Something like twelve years ago, when I was a freshman in high school, I took a class called Information Processing. The name was fancy, but it was really just a course about learning how to touch type. I remember we used a program called MicroType Pro, and the teacher, Ms. Vasil, made us cover our hands with these miniature plastic tables so we couldn’t see the keyboard.
I loved it, and I haven’t had to look at a keyboard since. I don’t know where I would be without that class.
My penmanship was always horrendous. It was the sore spot on every report card and an embarrassing topic of discussion at every parent-teacher conference. I still haven’t learned. I can’t write the same letter the same way twice. My words don’t sit on the lines so much as they float awkwardly between them. If you ask me, writing neatly is the most demanding of physical activities. I tend to perspire.
Nonetheless, as a writer and longtime English major, I appreciate the feeling of writing longhand, and I can geek out about pens and notebooks with the best of them. I remember an episode of Inside the Actors Studio where the guest called “the sound of pen on paper” the noise they loved most. I can agree, especially given the right pen and the right paper. There’s something romantically satisfying about the contrast between a scratching pen and the smooth flow of ink. But, when it comes down to it, a room filled with the flurry of busy typists would have to be my favorite sound. I love the clicking. The clackity noise. The thunk of the spacebar and the crack of Return. The sound of ideas materializing out of people’s minds.
I try not to take it for granted, especially when I see someone hunting and pecking for each keystroke. For a writer, the ability to type effortlessly and without thinking is invaluable. Writing longhand has its merits, of course. It’s slow, deliberate, thoughtful. You have to think carefully about each word before you write it, lest you be forced to cross something out. I can appreciate that, but there’s nothing like blasting away at a keyboard in a fit of creativity, watching your thoughts appear on-screen as quickly as they come to you.
For me, touch typing is a way of removing friction from writing. It helps me get the thoughts out of my head faster. I can have a hundred words down in a minute or two. I can focus on the idea, not on my computer. A keyboard in the hands of a touch typist disappears. It gets out of the way, and the ideas flow freely. There is no typing — only writing.
So, today I’m grateful for Information Processing.
Have a splendid weekend.
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