There were two things that I wanted to be as a kid. One was a singer and the other was a writer. I had this fantasy that someday I would be ‘somebody’. After talking with my mom and the guidance counselors, my eyes were opened up to the fact that many artists starve trying to follow their dreams. I was encouraged to have a back- up plan that included business skills such as typing and filing.
Typing – To work for somebody else
I started to type, and found that it was something that just came naturally to me. In high school my typing speed was around 54 words per minute (wpm), but as I advanced in business, so did my typing speed.
When I got into secretarial work, I tried to take a college course on shorthand, because I thought it might help me take notes in business meetings but I couldn’t comprehend the symbols and I could never read my own writing back. Truth be told, I am handwriting challenged. I got the best jobs because of my typing abilities but I was always typing other people’s work.
Typing – To work for myself
After being laid off, I went into a temporary agency and was tested for my abilities. I came back at 82 wpm and something like 9675 strokes per five minutes for data entry. Not only was I good at typing, I was good at learning new software – a thing I hadn’t even contemplated in high school. I became a contractor going from business to business, working on special projects. I worked fast and got paid better than my peers because my production was higher.
Using the skill to record and communicate
In the last ten years I’ve gotten to the point where I can carry on a conversation with someone, and type something else on a totally different subject; kind of like a drummer who beats one rhythm with his four appendages, while singing a song to a different melody.
Typing comes to me easily, and I recently clocked myself at 92 wpm. It is hard for me to watch the hunt-and-peckers, who painstakingly think about each keystroke and the location of the keys on the keyboard. That’s how I am with music, the timing and finding the right notes takes work, but I can lead a meeting, complete a project action log, and compile the meeting notes to keep folks on track easily.
How to learn the skill?
With typing, I started off slowly, learning the keys, and repeating them over and over again until I didn’t have to think about which key was which. Then I began typing sentences, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy moon.” Finally I added the numbers that were a reach until they started adding them to the keyboards as a side option and then I could fly with them too.
With each key stroke, I would say the letters or words in my head so that the transference of information went from the eyes, to the mind and then the hands. I stopped reading what I typing and got frustrated when I had tons of typos, so I forced myself to go slower and be more accurate. Over time I got faster and faster until it is almost instantaneous.
How to pick up speed with typing?
It’s kind of like with the American Idols singing Frank Sinatra. They have to sing the phrase, not the words. With typing, instead of reading a letter at a time in my head, I began reading sentences, and they would flow on the typewriter, or later on the computer, almost as fast as I read them.
Being able to take good notes, or provide detailed recaps has yielded me a special audience for some of my recap articles as a writer, and at the same time it has given me some unique opportunities in business because it helped me excel over my peers – I stood out.
Thirty years ago, I remember thinking that someday instead of typing up business meeting minutes for someone else; I might actually become a published writer, and finally be ‘somebody’.
Who would have thought a skill as simple as typing would have taken me further than just about anything else I’ve ever done? It’s one of those skills that in my mind, is mandatory, to be competitive in today’s world. You can do it, just be patient, and keep practicing. Go for quality first, and the quantity will come.