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Journaling for Creativity.

Journaling media options: Recording sound, pt 2

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Journaling for Creativity and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.

Introduction Contents What Media Options are There Recording Sound, Pt2


Journaling for Creativity: Recording sound This the second part of our post on recording sounds when journaling for creativity. If you have not read part one, click on the “previous” button above.



If we think about the relationship between computers and journaling, most people will immediately imagine making journal entries on a word processor or digital representation of a journal.

However, computers can record an audio journal entry as easily as they can make a Skype call. It may feel very ‘Captain’s log – star date…’ish from Star Trek but there is no reason why you shouldn’t record audio journal entries whilst sitting at the keyboard. Any file generated in this way can then be named and date tagged for ease of finding.

The type of microphone used, whether a microphone on a stand, wireless microphone or the computer's built-in microphone, is solely down to personal preference. Some software packages can start or stop recording by voice commands, if these are coupled with a wireless microphone/headset it is possible to record and review your recording at a considerable distance from the computer whilst otherwise busy.

As mentioned in 'What to write on' there is even software that can convert your spoken words into text, thus allowing large chunks of your project and journaling to be captured for the page at times when it would be impossible to work in any other way. Even though the software is far from perfect, there is still a lot that can be achieved by the time-strapped writer. Another advantage of speech-to-text software is that you can save a text transcription alongside the audio file, allowing both the audio entry and the location in that entry to be found at a later time by using a search utility to locate text in the transcription.

Speech-to-text software can also have the amusing disadvantage of being able to spell correctly, so when they get it wrong and include a misunderstood word, the incorrect word will not appear in the spell-checker, for example, "Missed" instead of "Mist" and it's down to you to spot them.

The modern laptop or tablet can also record sound samples and soundscapes out in the field. Whether the ambient sounds in an auction house or that of a body being dropped from a bridge (we presume in this case a live body wearing a swimsuit), sound sampling becomes wonderful creativity fodder.

"There are also beeps from something big backing up somewhere. This soundscape is always present. It is always the same and always different as the minutes and hours flit by. And always, in each moment, there are bird's songs and occasional screeches."

Jon Kabat-Zin, “Coming to Our Senses


Smart Phone

Mobile phones have become more and more powerful over the years and it is unlikely that their power and growth in functionality will abate any time soon. Amusingly, almost all of this growth has been away from their prime design feature which is that of processing audio signals.

We can make very good use of that basic ability. The modern smart phone can record hours of audio, and because they are usually somewhere on us or very close they are the perfect device for capturing an impromptu recording when you can't journal in a notebook. There are also downloadable apps that make recording and categorising recordings far easier than the phone’s built-in software.

Recordings can be manually or automatically uploaded to your computer for ease of use, text generation and archiving.



At first glance there doesn't seem to be much that a Dictaphone does that a modern smart phone can't do and do better. They are very simple devices which have their own drawbacks; they are yet one more thing to carry around, they only do one thing – record sound and you have to manually upload recorded sound files to your computer.

So why would we consider spending money on a Dictaphone? The answer is in their simplicity, in that they only do one thing and they do it effortlessly in an uncomplicated manner. Dictaphones come into their own at those moments when you need to make a journal entry but it is impossible to open a note book or work your way through the layers of menu on a mobile. The immediately obvious situation is when driving, it would be illegal to operate your mobile and writing is out of the question.

With a Dictaphone, just press the big record button, drop it in your lap and dictate away. When finished press the button again and it stops recording.

This can be incredibly valuable for capturing those wonderful but fragile gossamer thoughts that surface when the creative-mind is the currently dominant mind. Because if you have to park up, find a notebook, navigate Mr. Mobile’s menus or simply look for a pen, the logical-mind re-engages and becomes dominant. In doing so, it shoulders the creative-mind aside and as it does so any gossamers of creative thought are shredded by the mental action needed by logical activities.

So whether driving, walking, golf, playing with the children or just whilst eating ice-cream, there are times when a humble, one function Dictaphone has the edge.

In the paragraphs above, I have assumed the Dictaphone to be a modern digital version. In rummage sales you can still find the old cassette tape ones. For the sake of your craft, stay away from these old tape types, they are not a good option.

The drawbacks with Dictaphones are;

· Playback is a pain. Tiny screens and coded file names means that playback is easier to control via a computer’s media player than the device’s own controls.

· Low quality, depending on the microphone and other conditions, which restricts their use for sampling sounds.

· Limited storage slots and recording time, though to be fair, I have never exhausted mine.


Answering Machine

The home answering machine is very limited when it comes to making journal entries, but it has one unique feature when journaling for creativity that makes it worth mentioning here.

Normally they have very limited capacity, the audio is poor and any recording cannot be transferred across to another device. However, they do have immediacy.

When you are out and have a flash of inspiration, one that you simply must act on immediately as soon as you return home, then phone home and record on your answering machine a message telling yourself to get on with whatever it is that fired you up.

Once you return home, the answering machine will greet you with an insistent buzzing, reminding you that it contains that important message, one that requires immediate action.


Final note

An advantage of the audio journal entry is that you can make any entry far more interesting with very little effort.

It is possible to make the entries rather boring by talking like an English 1940's BBC announcer; recording only facts and actions for later review. Boring, yes?

Instead, try adding emotion, be dramatic, record it in different styles, make it interesting, add life to your voice, put on different accents. Basically, be creative with the recording and see where it leads.



What sounds would you like to record? What will you record them on? When will you record them? Set yourself a task to go and collect those sounds. Write it down in your journal that you have committed to do so. Fix a time or times when you will do so, and if you cannot, then set a period within which you will.

Share with us in the comments below what you would like to record.

Photo credit: Water Splash, by Steve Garner.
"Journaling media options: Recording sound, pt 2" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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