Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Increase Productivity - Learn to Touch Type

Pen and paper may be anathema to many of the younger generation of writers however they are still the preference of the Itinerant Poet.  His creative urges demand the spontaneity the pen and notebook affords.  He can write anywhere without being dependent on booting up, battery life, drizzle or finding a place where the light does not reflect on the screen.  His battered and colourful notebooks are cherished and kept forever.  They are marvelled at by the pupils in the schools he visits like exhibits in a museum.  They contain doodles by our children (then toddlers), phone numbers, directions budgets and hastily scribbled ideas for future work.  They are intensely personal and fascinating.

The dog-eared tomes are handed over to me for input into Word.  I could not do this efficiently had I not learned to touch-type.  I would recommend that any author who does not have a willing assistant but who has basic computer skills, invest some time in learning to do so even if they still write manuscripts and poems in longhand.  There are numerous free typing tutors to download and even more you can pay for.  You probably only need to spend a maximum of half an hour each day and within a couple of weeks you will be able to stare at your notebook and type what you see without much more than an occasional glance at the screen.  You may also find you can do a basic edit as you go as well as benefitting from the spellchecker.

I taught myself to type in July 1987 using my grandfather's Smith Corona Portable, a vintage 1950s typewriter, and a copy of "Teach Yourself Type-writing".  The keyboards may have changed but the layout is still the same so the skills learned have stood me in good stead.  In fact my keyboard skills helped me talk to myself into my first "proper" job in August 1987!

With a fair wind behind me, I can manage a respectable 45wpm.  I am a little slower at other times.  Times for instance when the Itinerant Poet has chosen to start a poetry collection at the front of the notebook but a novel from the back cover and upside down and the two cross over midway.  The novel has frequent inserts that are written up and down the spine of the notebook or crammed in the tiny gap between a line and the one above it.

I shun dictation software - even the new internet-based Apple version built into my MacBook Pro!  You cannot speak naturally and you always have to go back and correct the inevitable errors:  "there" comes out as "they're" on a far too regular basis.  All this said, I personally can create directly via a keyboard.  This is largely because I can type faster than I can write and nearly as fast as I speak.  I still pause for thought but I can go back and delete without messy crossing out.  My digital desktop is littered with electronic sticky notes with ideas for my blog.  However, I still come down in favour of pen and paper.

Fountain Pens for better Handwriting

In the course of our home education journey, I have discovered that the children's writing improves in legibility and content when they are armed with a fountain pen.  They take more time crafting each word as they adjust their speed to the ink flow.  This seems to encourage better formation of each letter. They also seem to reflect more before they commit a sentence to the paper and consequently what they write is much tighter.  For the younger ones (9 and 11 years) the slightly thicker barrel of a fountain pen makes it easier to hold in addition to the above advantages.

The Itinerant Poet preferred tool is a fine point quality Pentel - he can squeeze in more words on a page and it dries quickly.  However, when he does not have one available, any tool will do including a blunt two inch pencil stub!

My choice of pen would be the one given to me for my 11th birthday but which was sadly lost about 20 years ago in a house move.  I was very attached to it as it saw me through O levels, A levels, a degree in French and Institute of Taxation exams.  The Parker 51 with solid gold cap.

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