Using Google Lens/Google Documents to transcribe handwritten work

UPDATE 5/8/20! Google posted a new feature of Lens that allows you to upload the text to your computer directly, provided that you are logged into the same version of Chrome on both your phone and your computer. Now all you need to do is use Lens to take a picture, select “send to computer”, and it will go to your computer’s clipboard. Then, you just paste it in whatever program you want. Easy peasy and so sweet!


You know the two posts I wrote over Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Those two posts came from a handwritten journal entry I wrote on the Thursday before those days.

What you don’t know is that instead of rewriting those posts from scratch, I had them transcribed using Google Lens.

What is Google Lens? It’s a feature that comes in the Camera app in Android. It turns your camera into something like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in that you point it at something and it can do funky things. You have a plant you’re trying to identify? Point Lens at it and it will pull up a search of likely plants. See a restaurant on a walk? Take a picture of the storefront with Lens and it will pull up a menu. Trying to read a text in a foreign language? Use Lens and the words will be translated for you on your phone.

In fact, I first discovered Google Lens back in January when I brought a fountain pen and couldn’t figure out how to open it, even with the pictures, because the instructions were in Japanese. After searching the web, I came across the instructions for Lens, pointed my phone at the Japanese instructions, clicked the translate function, and on the screen, the Japanese turned to English! Granted, it took a few tries for it to be meaningful English, but still.

(At which point, I shrieked and ran down to my library and pulled out all my Sailor Moon manga and doujinshi because HECK YEAH AUTOMATIC TRANSLATION FOR THE WIN!!!!)

But the true gamechanger came when I learned that there was a text function in Lens. If you point it at text, any text, it will copy and transcribe the text for you. This apparently works for handwritten text if it’s written legibly. You can find steps on how to do it in this article.

This was amazing because I’ve been handwriting drafts for a long time, but never had a good way to transcribe that text into my laptop. Either I had to type in a whole fresh draft, or dictate it using Google Notes. Now, if I have a page or shorter of handwritten text, I use Lens to copy it, then paste it into a Google Document or a Keep Note. Then I can move it into Scrivener later on.

But what if I have two or three pages of handwritten text? Or what if I’m at a place where I’ve written something and I want to keep a picture of what I’ve written as well?

Ho, ho, friendly reader, here is another way to transcribe your text. Google Drive also has the capability to transcribe text. Take a picture of your pages to Drive, then open the photos with Google Docs. It will open the picture with a transcription of the text below it. You can also scan the pages into a single PDF if you want to transcribe multiple pages; however, you only get the transcription — similar to the Lens function. I like transcribing the photo rather a scan because not only is it taking a backup of my handwritten note, but if I’m revising and I don’t have access to my notebook, the picture of my handwriting is right there.

Want to see it in action? You can view the first few paragraphs of my Good Friday post here (a short page) and here (a full page). You’ll immediately notice that it’s not super perfect — it does weird fonts and spacing. Also, it can’t figure out formatting. The key to this is that your writing has to be legible. My handwriting is pretty decent, but towards the 5th page, my handwriting was getting more scrawly, so I had more errors pop up. But when I do this, I’m not looking for perfection. I just want to get it into text form. If anything, when I’m going through it, I treat it like a second draft. You can also view this video that shows you the steps; you don’t have to get Grammerly if you don’t want to, but it does make it easier for cleaning up the text.

I’ve been doing this for four months now AND HOLY COW THIS IS THE BEST WRITING HACK EVER IT’S AWESOME AND WONDERFUL AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I’m also surprised that no one else has written about this yet, particularly since Google Lens has been around since 2017. Then again, we are in the midst of a pandemic, and okay, yeah, the world has been a bit of a trash fire for that long. Consider this a gift, then, from little ol’ me as a way to shine a tiny light into the ever-present darkness.

Okay. Back to novel edits for me.

Easter 2020 Thoughts

If you’re reading this and haven’t read my Good Friday post, go back and do that first. You can’t have one without the other.


A darkening sky. A final cry.

The ripping of fabric. 

And then silence.

And then..


When Jesus comes back to like on Sunday, it’s not bombastic and celebratory like we do it today. It was, by all accounts, pretty anti-climatic and quiet. He doesn’t go storming into the Temple much to the astonishment of the Temple Leaders. He doesn’t shove his nail-pierced hands in their faces and go, “Ha, ha, you killed me and now I’m back. Suck it, losers!” He doesn’t go to Pontius Pilate and shove the Roman’s face into the very bowl he washed his hands in.

