I was sitting here doing some writing this morning when I looked over at my partner, who was (and is) madly rushing to finish yet another of the seemingly endless stream of papers that stand between her and a masters degree in English. As I watched her write, and then went back to my writing, something hit me rather suddenly. We are both lousy typists. We are both fast enough (I would say I´m faster, but she would probably say otherwise), but more than half of our hands get bored as we type, because they have nothing to do. She uses her two pointer fingers, while I boldly add my middle fingers and thumbs (for the space bar) to the mix. The rest of our hands might not get used, but they get lots of attention, because we both stare down at them, and the keyboard below them, as we type. In other words, we do almost nothing that we were taught to do when (or if) we learned to type.
I needed numbers, so I googled myself up a few typing tests. My average score was 50 words per minute. Not bad, or so I thought. But then I did some reading around. That´s when I got a bit depressed. It turns out that I type at the high end of the range for average typists, but well below where advanced typists can function. Good typists using a decent technique can function at over 60 wpm (in some cases, well over).
Because of the type of work that I do, in an average day I write several thousand words. As I write (and as I have become very conscious as I am writing this) my typing is slower than my thoughts, rather than the opposite. Of course, I pause in my writing to think or research or confirm something, but there are still lots of periods of sustained typing activity. If I were able to improve my speed from 50 wpm to 60 (something the talking frog on the site where I took my last test said I should be able to do with practice), that would be a 20% improvement. In other words, if I typed properly I could do the writing I do now every day in less time. Maybe 15 minutes, or half an hour, or more or less. The amount doesn´t really matter. What does matter is that I could either do more in the same time, or I could do what I do now, and free up time for something else.
So, what do I do about it? My first thought was to travel back in time and actually pay attention to all the people who tried to teach me to type properly. Barring that, there are dozens (probably thousands) of books and websites and software packages and courses that promise that they can help. I´ll find one and invest (as opposed to spend) a bit of time here and there to make a difference. It doesn´t even have to be a profound difference to be worthwhile. Sure, 80 wpm would be great, but even 55 wpm would be a 10% improvement. When you type as much as I do, that can´t hurt. In fact, it would make me considerably more productive.