I really enjoy the transcription work I do; I’m sure it helps that I am working with interviews that I have conducted with people whom I find interesting. It’s fun to be hired for a story, be introduced to a subject, and then get to talk to them for a while about their journey and their passions. I consider it a real privilege.
I’ve written before about how in seventh grade I had to take a typing class and it was just the worst, but it made me a fast, accurate typist. Which in time has made me a fast, accurate transcriptionist. In that same post I shared that I didn’t really like doing transcription work when I took a few jobs after seminary. Time and perspective have changed that.
Transcribing is sort of like washing the dishes, or walking up a hill, with no distractions. The physical act of typing what I hear somehow simultaneously frees my mind up to wander and make connections that end up being the bones of the story I later write.
When I’m writing if I take a break and do something like wash the dishes or take a walk I find my mind working things out in ways it wouldn’t when I was sitting down and really focusing on the task.
Do you have outlets that give you that type of space?
I find I look forward to transcribing. It gets me focused on the larger project of writing and draws me back into a conversation that was often a source of great interest. As I type, and pause, and rewind, and revise, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude that someone gave up their time to have a conversation with me, and now I have a record of that conversation.
Transcribing is also great practice for my grammar. If I leave out a comma, it might change the meaning of what someone has said. As a writer who seeks to respectfully, and accurately, quote sources, this matters to me. Over time I’m finding my transcribing is sharpening my editing and writing skills, too.
As I was transcribing a recorded piece today I was thinking about the sort of rhythm I get into with a story subject. I come to know their verbal ticks and cadence and the further I move through a recording, the faster and more accurately I am able to put their words down on paper.
If I ever write a novel, I believe this will do wonders for my dialogue creation. (I wonder, do fiction writers ever include the practice of transcription in their pre-writing study?)
When I started writing as my profession, I didn’t expect to find delight in transcription. It initially seemed like a necessary task, but one that would be mostly a chore.
What a gift that it is not. It allows me to encounter and savor words and stories in a way I haven’t before. It allows me to slow down and get acquainted with my conversation partners, and I think do a better job of sharing their words.
I find myself grateful for the hours spent in the typing lab as a seventh grader, and find myself wondering how continuing to engage this practice faithfully will prepare me for future expressions of my call to write.
I’m curious, are there tasks in your life that you received with mild dread that turned out to be a gift? Are there any tasks you loathe that might be an opportunity for delight if you considered them in a new light?