DICTATED BY NECESSITY, OR EVERYMAN HIS OWN BOSWELL
MOST PEOPLE engaged in a creative enterprise, such as writing or composing music or painting, spend a fair amount of time musing on ways to increase their productivity. Either alone or with colleagues, they may ponder a variety of prods to "getting started," better ways to plan priorities, more efficient methods of revising and correcting errors, or the use of mechanical, "prosthetic" tools for enhancing their output.
By no means immune from this vanity, I recently began to dictate my manuscripts into a tape recorder rather than compose them on a typewriter. The transition has created at least the illusion of a tremendous increase in the speed of production and, possibly, an improvement in the quality of my work. Even with a tape recorder, I will not equal the output of Samuel Johnson, who in one two-and-a-half-year period produced half a million words of reportage on the debates in the British Parliament. Still, I have begun to sing the glories of dictation and have even begun to consider using some other prosthetic devices, such as computer word-processing systems.
These aids seem to make life easier in the way that a supermarket eliminates the strain of visiting a dozen specialty markets. But do they