I am a terrible typist. Believe me, nobody would ever hire me for an office job where typing was a requirement, because I can’t make forty words a minute, even allowing for mistakes. My fingers get tangled. I type “form” for “from” so often that I now routinely do a find-and-replace to make sure I’ve got it right. I know perfectly well how to spell “their”, but my fingers persist in reversing the “ei”, and so on, and so on.
Yet somehow, I manage to produce thousands of words of manuscript relatively quickly. Angie says it comforts her to hear my snail-paced tippy-tapping on our quarterly writing weekends, because even at that slow pace, I get five or six thousand words onto the page in a day.
I’ve been thinking about this, wondering how a slow typist is also, paradoxically, a fast writer. There are several factors I’ve identified.
The first is that I think about my writing almost all the time. I turn plot, character, scenery, details of magic and combat and clothing and architecture over in my head during nearly every waking hour. I have dreamed about my novels. In other words, some part of my brain is always picking away at things. When I come to write them down, a lot of it has been worked out for me, at least to the point where I can spit it out to be fixed later.
The second is that I think my synapses snap a little faster than the average on visual things. I play cards faster than David does. I see relationships between objects very quickly. I’m good at pattern recognition. This may have a lot to do with my training in fine art. Since so much of the way I write is a transcription of what I’m seeing in my head, I think the speed at which I see things means that my slow fingers always have something to write. I don’t have to stop to think about a scene; I simply see it.
I do have an asset that I acquired deliberately, and that’s my familiarity and ease with the English language. I don’t often doubt my grammar or punctuation. I usually have the right word for the occasion readily available. I’m not perfect – who is? – but I can relax into the activity of writing because I no longer have to think about the nuts and bolts of it. This is something anyone can learn.
The last piece of it is drive, determination, or, if you like, sheer bloody-mindedness. If I set a goal, I like to meet it. I spend a lot of time with my butt in the chair and my ever-so-poky fingers on the keyboard. Even when it’s difficult to plug along (and it often is) I recall the words of Igor Stravinsky: “Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning.”
In the movie “Limitless”, Bradley Cooper’s character is a writer who gets hold of a drug that lets him use all of his brain. He writes a novel in a weekend, a novel so good he only has to write it once before handing it in to his publisher. There’s a fast writer! I would be all over that drug if it were really available, but there’s no way I could write that novel in one weekend.
Slow typist, remember?