I remember my first typewriter. It was a huge, chunky Olivetti desk typewriter and I thought it was fantastic. It came through a friend of the family — her office were replacing their typewriters with brand new, state of the art, electric typewriters. So this old beast was all mine.
I started typing my little hands off. I wrote out the words of songs that I liked. I wrote a few poems here and there, and stories … I loved to write stories — even then. I would sit down at the table with a thick felt mat shielding the table from the base of the typewriter, and I would begin to hammer our letters and words. First it was one finger at a time, but then, as I grew more practised, I began to type with two or even three fingers. My speed was increasing, but I would never get very fast. I needed to really pound the keys to make the letters appear nicely on the page, and the extra effort meant that speed was never to be easily attained.
When I started using computers, I found these typing skills were handy. I knew where the letters were and I could get up quite a bit of pace. I didn’t even need to look at my fingers too much. But I did need to break through the speed barrier — in teaching myself to type I had picked up plenty of bad habits (some of which I still have today) — so I started doing some computer based typing training. And it started to pay off.
Because I didn’t need to learn where all the letters were, I was able to pick up touch typing pretty quickly. Soon I didn’t need to look down at all. Soon I was able to stare at another piece of paper and transcribe it effortlessly. With pretty good accuracy.
Nowadays, I find typing to be the only way for me to take notes. I certainly can no longer write very neatly — and often find myself scouring my own notepads trying to make sense of the scrawl written there. But even with the fastest handwriting in the world, I could never write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. This is where typing truly has been fanstastic. Now I can almost keep up with my ideas as they come streaming out of my mind. And while I get along at around 55 words per minute, I can push along a little faster when I am concentrating well.
But how fast are you? Is it important to be able to type quickly? I love it. Weirdly. (With thanks to Meg Tsiamis for pointing out the typing speed test.)