Monday, March 2, 2009

Touch Typing Typical?

I am a touch typist, which means I can type without looking at the keyboard. It has been years since my typing skills have been timed, but I suspect that I am well over 100 words per minute for typing, and pretty close to that when I compose as well.

I learned to type when I was a freshman in high school. I had one semester of typing, and we were typing on very old, very stiff manual typewriters. It was when writing was loud work (I love my silent computer keyboard, but even my silent version is a bit noisy.) Although I didn't know it then, that class was one of the most valuable classes I took in high school. Being able to type saved me a lot of time in the future. I can't imagine working with a deadline and not being a fast touch typist.

But I wonder if I am the norm among writers? Are most writers touch typists? Or am I strange?

And am I *really* a touch typist? I have the alphabet completely memorized, and I can type words without any hesitation what so ever, but I need to sneak a peak on the those rare occasions when I have to hit keys I don't normally use -- like most of the F keys and some of the less used shift options on the number keys like ^ which is what you get when you hit shift AND the 6 key. Confession: When it comes to touch typing numbers, I prefer the number key pad to the numbers spread out above the letters. Alas, my laptop does not have the number key pad.

And when it comes to all of the variables available on a computer keyboard like the function key and the windows key and the page up, down, etc., I have no idea. I don't use them often, and if I do, I have to look. But keys I use frequently, like the "CTRL, ALT, DELETE" combo, I figure out even though placement tends to vary from keyboard to keyboard.

I know it wasn't that long ago that I read a post by Jenny Crusie that she was buying a keyboard that was completely blank, and I knew as I looked at a picture of the black blank keyboard that I am not that good nor would I ever be that good. I can get by with the keys that I have worn so much that you can no longer see the letter, but I can't go completely blank on a computerized keyboard. I have been using my current laptop since May, and the N key is starting to get stabbing marks on it from my fingernails and the "N" is slowly disappearing. I suspect it will be completely gone sometime this summer.

I know that for me, I have to be a touch typist. I'd never be able to do the writing work that I do without the ability to touch type. But I realize that there is more than one way to be a writer. I've never tried options like the voice to text options, but I've heard good things about them. Plus once, long ago, I used to write by hand and then type things up on a electric typewriter with the aid of a lot of Wite-out and patience. So there are other options to knowing how to touch type.

I once tried to sell my electric typewriter in a yard sale, but my mom bought it. And for a while, I was collecting very old manual typewriters, but they take up a lot of space and are very happy. I now only own one Underwood, which is a very old manual. I've never really typed on it, but I like having it in my office.

And it seems I am not alone in hanging onto old typewriters. NPR promoted the love of typewriters with QWERTY Love. Read it at

What about you? Are you a touch typist? Do you have a typewriter lurking in your house? Has the computer changed the way you write?