Overcoming Adversity

The Los Angeles Times ran a feature today on Peter Winkler, who regular readers of this blog will reocognize as someone who has frequently commented on posts here over the years. He's severely disabled by arthritis and writes using a chopstick. He recently completed a biography of Dennis Hopper.

In the virtual world, Winkler roams free. He blogs. He comments. He write articles about film.

In the physical world, he increasingly is trapped — dependent on his sister and a long, red plastic chopstick.

Rheumatoid arthritis has battered him for 46 of his 55 years.

His neck won't turn. His head is pitched down, chin to chest. His elbow and wrist joints are so fixed in place, he cannot touch his face.

Sitting up in bed, he can no longer extend his arms far enough to place his fingertips on the keyboard of the MacBook Pro propped on a lap desk across his thighs.

Instead, he braces the chopstick between several fingers on his right hand and uses it to tap, tap, tap one key after another.

It's not so bad, he says. He's gotten pretty fast, and anyway, "I was always a two-finger typist."

Keep that in mind next time you are tempted to complain about how difficult it is for you to write. I know that I will. 

(As a side note, I wonder why Peter doesn't use dictation software, like Dragon Naturally Speaking, rather than use the chopstick?)

7 thoughts on “Overcoming Adversity”

  1. Dear Lee:
    Thanks so much for picking up on the story and letting your readers know about it.
    Well. I did try using speech to text software a number of years ago. I found myself feeling self-conscious speaking rather than typing, as if someone else was in the room listening. I suppse I could’ve gotten used to it.
    The real problem was that one must use a headset to keep a microphone in close proximity to one’s mouth. Because of my physical limitations, I can’t put the headset on myself. If my sister put it on me before leaving for work, it would fall off eventually when I had to get up to go to the toilet or kitchen. I tried using a fairly good Sony handheld cardiod microphone I had around from my old audiophile days, but it wasn’t sensitive enough.
    I reconsidered using such software before beginning the book. I’ve read about USB mics recently, but still couldn’t ascertain if there’s something I could hold or clip to the laptop screen that might work. I would be interested in others’ recommendations or experience in this area.
    Thanks again.

  2. I used Dragon to write books and scripts when I had two broken arms and it worked surprisingly well. Sometimes I used the head-set/microphone, other times I used a stationary microphone and earbuds, which I recall liking better.

  3. The desktop microphone I used (and still use for Skype) is a few years old. It connects via USB and it’s from Logitech. Other than that, there’s nothing more I can tell you because there’s no serial number or model number or any other info I can find on the unit. It has a silver, plastic base and a curved, black microphone stem that’s adjustable by angle, not length. There’s an on/off button on the base the lights up when the unit is live. It looks identical to the ones in the links below…so I assume it’s the same.

  4. I have often admired Mr. Winkler’s observations here and elsewhere. And now, on reading this, I admire his courage as well.

  5. I will never, ever complain about being uncomfortable or using that as an excuse for not writing ever again. And I will use Mr Winkler’s example to my students to illustrate the point that nothing can get in your way if you truly want to write. I take my hat off to you.
    Phil South
    Creative Genius Programme


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