web analytics

The Return of Wishful Thinking

Return key on keyboard

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may been wondering why it’s been so quiet since the spring. And if you’ve joined us more recently, you may be wondering whether it ever gets much noisier than this. Sorry about that. It wasn’t my intention. As well as running my business, I’ve been preparing for the launch of Lateral Action, which I’m pleased to say is now well under way. But that wasn’t the main reason for the slowdown at Wishful Thinking…

Basically, I injured my hands and haven’t been able to type for the last six months. Which has obviously restricted my ability to write blog posts. And use the computer generally – even keeping up with reading other people’s posts has been a real challenge. Rather embarrassingly for someone who has written an e-book about time management — including whole sections about e-mail — I fell way behind on my e-mail. So for a writer, especially one whose blog is a major source of new business, to say it’s been a frustrating summer would be an understatement.

So what caused the injury? I changed my keyboard. Seriously. You would not believe how much damage you can do can do with such a simple change. Basically, I went from using my laptop — which kept my wrists straight as I typed — to a desktop keyboard. And stupidly didn’t get a wrist rest, which meant my wrists were bent back as I typed. And carried on typing for several hours a day. The analogy my physiotherapist used was that it was like someone who was really good at long-distance cycling suddenly deciding they could run a marathon with no extra training — not realising that they were using different muscles in the legs. With painful results.

So dear readers, be very careful about your typing posture. I don’t want to sound like that fussy person from the IT department, but take it from me it’s not worth making any sudden changes. I think it’s blatantly obvious that I’m not medically qualified, so if in doubt consult a qualified physiotherapist for advice – it could save you a lot of trouble.

Anyway here’s the good news — my hands are nearly back to normal and I’ve discovered some amazing speech recognition software. I’m a pretty fast typist but I’m dictating this blog post much faster than I could ever type it. It’s so good that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to typing for drafting articles, I’m having so much fun dictating them. It’s about 95% accurate — so if you see any funny looking words or typos in my blog posts, please let me know!

The software is called Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The only problem with it is that it’s Windows only, so very reluctantly I’ve installed Windows Vista on my Mac. It turns out that the one area in which Microsoft wipes the floor with Apple is speech recognition. (Mac devotees will however, be pleased to know that in every other respect Windows Vista is the usual garish Microsoft rubbish. Apart from a cool 3-D effect when you switch windows.)

More good news — there are further generous helpings of Wishful Thinking on the way very shortly. Tomorrow in fact, when I kick off a new series about motivating creative people — a hot topic for some of the managers and creative directors I work with.

In the meanwhile, if you haven’t subscribed to Lateral Action yet, please rush over there and subscribe immediately. If you like Wishful Thinking it should be right up your street. I’ve just finished writing a series about Creative Rock Stars — using rock stars as an analogy for exploring the ups and downs of the creative life. And Brian Clark has just written a terrific post explaining why Kurt Cobain was a top-class entrepreneur (yes, really).

So thank you for your patience and on with the show! See you tomorrow …


  1. Sorry to learn of the injury, Mark, but that’s great you’re on the mend, and have uncovered some nice speak recognition in the process.

    Bye for now.

  2. Thanks David, it’s good to be back.

  3. Hey Mark,

    Good to have you back. Now I can have more great content like you’ve been doing over at Lateral Action! (Okay, but without you getting injured from feeding my reading habit, alright?)

    Technical question. I’ve had a few people suggest Dragon to me because of the amount of typing work I do – also because I think faster than I type and speaking it out might work better to get those thoughts on paper.

    Learning curve and setup to use the software for you was… painful? Easy? Long? Did the software screw up much while you taught it?

  4. Wow, Mark, I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. It’s kinda the writer’s worst nightmare! I sometimes worry about that since I am now working exclusively on my laptop.
    I’m glad your hands are back and I appreciate that you shared your story with us to remind us to be conscientious about our work posture.
    Write on!

  5. James — that’s exactly it, I can think/talk quicker than I can type, so it really helps me get my thoughts onto the screen quickly. Editing is surprisingly easy as well. In terms of training, it didn’t take all that long and I got used to it very quickly. I had previously used Vista’s built-in speech recognition, which is pretty good for surfing the web or writing a short e-mail, but useless writing articles. So I guess that gave me some prior practice with speech recognition, but I don’t think it made much difference.

    Have a look at the demo video on this page for an idea of how quickly it works (watch more than the first few seconds): http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/swf/nuanceVideo.swf

    Cynthia — thanks. Yes, a writer’s worst nightmare. I don’t want to be melodramatic but it feels like being able to walk again. Write on indeed.

  6. (watch more than the first few seconds)

    Good lord… my attention span is getting a reputation…

  7. Nice video Mark, thanks. Makes me almost want to give VR a try.

    Seems I would lose my voice quicker than I’d cramp my fingers. You know, those two I use to type with. :0

  8. James – that’s the trouble with online reputation building. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Brian – Well if my voice goes I’m reduced to searching Google for ‘ sign language recognition software’ or if all else fails ‘mind reading software’. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Speech recognition on the Mac – the fairly new “MacSpeech Dictate” is (I believe) based on the same engine as Dragon. The first version was missing some important features, but I think a lot of that’s been improved in a recent new release. Having said that, I haven’t done a lot with it – my wrist and shoulder aren’t that bad at the moment!

    One tip – replace your mouse with a Wacom pad (or similar pad) – your wrist sits in a more natural position, so there’s less strain. And an elbow support can help too – it’s a kind of hinged arm that you clamp to your desk, and your elbow rests in a cup at the end.

    Take care of those arms!

  10. Thanks for the suggestions David. Have you tried Mac Dictate? I read a few bad reviews so didn’t go for it.

    I did actually try a Wacom pad — believe it or not it made my symptoms worse! Maybe I’d already done the damage and it just aggravated it.

  11. Mark – first, I should do as my mother would want, and introduce myself. I’m a first time commenter, names’ Akiba Howard. Let me say, I found you from Zoe Westhoff, who write glowingly about your e-book on Creatives’ and Time Management.
    WOW! Thanks for the writing, and I wish I had found you a few years ago, when my creativity was at an all time HIGH, but my time management was at an all time low! LOL Fortunately, I’ve been working on that, and doing much better now….thank you.

    OK, so here are the ‘hope the hand is better’ wishes. Hope the hand is better. AS well, I am typing this to you on a MAC right now. I KNOW the pain of the MAC+WINDOWS transition. I HATED IT, but had to, to run some software for my newest venture.

    Anyhow, I too run D.N.S. (Dragon), and it really is a time saver and fun too. Every time I start it up, it’s like a new Christmas toy. LOL, but it works and that is the point.

    So, this is more of a hello, ‘I feel ya’, and thank you for your resource, than anything else.

    Great site…look forward to reading more….and more…and more.

    Best wishes…

    Akiba Howard

    Akiba Howard’s last blog post..Monday – December 29th

  12. Thanks Akiba, much appreciated. Have a great 2009!