Monthly Archives: August 2018

Creative Juice #104

Creative Juice #104

Inspiring works of art:


In the Meme Time: Why Aren’t You Working Right Now?


Alex Mathers 1

A big thank you to Alex Mathers.

Guest Post: Overcoming Writer’s Block with Automatic Transcription by Jason Kincaid


Thank you to Jason Kincaid from Descript for the following article:


If you’re a writer — of books, essays, scripts, blog posts, whatever — you’re familiar with the phenomenon: the blank screen, a looming deadline, and a sinking feeling in your gut that pairs poorly with the jug of coffee you drank earlier.

If you know that rumble all too well: this post is for you. Maybe it’ll help you get out of a rut; at the very least, it’s good for a few minutes of procrastination.

Here’s the core idea: thinking out loud is often less arduous than writing. And it’s now easier than ever to combine the two, thanks to recent advances in speech recognition technology.

Of course, dictation is nothing new — and plenty of writers have taken advantage of it. Carl Sagan’s voluminous output was facilitated by his process of speaking into an audio recorder, to be transcribed later by an assistant (you can listen to some of his dictations in the Library of Congress!) And software like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking has offered automated transcription for people with the patience and budget to pursue it.

But it’s only in the last couple of years that automated transcription has reached a sweet spot — of convenience, affordability and accuracy—that makes it practical to use it more casually. And I’ve found it increasingly useful for generating a sort of proto-first draft: an alternative approach to the painful process of converting the nebulous wisps inside your head into something you can actually work with.

I call this process idea extraction (though these ideas may be more accurately dubbed brain droppings).

Part I: Extraction

Here’s how my process works. Borrow what works for you and forget the rest — and let me know how it goes!

  • Pick a voice recorder. Start talking. Try it with a topic you’ve been chewing on for weeks — or when an idea flits your head. Don’t overthink it. Just start blabbing.
  • The goal is to tug on as many threads as you come across, and to follow them as far as they go. These threads may lead to meandering tangents— and you may discover new ideas along the way.
  • A lot of those new ideas will probably be embarrassingly bad. That’s fine. You’re already talking about the next thing! And unlike with text, your bad ideas aren’t staring you in the face.
  • Consider leaving comments to yourself as you go — e.g. “Maybe that’d work for the intro”. These will come in handy later.
  • For me, these recordings run anywhere from 20–80 minutes. Sometimes they’re much shorter, in quick succession. Whatever works.

Part II: Transcription

Once I’ve finished recording, it’s time to harness ⚡️The Power of Technology⚡️

A little background: over the last couple of years there’s been an explosion of tools related to automatic speech recognition (ASR) thanks to huge steps forward in the underlying technologies.

Here’s how ASR works: you import your audio into the software, the software uses state-of-the-art machine learning to spit back a text transcript a few minutes later. That transcript won’t be perfect—the robots are currently in the ‘Write drunk’ phase of their careers. But for our purposes that’s fine: you just need it to be accurate enough that you can recognize your ideas.

Once you have your text transcript, your next step is up to you: maybe you’re exporting your transcript as a Word doc and revising from there. Maybe you’re firing up your voice recorder again to dictate a more polished take. Maybe only a few words in your audio journey are worth keeping — but that’s fine too. It probably didn’t cost you much (and good news: the price for this tech will continue to fall in the years ahead).

A few more tips:

  • Use a recorder/app that you trust. Losing a recording is painful — and the anxiety of losing another can derail your most exciting creative moments (“I hope this recorder is working. Good, it is… @#*! where was I?”)
  • Audio quality matters when it comes to automatic transcription. If your recording has a lot of background noise or you’re speaking far away from the mic, the accuracy is going to drop. Consider using earbuds (better yet: Airpods) so you can worry less about where you’re holding the recorder.
  • Find a comfortable space. Eventually you may get used to having people overhear your musings, but it’s a lot easier to let your mind “go for a walk” when you’re comfortable in your environment.
  • Speaking of walking: why not go for a stroll? The pains of writing can have just as much to do with being stationary and hunched over. Walking gets your blood flowing — and your ideas too.
  • I have a lot of ideas, good and bad, while I’m thinking out loud and playing music at the same time (in my case, guitar — but I suspect it applies more broadly). There’s something about playing the same four-chord song on auto pilot for the thousandth time that keeps my hands busy and leaves my mind free to wander.

The old ways of doing things — whether it’s with a keyboard or pen — still have their advantages. Putting words to a page can force a sort of linear thinking that is otherwise difficult to maintain. And when it comes to editing, it’s no contest: QWERTY or bust.

But for getting those first crucial paragraphs down (and maybe a few keystone ideas to build towards)? Consider talking to yourself. Even if you wind up with a transcript full of nothing but profanity — well, have you ever seen a transcript full of profanity? You could do a lot worse.

This article is originally published by Descript.

Video of the Week #164: Feline Ballet


Wordless Wednesday/Flower of the Day: Bougainvillea with Organ Pipe Cactus and Juniper



Check out Cee’s Flower of the Day challenge.

