currently in a splint. Things have changed.
At first, I tried typing with just the one good hand. I don’t normally think of myself as a particularly quick typist, but it only took about an hour with just five fingers instead of ten to realize what a disadvantage I was suddenly at. Even just holding down the shift key while pressing another key suddenly seemed to require coordination I no longer have. I limped along, typing with agonizing slowness, for the first few days. It became clear this was not going to work.
So I looked around at dictation software. Actually, that’s a lie. My husband did it for me, because I was still fuzzy on painkillers, and feeling very defeated about the whole thing. He bought me a copy of Dragon Dictate and installed it on my laptop for me. Then the real fun began.
The fantasy, of course, is that you install the software, hook up the microphone, and begin speaking at normal speed while everything you say (and perhaps more importantly, everything you mean) is transcribed with perfection. Reality turns out to be a little bit different; first you “train” your profile on your voice, then you embark on the learning curve together—Dragon gets better at learning your voice the more often you use it, and it becomes slightly less weird to announce your commas and other punctuation marks as you’re talking, too. Sometimes, particularly when I’m using WordPress, it seems like Dragon creates input too quickly for the window, and I end up with word fragments. Those I generally fix by hand. Also, Dragon had to be taught how to swear. I won’t elaborate on how I figured that out.
It’s not nearly as fast as just talking. But, it’s a lot faster than typing with just one hand.
The best part, at least so far, is that I homeschool my son a couple of days a week, and he has developed a spot-on impersonation of me talking to Dragon. I know this because other parents from his homeschooling collaborative have informed me they’ve heard all about my new work method. It’s a good thing I’m not easily embarrassed.
Can I work this way for six more weeks? I guess I’ll be finding out. It certainly wasn’t on my schedule of things I plan to do, but then again life hardly ever is.
[Full disclosure: I purchased Dragon Dictate with my own money, and this post about it is not sponsored in any way. And yes, this post was produced using Dragon Dictate!]