Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Using Speech-to-Text

The subject for this posting was to be a continued sharing of the books on the American Revolution to which I've listened in the past four months. Specifically, I was going to tell you about two novels that humanize those men who fought the war, won the independence, and secured the republic. So often these leaders are presented as demigods. Jeff Shaara’s historical fiction portrays their flaws as well as their virtues. Thus, they become approachable human beings. 

That sharing, however, is going to have to wait because I want to tell you what’s happening with my writing.

Since December, I’ve struggled with a second memoir. Two questions kept giving me pause: What part of my life shall I write about? And, what thematic thread will weave all the stories together? That thread is important for it determines which life stories I’ll tell.

During the weeks I could work at the computer, I began the memoir a number of times, arriving each time at a cul-de-sac that led to yet another beginning. Ultimately, I decided to write a memoir that would serve as both prequel and sequel to Prayer Wasn’t Enough, the convent memoir I published in 2018. That experience will be only a chapter, or possibly two in this second memoir. 

Eye issues have been part of my struggle. I have the energy to write 2 ½ hours a day, but with my vision/focus regimen that means 5 hours. It’s ½ hour writing, followed by ½ hour resting my eyes. I would need to do that 5 times to get in the writing. With that schedule I might have a first draft completed sometime next year. Then I’d need to do a second and possibly a third draft. Given the time it always takes me to get to a final manuscript, the memoir would probably be published in mid-to-late 2022.

Giving 5 hours a day to writing seems formidable to me because I also want to blog, exercise, meditate—and of course, listen to books, prepare and eat meals, visit friends on the phone, sit on the screened-in porch and chill out, and . . . sleep. 

Last week, one of my nieces suggested that I use the speech-to-text function of my Mac/Microsoft Word. That is, I would sit with my eyes closed so I wouldn't be focusing and having to do that 5-hour regimen.  I could simply talk. My words would become text. After trying that function, we both realized it would require a great deal of editing because of all the misunderstood words. 

A friend then described his experience with “speech-to-text.” He thought the difference between his experience and mine was the Mac system I was using. With his help, I downloaded and then installed Catalina 10.15—an upgrade from El Capitan 10.6.  

However, my Microsoft Word program wouldn’t work with the new system. Thus, I’ve had to purchase the most recent Word for Macs and am learning how to use it. For someone as technologically inept as myself, this has been challenging. It’s why I didn’t post Sunday. 
Today, I’m using “speech-to-text” and liking it. This will mean that I can keep my eyes closed/unfocused and thus not need 5 hours to do 2 ½ hours of writing. 

O joy in the morning!

PS: The five books pictured here are among the memoirs I've read and enjoyed in the past years. Of course, Educated by Tara Westover is a favorite now. 

Covers from Amazon.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Two Books That Give Me Hope

I’m now in my fourth month of listening to unabridged nonfiction books by American historians. With so much from which to choose, where did I start back in April? 

With Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.I had read a number of reviews of his book. The Newsday reviewer expressed what nearly every other reviewer said. That is, 

Meacham, by chronicling the nation’s struggles from revolutionary times to current day, makes the resonant argument that America has faced division before—and not only survived it but thrived. . . . Meacham believes the nation will move beyond Trump because, in the end, as they have shown on vital issues before, Americans embrace their better angels. This book stands as a testament to that choice—a reminder that the country has a history of returning to its core values of freedom and equality after enduring periods of distraction and turmoil.

In reading the book, I met a number of presidents who’d faced situations that called for mature thinking, a well-developed moral compass, and tested integrity. These presidents had brought a majority of Americans to an acceptance of our founding ideals so that our country could truly become “more perfect.” 

Note that the Constitutiondoes not say that we are going “to form a perfect Union.” Those who drafted the document knew that was impossible. So they said, “to form a more perfect Union” that will bring the “blessings of liberty” not only to the first generation of patriots but also to their posterity. To us. And to those beyond us.

It is up to all of us to keep working on the “more.” 

Meacham’s book is the first to which I listened. He doesn’t overtly compare those past presidents with President Trump. But for this reader, the comparison was painfully obvious. As the years have passed since my protest days of Vietnam, I’ve become more and more disillusioned about the possibility of our country surviving its deepening partisanship. However, Meacham’s book helped me believe that even as fractured as we have become, we the people will ultimately call on the “better angels” within us to embrace the Oneness that unites us in a common good. 

The next book I listened to was 1776 by David McCullough. Every person who proclaims his or her “right” not to wear a mask needs to read this book. In fact, all of us can profit from the history lesson that 1776 provides. 

Right now, life is scary here in the United States. (At least I’ve found it so.) But both McCullough’s and Meacham’s book illustrate the cycle of history. That is, the ups and downs, the flattening of the curve of those peaks and valleys, and the will of a people to return to the ideals that are foundational to what it means to be an American. 

As I’ve witnessed the peaceful protesting of George Floyd’s murder and seen that protest impaired, in some minds, by both white and black looters, I have often thought that the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle to end systematic racism are another example of an American Revolution. I see many parallels today between the divergent views expressed by those on Facebook in 2020 and the strongly held and differing views of the patriots and Tories of 1776.

Change is risky—and scary. It calls us to new thoughts and realizations. It asks us to let go of some of our most treasured shibboleths. Those that, perhaps, have given us a sense of security all our lives. Many feel, I believe, that their lives are being threatened and becoming unmoored. Who are they to believe? What are they to believe?

These two books are helping me live my belief that all shall be well. That the arc of our history leads to Oneness.