He just appears in front of the disciples, hangs with them a bit, then disappears into the clouds.

That’s it. That’s all.

Except…

Except

Several days later, the apostles suddenly start acting weird. Before, they had cowered and hid; suddenly they were proclaiming God’s goodness and love. In different languages. In front of everyone.

People start listening. People started believing. People start giving away their belongings and caring for the sick and vulnerable.

The religious establishment didn’t like that, so they start putting these so-called Jesus followers into prison. Telling them to stop talking about Jesus. It doesn’t get squelched. More people become Jesus followers.

A well-known leader gets involved. He orders the executions of these followers. Then, suddenly, he disappears. The next time he’s seen, he’s said he had a vision of God and is now actually preaching this new Jesus thing. He becomes the hugest follower of this movement, to the point of changing his name.

The religious establishment sees it as a threat. They throw this new convert into prison. An earthquake shakes loose their chairs and opens all the cells. But the convert and the prisoners do not run away. Instead, they tell the jailer and his entire household that it was God who did this. The jailer believes. His whole family believes.

This movement grows and grows. The Roman Empire falls, and it continues to grow.


Miracles are easy. Mountains can crumble. Rivers can be rerouted. Storms can be calmed. Bodies can be healed.

But what type of power does it take to change a human heart?


Maybe we all had it wrong.

Maybe the point was not for God to show his power by force after all.

Maybe all our songs miss the mark.

Maybe God’s greatest power is shown when someone realizes that their actions are evil, change their ways, and start doing good.

Maybe this was why Jesus said the greatest commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your strength and heart. ” And then he gives the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It is a stupid, crazy, messed-up thing, because we want domination. We want a smackdown. We want judgment. But that’s not how God works.

God’s power has never been about domination. It has always been about love. It’s about caring for his people. It’s why, instead of going to the Religious Leaders and the Powers in government, he showed himself to the people who needed his presence the most.


So then, how do we respond to injustice?

Over the weekend, I read through theologian Howard Thurmond’s Jesus and the Disinherited. He asked the same question back in 1949, as the civil rights movement was being formed. He writes:

One of the major defense mechanisms of the disinherited is taken away from them. What does Jesus give them in its place? What does he substitute for hypocrisy? Sincerity. But is sincerity a mechanism of defense against the strong? The answer is No. Something more significant takes place. In the presence of an overwhelming sincerity on the part of the disinherited, the dominant themselves are caught with no defense, with the edge taken away from the sense of prerogative and from the status upon which the impregnability of their position rests.

Over the past few years, I’ve been wondering if God is really real. And yet, I have seen His provision during the times when my husband and I ran out of money, and yet something happened that enabled us to pay our bills. I have heard stories and seen people being healed. Not of everything, but something that was deemed impossible. I do believe miracles still happen.

But I also believe that Jesus walks with us in our despair. One of my stories of Jesus is when he goes to resurrect Lazarus after being dead for four days. Mary comes right out, weeping and angry and upset. She outright accuses him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!”

Now, Jesus had started off by giving the rote answers to Martha earlier “I am the resurrection and the life.” It’s the right response, and it is true. But when confronted with Mary’s sorrow, words fail him. And then he looks up and sees the people who had been with Mary also weeping, Jesus weeps with them. Because even though He had all the answers, He understood He needed to be present with them in their pain.

I serve a God who loves.

And if He loves the world as we proclaim He does in John 3:16 then that means he cares for the black people in Milwaukee struggling to breathe on a ventilator. He cares for the Asian person being harassed for hearing masks. But that also means he cares for that person doing the yelling And yes, He cares for the Supreme Cart makes the decision to keep the election on.

We hate it. It sucks, because we want our side to win. But God isn’t interested in saving sides. He is interested in saving hearts. And he does that through us.

A friend of mine risked her health by suiting up and becoming a pollworker. Another friend put together a FB group to contact politicians. My sister serves as a nurse at a place that was converted to a Covid-19 facility. My mother has been sewing masks. People will remember this.