Review of Canon EOS Rebel T5/1200D for Dummies by Julia Adair King and Robert Correll

Review of Canon EOS Rebel T5/1200D for Dummies by Julia Adair King and Robert Correll

It has taken me more than two-and-a-half years to finish this book.

When I bought my camera, I felt I needed a guide that would be easier to understand than the manual that came with it, which seemed to assume I knew all about cameras. But I’ve always had a point-and-shoot camera, even back in the days of film. Even my 35 mm camera had only a built-in lens. My first two digital cameras were simple automatics. I don’t understand apertures and shutter speeds.

I should have gotten the book for idiots since I apparently don’t have enough intelligence to qualify to be a dummy.


The first few months I labored through the pages, I constantly referred back to what I’d previously read, or consulted the index to see if I could find a clearer explanation further on in the book. The first chapters often introduced a feature and then said, “…but more about this in Chapter 7.” I reread pages over and over again, trying to figure out what the significance of one setting over another was.

Canon Eos

When I bought my camera, I chose the Rebel T5 over the just-released T6, because the newer model had wi-fi capability, and I couldn’t conceive why I’d ever need it. (I didn’t even have an Instagram account back then.) I wanted as few bells and whistles as possible, and the T5 was touted as a “beginner” dSLR camera.

I learned early on to turn down the corners of certain pages so I could find them quickly for reference. Pages 11, 12, 27, and 37 have photographs of the camera from different angles with all the buttons and doohickeys labeled. Page 37 explains the “creative zone” modes.

It took me from beginning to end to approach being comfortable with some of the terms that I looked up dozens of times. In photography, some terms have such cryptic names that you have to wonder if manufacturers even want people to be successful with their products. (For example, why is shutter-priority autoexposure abbreviated Tv? Who could remember that?)

The good news is, the default settings on the Canon EOS Rebel T5 are sufficient to take reasonably good pictures under most situations. I used my old point-and-shoot procedure until I learned better. I’m pleased with my camera, and I’m glad that I am learning how to use more of the options. The book, though frustrating for a long time, is getting easier for me to decipher.

camera-lensI still have much to learn. I’d say I understand about a third of the book at this point. But at least I have a general idea where to look to find out more. I have a feeling I’ll be rereading Canon EOS Rebel T5/1200D for Dummies for years to come.

Monday Morning Wisdom #169


Golding quote

Found on Facebook.

Weekly Prompts Photo Challenge: Animals in Nature


Participating in this lovely challenge; thank you, Weekly Prompts, for providing…er…weekly prompts…

At the Gilbert Riparian Preserve, a bunny, a sandpiper, a snowy egret:

Do pets in the backyard count? Our grandpuppies, Jax and Benny:

From the Creator’s Heart # 165


Image 7-18-18 at 12.25 PM

I’d Rather Be Dancing: Misirlou


If you know Misirlou through popular culture, you may recognize it as the theme song of Pulp Fiction:

However, its true beginnings are a lot less violent.

In an article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 15, 1980, Marcia Bennett wrote:

A professor of eurhythmics, the study of music through movement, Mrs. [Brunhilde] Dorsch [of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh] said she developed the misirlou dance with the help of a young pharmacy student who enrolled in her class in the mid-1940s.

The student was of Greek origin and attempted to demonstrate a folk dance called the kritikos without benefit of music.

“She told me there was no music for the original dance so I had to improvise,” Mrs. Dorsch says. The closest she could come to the tempo was an Arabian serenade called misirlou, meaning “love song.” The dance was modified by slowing the tempo and softening the motions, “and it took off,” she says.

The dance became popular with the university’s Tamburitzans who performed it around the world, including Greece. It seemed so at home on the Mediterranean peninsula that it was quickly adopted as the country’s own invention.

During a performance in 1962, guitarist Dick Dale accepted a bet from a young fan that he could not play a song on only one string of his guitar. Dale’s father and uncles were Lebanese-American musicians, and Dale remembered seeing his uncle play Misirlou on one string of the oud, a middle eastern instrument. He arranged Misirlou for one string of the guitar and increased the song’s tempo to turn it into a rock and roll piece. It was Dale’s “surf rock” version that introduced Misirlou to a wider audience in the United States. Misirlou was also recorded by the Beach Boys on the Surfing USA album, released in 1963.

I have a little bit of a connection with this story. My first three semesters of college starting in August 1970 were at Duquesne University. Music majors were required to take two years of eurhythmics to satisfy their physical education requirement. My teacher was Mrs. Dorsch, and folk dancing was part of her eurhythmics program. That was my first exposure to folk dancing.

Mrs. Dorsch was beloved for her annual Christmas party. She would instruct and call dances for us all night.

In addition to teaching at the university level, Mrs. Dorsch also taught Head Start and often commented that her preschool students were much better dancers than we were.

Mrs. Dorsch retired from Duquesne University in 1980 after 42 years of service.