A steep learning curve isn’t a wall

After last month’s post about struggling with discipline, I had a good month in June. First off, Rockin’ 1000 accepted my audition video and I’m in the band! So now I need to learn electric guitar for real. Also I have about 2000 words left to write in a novella project I drafted in 2016 (I ended up tossing it out and redrafting it from scratch). So overall, June was a good month for me.

Learning how to dictate my writing (ack!)

If this post feels different than my previous posts, it’s because I dictated the first draft. Yes, I’m teaching myself how to voice-type. I I don’t want to be chained to a chair all day, especially since sitting for long periods of time is terrible for your health. Practicing guitar already requires a lot of sitting–a classical guitar doesn’t use a strap. Since I also want to be more more prolific in my writing, sticking with typing would require me to sit even more. I also don’t like looking at screens more than I absolutely have to.

So now I’m adding dictation to my writing toolbox. I dictated the first draft of this post on my phone and used an AI transcription service called Otter.ai to convert it to text. I enjoyed the actual act of dictation, but Otter isn’t designed for long-form writing, so the transcription required a bunch of cleanup. Ugh. Apple’s built-in dictation function yielded better results, but I plan to invest in Dragon software and a dedicated voice recorder for even greater accuracy. My ideal: dictating stories while I go on long nature walks. Kevin J. Anderson does this (and has written over 175 books!), so I know it’s possible.

When you stop to think about it. storytelling and communication started with the spoken word, not the written word. Speaking should feel more natural, but after decades of typing, it’s not. The dictation learning curve is no joke. I guess many writers who try dictation give up and go back to typing, but I’m forcing myself to stick with it and give it an honest try.

Anything worthwhile takes time to learn. I remember when I started learning how to batch cook all my meals from scratch. My first attempt at cooking a week’s worth of meals took six hours and it was a struggle. Now I can finish in two to three hours, including cleanup, but it took almost a year before I locked down my system and routine. I made it over that steep learning curve. Dictation is just another one, and I have to remind myself that a steep learning curve is not a wall. I can always climb over it.

Creativity advice from Dave Grohl

In 2013, Dave Grohl gave a fantastic keynote address at SXSW about his music journey. What caught me was his independent attitude, especially when he set up his own company to hold the rights to his post-Nirvana music. I think more writers should adopt this mindset toward their own work.

I could write my own songs, I could record my own record, I could start my own label, I could release my own record, I could book my own shows, I could write and publish my own fanzine, I could silkscreen my own T-shirts . . . I could do all of this myself. It may have been an entirely different world now, but once again, there was no right or wrong . . . because it was all mine.

From day one the Foo Fighters have been fortunate enough to exist within this perfect world. WE write our songs. WE record our songs. WE make our albums. WE decide when the album is the album. WE OWN the album, and we’ll license it to you for a little while, but you gotta give it back. Because it’s MINE.

Because I am the musician. And I COME FIRST.

Here’s a video of the whole speech. I particularly loved his demonstration of how he multi-tracked his own songs when he was 12 (starting at 9:50).

Failing upward

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

– Norman Vincent Peale

Norman Vincent Peale has a questionable grasp on astronomy, but he raises a good point–you can fail on a goal and still make progress.

Which is what happened to me on Camp NaNoWriMo last month. I failed miserably in my writing time goal, but I still finished a short story, my first new piece of fiction in over a year. It’s another Everyday Thieves short story, this one inspired by a scenario I read in Financial Serial Killers by Tom Ajamie and Bruce Kelly. If you’re in the metro Detroit area, you may recognize the inspiration for some of the locations.

One short story isn’t much, but after calling it quits on fiction writing a year ago, it feels great to be telling stories again.

Have you failed reaching a big goal? If so, how did you fail upward?