Before I begin, I should probably point out that I’m (sort of) a self-trained typist. So, if you’re looking for advice about traditional touch typing techniques here, then you’ve come to the wrong place.
In fact, I don’t even know how many words per minute I can type – only that I can type about as quickly as I can write by hand and that’s all I really need to know. That is, coincidentally, what I’m going to be talking about today. Even though most of this article will be about my own experiences with learning how to type quickly, I’ll also include some (fairly obvious) advice at the end of this article.
Anyway, when I was a lot younger, my parents got a free demo of a touch typing tuition program (one of the Mavis Beacon ones, I think… wow, I didn’t realise that Mavis Beacon was a fictional character though) on a computer magazine cover disc and I tried it out a few times.
This CD contained a lot of rather traditional advice about typing, such as where to rest your fingers on the keyboard, what the “home row” is etc…. but, to my hyperactive younger self, it was kind of dull and I didn’t really learn that much from it.
Whilst I obviously knew how to use a keyboard back then, it sometimes took me a while to find the right letter when I was typing. In short, it was just quicker and easier to write things by hand. In fact, I don’t think that I really began to get good at typing until my very early twenties.
This might be a generational thing, but since I went to school in the 1990s and early-mid 00s, computers in schools were still a little bit of a novelty (even though I studied ICT at secondary school and also played computer games at home quite a bit) and I got very good at writing things by hand instead.
Yes, my handwriting was (and is) barely legible and fairly small, but – damn– can I write quickly. I absolutely love writing things by hand. Reports that handwriting is a dying art in these soulless days of smartphones and tablets is depressing news indeed.
Even when I was studying creative writing at university, I’d usually write out my stories by hand in a notebook and then type them up afterwards. Not only did this mean that I could edit my stories when I was typing them, but it also meant that I could handwrite my first draft at pretty much the same speed that I was thinking of the story. Plus, I had an instant backup copy of my story too. Likewise, old-fashioned notebooks are far more portable, reliable and useful than even the most advanced tablets and smartphones when it comes to writing stuff.
Yes, I’d had enough experience with typing by then to be able to type at a moderate speed but my typing wasn’t quite up to the speed that I needed for writing fiction. Writing fiction by hand was the fun part and typing it up was the slow, arduous chore that I had to do afterwards.
The first time that I wrote a story using nothing more than a computer happened when I was twenty. I’d heard of a competition called the “3 Day Novel” and I wanted to see if I could do something similar.
So, since I had a few free days, I wrote a novella – but, since I wanted to print out copies afterwards and to know the precise number of words I’d written each day, I decided to type it directly. A few months later, I tried again and wrote another novella. After these gruelling experiences, I still sometimes wrote short stories out by hand, but I was a lot less wary about typing things.
In many ways, it possibly wasn’t even until I started this blog in 2013 that I became entirely comfortable with the idea of typing things without handwriting them first. Making the commitment to writing a 400-1000 word article almost every day meant that I didn’t have time to write things out by hand first. I had a daily deadline and I needed to use my time efficiently. So, I typed everything. I typed 400-1000 words almost every day and, slowly, typing became more and more intuitive.
What I’m trying to say here is that there’s no “magic bullet” when it comes to learning how to type quickly. Often, the best way to learn how to type quickly is just to get well-acquainted with your keyboard through lots of regular practice.
Start slowly and, gradually, you’ll get faster. Likewise, if you challenge yourself to type things within a set amount of time or to a deadline, then – although it’ll be difficult at first – you’ll gradually get better at it.
Plus, don’t be afraid if you still have to look at the keyboard when you’re typing. Although I sometimes still do this occasionally when I’m typing, a couple of years of regular typing practice have meant that my attention is divided equally between looking at the screen and looking at the keyboard whilst I’m typing and – although I can type quickly without looking at the keyboard (through sheer muscle memory and repetitive practice), it’s not always quite as accurate as it is when I’m looking at the keyboard.
No doubt that this will improve with practice, but if you’re just going for sheer typing speed (with a reasonable level of accuracy), then don’t be afraid to look at the keyboard when you’re typing.
Yes, there are formal touch typing techniques that you can learn, which will probably help you to type a lot more quickly and more accurately. But, these aren’t essential. If you just want to learn how to type quickly, then there’s no substitute for practicing regularly.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