Staring at a blank page with a cursor flashing in anticipation of an outpouring of perfectly assembled words is one of the most uninspiring and thoroughly depressing sights. All the more so when you’re trying to start a work of literary genius that you have pages and pages of notes for but seemingly no brilliant way of starting.
My cunning plan is to document the progress of my book by writing a blog post before starting each day, thus ensuring I am already in the flow of writing, eliminating the torment of a flashing cursor. The blog posts will be posted as-written, no editing. I can already see there are flaws to this experimental way of working but I need to find a method to focus and motivate me, and knowing that something is written and actually published (in the loosest sense) every day I write seems a positive place to start.
The blog posts will be typed. The novel will be stenoed, meaning I will use my Stenograph stenotype machine.
As a freelance stenographer, that is how I currently earn a living. I work in all kinds of environments but I’ll focus on one, the court room. Very, very simplistically, I sit in a court and steno a verbatim transcript of all day’s proceedings. This means that, while I can type at around 80wpm on a computer keyboard, by stenoing I can reach speeds of around 220wpm, or at whatever speed someone speaks at. Yes, that means I steno every single word spoken. Every word. It’s a bit like live subtitles, indeed it kind of is subtitling. Everyone with a connected laptop in court can see a live feed of what is being said.
As you can maybe appreciate, this means my hands are constantly tapping away and I can only, for example, pause, have a drink of water, move, when no one is speaking. Sometimes people speak so fast and talk over each other so much that I do not stop stenoing for even the briefest of pauses for the duration of a session, until there is a break. Some judges are not keen on breaks, even every hour and a half, which is about my physical limit without a chance to stretch and move around. As a result, I have bad repetitive strain injuries, swellings around my hands and wrists, pains and discomfort. I need to do a different job, but it has finally dawned on me, after 17 years of stenoing, that I can use my steno skills to write something for me.
My theory is that, as I can steno significantly faster than I can write or type, and as a day’s transcript of my stenoing (with the assistance of an editor checking accuracy against synched audio recordings) usually equates to the length of a novel (180 to 220 pages being a normal transcript length), surely I can “knock out” a novel in far fewer days than by typing. As this idea of a book is actually autobiographical, it also struck me as the best way to write with my voice coming through. With typing or writing, as it takes longer, it is more like a written document (obvious, I know). With steno, it’s more about speech or, for this writing experiment, in theory it will document my thought process, my voice, my internal speech.