Talking with Jaden Hair about her new book, “The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook,” I told her how similar her voice was to the written “voice” of her book and blog, a relaxed, bubbly, best-girlfriend sort of tone. No coincidence, she told me.
“The blog is absolutely my voice, because it is.” She uses a voice recognition program to write, dictating rather than typing. Recipes, which require specific formatting, are the only exception.
“I hate to write, I hate to write with a passion,” Hair said. “In high school, the one thing I dreaded every day was going to English or lit or journalism.”
She experimented with Dragon, one voice recognition system, then switched to MacSpeech (she’s now listed on the program’s website as one of its success stories).
The idea confounded me at first. Isn’t writing supposed to be more thought-out than speech? Isn’t revising and rewording an essential part of “real” writing?
Then I remembered how businesspeople used to habitually dictate letters to secretaries. And I remembered my grade school past, where we used manual typewriters instead of computers. Where, if we wanted to fix an error or reword a statement, we either started over on a clean page, or carefully adjusted a ribbon of correction tape and whited out the misspoken words.
My first drafts, in those days, were far better thought-out than today’s early drafts, now that I have the luxury of effortless on-screen editing. A lot more work was done in advance, in my head.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing that “writing in a conversational tone” with software is still not exactly the same, or as easy, as having a conversation. Writers who use this new technology might also be reaching back to an older time, one where people thought far more carefully before, by whatever means, they put words on the page.