Recording Inspiration, by Ben Jeapes

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels.

Writing methods have changed immeasurably over the years. I began on a manual typewriter and have progressed via a plethora of word processing packages and bits of hardware to run them on. But, what has stayed the same is the irritating habit of inspiration striking when I’m nowhere near a keyboard.

I wrote my first novel – fantasy, not very good, and you don’t have enough money to persuade me to show it to you – on said typewriter, in the year between school and university. I also had a day job, which included a half-hour walk to and from. The job kept me too busy for creative thinking on the side, but I could walk in my own little cloud, at the beginning and end of the day, polishing whole passages in my head until I had them word perfect. Then I would head straight up to my room and bash them out.

I never again had that daily opportunity for sheer mindful neutrality, but thereafter I had desk jobs and I could at least scribble thoughts and passages on a bit of paper for transcribing at the end of the day. It only takes seconds.

Then, in the mid-nineties, came that most amazing of inventions: email. If inspiration struck at work, I could simply jot it down in an email and send it off to myself. This was better than scribbled notes: if I had an exact turn of phrase in mind I could record it there and then.

Then I got a smartphone and could send myself emails from anywhere. Or edit a document on Google Drive.

And now has come the latest step in this parade of marvels: voice recognition.

It wasn’t me who thought of this one, it was a client. With a smartphone, or any kind of digital recorder, you can dictate your pensées wherever you happen to be, and email them off with a click of a button. (WhatsApp lets you do this all in one application.) He sends them to me, I upload them to (other services are available) and a few minutes later our robotic overlords send me a Word file containing every word he has said – or occasionally their best approximation; it does need checking – all neatly laid out.

There are drawbacks to this last method: it’s so easy that I’ve just spent several days going through about about 200 messages containing 10,000 words of random thoughts delivered in no particular order. So, note to self: try to categorise them as they come in and don’t let them build up. Hey, it’s a learning curve.

Of course, I could lean on the fact of my writing being my Christian calling and therefore God will give me exactly the right words at the right time, so who needs to make notes along the way?

In other areas of ministry, I’ve learnt God doesn’t work like that: he generally expects us to contribute something even if he carries the load. If nothing else, it helps give him the glory as a concrete reminder of how much more he does for us.

When I think of those poor old Biblical scribes, earnestly scratching out their inspiration from the Lord before the words fled, I really do have it quite easy. I can – and do – come up with plenty of excuses for not writing, but not having the time to get my thoughts together is not one of them.

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of eight novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. His most recent title is a children’s biography of Ada Lovelace.


  1. I find inspiration often strikes as I am driving - to work or to a patient's house! So I do text myself using Android Auto but accuracy can be hit and miss

  2. I love the idea of mindful neutrality! You are so right - that's when ideas drop into the still waters of your mind like stones. I have been trying to tear myself away from social media lately and walk/idle the engine of my mind for these sorts of reasons. But it's hard when you're meant to be promoting a book...Great post.

  3. Your post makes me wonder what word processing tools would be like in the next 50 years. I tried the speech to text thing and realised that editing would somehow be more cumbersome. I guess if it is mamnaged the right way, it would be a huge step for most writers writers. It would also be awesome to have a guru take us through the speech to text device on zoom. Lovely post. Blessings!


Post a Comment