I am reminded of 1 John 4:16-12: “Dear friend, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Let us not lose hope. Let us grieve, let us mourn, let us pray, and then, let us love. Write your representatives. Give to those charities and ministries. This has been a quiet Easter. An unimpressive Easter. An Easter without streamers or shouts or huge gatherings. And yet, this is the closest we’ve ever been to Easter yet.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Good Friday Thoughts

It’s not often that I do a blog post unrelated to writing. But the past few weeks have been so jacked up, particularly with Tuesday’s forced election in Wisconsin, that I need a way to process feelings.

So I’m going to do something I haven’t done in years. I’m going to write a personal blog post about faith.

Forgive me. This will get rambly in spots. It’s also being taken directly from my journal, so grammar is going out the window.


The biggest irony for me is that all of this is happening during Holy week, a sacred week for both Christians and Jews alike. Palm Sunday was this past Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people sang out “Hosanna, Hosanna”, which can be translated to “Save us! Save us!” We know this story because our pastors love to point it out in their Palm Sunday sermons. They will then say, the Jews were looking for someone to get them out of their predicament. But Jesus wasn’t going to save them the way they wanted. He had his own agenda that would be “radical, amazing, and revolutionary”.

And then we as Christians throw ourselves into Good Fridays and ignore Saturday to cap it off with the huge celebrations of Easter, because that’s the true Victory. The real victory. God triumphing over death and establishing His Lordship over all the earth. He has won! Yayyy!

Except…

Except…

The Jews are still living under the Roman Empire.


Imagine living all your life as an oppressed minority. You’re always considered inferior. Told to abandon your culture and assimilate into the majority culture so you can fit in. Your people are profiled, thrown in prison for the slightest of offenses. Your young men are beaten, your young women harassed. They always live in poor communities; the only stories you hear of them is when they commit crimes. And there is nothing you can do to change this. How can you change your own skin and blood?

So you pray for a savior to come and burn down the establishment and set your people free. You want a savior like Moses, challenging the Pharoah, shouting “Let my people go!”; producing signs and plagues, and then when the Pharoah doesn’t listen, you want that savior to hurt the stubborn, foolish leader whereas it hurts. You want vengeance, you want justice, you want authoritative power.

Then you hear about this prophet who is going around healing people and casting out demons. There are even rumors that he could be the son of God. Who else can be powerful enough to throw down the establishment and free your people?

So you congregate whenever He appears. You laud him, sing praises to him. And when He comes to Jerusalem, you think, yes! This is it! This Jesus is going to change everything. Look out, you evil Romans, Jesus is coming for you! We’re going to be vindicated. Our children will be able to sleep safe. We’ll get the resources we need. We’ll get the respect we deserve. At last, we will be free!

Then he gets arrested. He goes before the temple leaders. He goes before Pilate. And he…does…nothing.

He just stands there. Silent.

No godlike power. No striking down of the authorities. No “let my people go.” Nothing. He gets sentenced to execution, and he does nothing to stop it.

When, at that is the point, when you feel your hope die?

Probably when Jesus dies on the cross.

No wonder the people turned from joy on Palm Sunday to rage on Good Friday. Without hope, all that’s left is despair.


Over the past couple of weeks, I watched the Governor of Wisconsin wrestle with the Wisconsin Supreme Court over the Wisconsin Primary. And like a lot of people, I was horrified when the court overturned the governor’s ruling to postpone the election, They wouldn’t extend the absentee ballots received deadline. And worse of all, they forced people who didn’t get their absentee ballots mailed early to vote in-person. In a pandemic. In Milwaukee and Green Bay, there were only a few polling sites open, forcing voters to stand in lines that lasted hours.

In Milwaukee alone, 66% of the Covid-19 deaths have been black.

I never felt so full of rage and helplessness. 


Where are you, I cry out to God. Don’t you see this? Can’t you feel our fear? Do something! You are supposed to be all powerful. We sing songs about how powerful for you are: how you can move mountains and calm storms and raise the dead. Why aren’t you doing that now? Are you even seeing this?

What’s the point of having all that power if you don’t even use it?

Are you even there?


If Jesus doesn’t really have the power to save, then he is useless. Is Jesus isn’t the son of God, then he is a fraud.

So why do I continue to believe in Him?

Because….

He knew this.

He knew this would happen.


Every Good Friday, I’ve made it a point to listen to a talk that John Ortberg gave to my dayjob’s Staff Conference back in 2014. This week, I’ve listened to it twice.

Give a listen. Then come back on Sunday. I’ll finish this post then.