Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Skill Built to Last

Zestful Blog Post #185

Not long ago a new acquaintance—a fellow author—turned to me and said, “I hate you.” The context was neither a political argument nor a discussion of whether Star Wars IV-VI could ever be surpassed.

No, we were sitting side by side in a conference session, and I was taking notes on my computer, typing on the keyboard. Usually I take notes longhand on paper, if at all, but I wanted to catch everything in this particular presentation.

When the speaker paused, this new acquaintance, who had been watching me out of the corner of her eye, said, “You can type as fast as he can talk.”

I shrugged modestly. (I’ve gotten so good at those modest shrugs!)

“And you don’t make mistakes.”

(Self-deprecating murmur.)

“I hate you.”

Jesus, lady. Of course I knew she meant, “I envy you.” Why do people say I hate you instead? Whatever. Yeah, I can touch-type pretty accurately, and I’m always surprised when other authors can’t. Probably one of the most pragmatic decisions I ever made in high school was to take a one-semester typing class. I was already writing lots of papers and stories, and college was in the offing. At that time, however, part of the female zeitgeist was like, “Don’t learn to type, because then you’ll just be a secretary forever!”

[My keyboard. Oh, and there’s Cheetoh, the baby dinosaur I rescued at the beach last year. He likes to hang out on my desk.]

I was all for the women’s movement, and I certainly perceived the need for it, but I thought, isn’t it like cutting off your nose to spite your face, to NOT learn something because of some principle? (I mean, you could always lie and say you can’t type, right?)

Then after college I got a job as a reporter/photographer, and I sure had to type fast for that. Ahh, that good old IBM Selectric… If absolute certainty had an aural profile, it would be the sound of an IBM Selectric ripping along on 20-lb bond.

Needless to say, I cherish my typing skills now more than ever. Do they teach touch typing (meaning without looking at the keys) in schools these days? Ah, a quick search reveals it’s now called ‘keyboarding skills.’ OK. If you Google ‘how to type’ you’ll find free tutorials on line. Because it’s never too late to learn. Honestly, it’s great not to have to think about the physical act when you’re putting ideas down; it’s great not to have a skill barrier between you and your output.

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  1. When I was in high school guys never took the typing class. A skill I now regret not having. A least I would have met more girls.

  2. LOL, Stanley! Our typing teacher was a big burly male, but yeah, I think the class was all, or almost all, female.

  3. I too went through that debate in high school - be a feminist and say no to typing class or take a long-view of life and get a skill that might pay off for me. I did spend some time in and out of the "administrative assistant" ranks, which served me well - nothing like having to keep someone else organized to learn how to keep yourself organized while paying the bills - as my career grew into copywriting, journalism, and now change management. Now that I'm older and my handwriting is worse than some doctors I know, I'm really grateful for my typing skills. Even with typos, it's much easier to decipher my typewritten notes than my handwritten ones!

  4. I was in the "college" track when I was in high school (I'm 65), but I took plenty of typing classes. I liked typing and was fast and all of the other women in my class were secretary wannabees. I also took shorthand (does anyone under the age of 50 know what that is?) because I figured I could use it to take notes in college. Over the years, I worked a lot of clerical jobs and in college, I earned money typing term papers. My customers were all guys, because in the early 1970s, guys didn't type and there weren't computers yet.The funny thing is, since I began using computers, I still type fast, but make more mistakes than when I used typewriters.

  5. I love this post. I was a kid in the 1970's, and my mother was a legal secretary who had me doing typing exercises on an IBM when I was 8 years old. She saw it as an essential professional skill - not for secretaries, but for executives. It drove her nuts that her bosses were completely unable to write letters for themselves, and she wanted me to be independent. It served me well writing reports on an Apple IIc in elementary school, and I went to college in the 1980s with one of the early "portable" computers: an enormous Zenith that technically could be carried.

    My son (who is a teen now) was taught keyboarding in kindergarten, which was brilliant. He's been typing his school assignments since then. Most of his school books and much of his standardized testing is on the computer, not to mention the daily computer work in the classroom. It just keeps getting more and more important to interface quickly by typing.

    Interestingly, the only time he was taught cursive was for half a year in elementary school. He and his classmates mostly print for written assignments, and they have poorly practiced cursive signatures. I'll be interested to see how written signatures evolve from here.

    - Victoria

  6. For Debbie - I'm not quite 50 and I remember taking shorthand. Natch, my mother taught me that, too. My own hand-written notes are a crazy mix of abbreviations, asterisks, and arrows, so though I have to say I never used shorthand after high school, I think I've developed my own.

  7. Lorraine, it's nice to know you made the right choice! But even then, who knew how important typing skills would become. I remember male reporters trying to get the gals to type their stories for them! And Debbie, yeah, shorthand. I didn't take it because I thought only secretaries needed it (for taking dictation from the bosses), but later as a reporter I wished I had learned it. I wonder if the mistake issue is because we know we can easily correct a mistake digitally, versus olden times when we took extra care because of the hassle of fixing mistakes. Also, on paper, there's evidence of one's typo even after it's been corrected. No such trail with digital... Victoria, how cool that your mom got you started young on the path to independence!! I had a female boss in the 80s who was proud that she couldn't type, and took great satisfaction in having a (female, of course) secretary who did all her typing for her. I would have felt sort of creepy about that. Thank you ALL for stopping by!! (Maybe next week we'll talk about Home Ec...)

  8. Yes, I remember the IBM Selectric, what a nice touch it had on the keyboard. I learned to type so I could become a secretary. It kept paychecks coming so I could take writing classes, buy paper, envelopes and postage to submit, submit, submit. I only made a little money with the writing, but it's great now that I'm doing novels to have the fingers move as fast as the mind can think.

  9. I'm 36 and I took what was called 'typing' in middle school as an elective. This was the early 1990s.

    I am glad I took that class for two reasons: a) I can type like the wind and b) the teacher introduced me to They Might Be Giants by playing "Birdhouse In Your Soul" on cassette while we did our exercises.

  10. Patricia, yeah!! We were all sending out paper manuscripts and query letters up until--when? Some time after 2000? And Cornbread, thanks for stopping by, and I love that your teacher treated yall to some tunes!! (Now I gotta look up that song...)


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