Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Yesterday I wrote about my own challenges with writing; today we’re going to talk about what others have dealt with.
Prior to fifty years ago, blindness was a common problem in many parts of the world. You may not be surprised to know, therefore, that one of the greatest works of English literature never actually was read by its author.
John Milton wrote his definitive Paradise Lost over a ten-year period in the mid-seventeenth century by dictating to whomever was available to transcribe–most notably his daughters. They read back his work, and he edited by voice.
Other notable blind writers include Homer, Jorge Luis Borges and Helen Keller. To write blind in the past, you needed someone with a pen in hand or supreme confidence in your touch typing ability.
These days, however, better tools are available, and we can experience Scotty’s attempt to dictate to a computer in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. How many of us snickered when the engineer spoke to a screen and expected it to start typing? Today, such behavior is possible. My physician urged me to purchase voice-activated-software when I first visited with hand problems. “I use it all the time for dictation,” he explained. “It’s a life saver.”
I bought it, I read aloud into the microphone for several hours to acquaint the program with my voice and syntax, and then I went to work.
Forty-five minutes of slow, carefully enunciated syllables produced…three paragraphs. When I read through the work, tapping my toes in my urgency to get moving, nearly every other word was a homonym of misspelling. Obviously my dragon needs further training.
My personal engineer (i.e., husband) assures me technology should be harnessed to serve our needs. I can e-mail my own manuscripts to my Kindle and then listen to the machine read it back with expression commonly found in the most stultifying GPS voice. Still, it enables me to hear when things don’t sound right and then return to the scene of the verbal crime. I need my eyes to do the work, but being able to listen can ease the strain.
The eye doctor also has weighed in on the use of computers. “Make sure you blink often. Stare into the distance frequently. Get special glasses if need be. And make sure your screen is at the proper height.” Both my Kindle and the computer will allow me to make the letters larger and thus easier to read. If it helps, who cares if the kids laugh.
What else do you do to enable your eyes to work well with your writing life? And hey, make sure you blink once or twice before you comment!