Words per minute
I dream of a word processor that throws a little a WPM gauge up in the right corner, so I can keep a close eye for when I’m backing off the throttle more than I should. Way back, when instant-messaging first came around? I used to write chat scripts to talk to different hardly-remote people, and we’d testrun it, use the chat to IM, all that. What I found out pretty quick with that was that I never cared for the content of our back and forth. What mattered to me was winning the race: getting my reply jammed in faster than the person on the other end could even read it. And have it be proper and right, of course. In short, I wasn’t good to chat with, since it was never about the discussion, always about the speed.
Anyway, fast-forward to 2017 when something kind of devastating happened: in a move, the lamp I’ve always kept on my desk (now: standing desk) went forever away. And I couldn’t find it again on any shelf, at any thrift store. But this made me realize something: I needed a lamp. Why? To see my keyboard. Evidently I’ve been using my eyes to guide my fingers to the right letters since forever, and never really realized I was doing that. I told my wife and she said back, Didn’t I learn to type in typing class in junior high or high school? Um, no. I was in metal shop, I was in wood shop, I was an officer in FFA, I was on the basketball court, I was in more in-school suspension than was really beneficial for a well-rounded education, but typing? Far as I know, that was never offered. I was going to be a farmer. Why would I need to know my way around a keyboard?
Result: over the years, I got pretty fast, typing, but I think I’ve been doing some accelerated version of hunting and pecking. The kind where I need a light shining on my keyboard.
My wife kindly showed me the home row, left me to it. I’m forty-five, right? What real hope was there for me?
About this time, a package showed up—a Keyboardio I’d evidently kickstartered or indiegogo’d or something back in 2015. It had been so long, and so many addresses ago, I’d assumed I’d actually just made a donation. But, man, this Keyboardio, it’s everything this video claims:
For years I’ve been using the standard regular nothing-special Microsoft ergonomic setup:
I know this keyboard so, so well, and I go through them pretty regular, since I type hard, apparently (also, I like to travel with them). But, this Keyboardio, as alien and unwieldy as it was at first, it had something I’d never encountered before: mechanical keys.
Mechanical keys are the answer.
Next, the Keyboardio manual, it directed me to http://www.keybr.com/practice, which—I don’t play videogames, but I’ll play this game until deep in the morning. And I did; I got pretty quick on my Keyboardio. Well, in the exercises, I was fast. Anywhere else? Anywhere that required capital letters?
I could not learn the Keyboardio’s shift-key. But I’m not selling mine, either. I mean, for one, it’s this perfect marriage of art and utility. And it fits my hands like a glove. Well, like a pair of gloves. But I think I need to be a better touch-typist before embarking on a weird-placed shift key.
In the meantime, though, I found that I’m now spoiled for mechanical keys. My MS ergo keyboard feels so clunky, like I’m Harrison Bergeron wearing weights on my fingers to keep me properly average.
This is the Kinesis Advantage 2, with mechanical keys, and with the shift in the place my muscles and mind evidently sort of remember. And I can blaze on this keyboard:
I mean, I don’t consistently ring that bell—my actual average right now is probably in the eighties or nineties. But I’m practicing, and I’ve got a stack of 120+/no error screencaps. My goal is maybe one-forty or so. Except of course I like to go fast; I’m still that annoying guy in the chat-window. I still want to hit those legendary speeds PKD was supposed to be able to reach. Granted, you stroke out at that velocity, with the pink light suffusing all through you. But still, right? Wouldn’t it feel wonderful, just to try to hold it together? I’d feel like I was in a manga, speed lines trailing behind me for panels and panels.
And my plan once this keyboard is second-nature, it’s to THEN come back to my sacred-cool Keyboardio, and see what I can make happen. Might not be long, either. Or, too, I could just end up investing in two or three of these Kinesis rigs; they fit like gloves well, and would travel nicely, I suspect. Though, for the standing desks I build in hotel rooms all across creation, I have recently picked up this gadget, which is pretty fun, and maybe even big enough for a weekend out of town:
It’s pretty slick, and pairs great. Anyway, next trip’ll tell, I figure.
Also, I entered all this text with my Kinesis, and hardly had to look down at all—only when I lost those home keys (which is one place the Keyboardio wins: its home keys have a little bump on them).
More important: it’s whole new world for me now. The trick with every day, with every hour, it’s finding writing time, right? If I can type faster, now, and if my mind can work at the speed of my fingers, I might be in business. Well, in more business. My project for December is to overhaul a slasher novel I wrote. That’s going to be the test of this touch typing thing.
Also? I guess I could end up just doing typing exercises for the next few years. They’re the single most fun thing I’ve found in a long time. It really feels like nothing else, the words on screen going into my eyes and straight through to my fingertips, which are this flurry of motion and clacking I can’t begin to understand, or control. Thinking only messes typing up. I love that feeling. EL Doctorow said that, when the writing’s going well, it’s like taking dictation from God. Going over the precipice into the unthinking void on the other side of a hundred and twenty words per minute, that’s exactly that feeling. And I hope to soon think that’s slow. I want to see that pink light. How I know it’s there? One of the nonsense words that site threw up on screen for me to enter, that was already coming out my fingers before I’d even read the word in the first place, it was “valis.” I only hope I can hotwire fiction into the process somewhere or another. This post? It’s the first halfway real thing I’ve used this Kinesis for. Next up: a story, a chapter. The world.