In case you’re queuing up late for the buffet line, this month we’re focusing on speed!
In my post titled, “The Speed of Story,” back on February 8th, I proffered the hypothesis that there are four areas an idea needs to travel through to become a story: 1) Yon High, that magical place where ideas are born and doesn’t really involve us; 2) The Lightning Bolt, the way in which ideas are transmitted to you via Yon High; 3) The Brain, that complicated snake pit of self-doubt and worry; and 4) Output, the way in which you capture a story, which is what we’re here to discuss today…which naturally leads us into the Wilds of Technology.
The infamous They say it doesn’t really matter how you get the words down, just that you somehow do. But I think it matters. I think it matters a lot.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course it’s most important that you get the words down at all, and I’m no stranger to writing it out in longhand to try and loosen up writer’s blockages.
But at the end of the day, the final form that your professional work must take — and it is crucial that you consider it your professional work — is some sort of digital format that, in most instances, should be compatible to Microsoft Word. I won’t argue the merits of Microsoft Word versus some other word processing software.¹ Why not? Because this is just one of those things that is. No sense wasting energy trying to change something you can’t.
And besides all that, don’t you want to remove any sort of physical limitations that you can between you and the written word? Better to be able to focus on what’s happening in the scene rather than where they hid the dang “q” again.
So here’s the bottom line: If you want to make your living as a professional writer, you have to learn how to touch-type…and quickly. Now, before you throw your hands up to tell me about your dad who typed reports for the Army for 30-plus years using only his two index fingers, thank you very much, let me inch a little farther out on this limb.
Not only do I think that being able to type 60-plus words per minute is an essential skill for the 21st century writer, I also think basic computer skills, web skills, graphic design skills, social networking skills, marketing skills, and even basic programming skills fall into this category.
I know that reading this is probably giving many of you an uncomfortable sinking feeling in your gut, but you have to look at this thing objectively. We live in a digitally-connected world now. Not only does this make information and opportunities more accessible to us, it makes them more accessible to everybody else in the world. What that simply means is that there’s more competition, lots more.
And let’s take a look at some of that friendly competition. We’ve got innovative published authors out there releasing their novels for free and winning awards and then signing traditional publishing contracts for their work. We’ve got authors on Kickstarter.com raising money to fund their work. We’ve got authors who have earned publishing contracts through their blogging efforts.
This is the brave new world we’re operating in…only it’s not so new anymore. The kids that were spoon-fed on this stuff are now grown up and entering the field. The competition is smarter and faster and not afraid to try new things. And I’m willing to bet that all of them can type fast.
Now, if you are not a touch-typist at all, or are simply a slow typist, please don’t feel defensive or ashamed…or even illogically proud of your 23-wpm typing speed. Just get busy. There are hundreds of free typing tutor applications and games you can download. The games are fun. And if you spend just a few focused hours on developing your typing skills, you will see a marked improvement. It doesn’t take long at all. I learned to type fast in a few weeks back in high school, and I never had to think about it again. It’s just like playing video games, guys. Practice, practice, practice! Once you develop this skill, you’ll never look back.
Now, for those of you who already know how to type, you get a “meets minimum requirements” sticker — yay! — and tomorrow we’ll discuss coding your own website from the ground up.
Ha-ha! Just kidding. Really, I am. But maybe not completely. I think the more we learn, the more we open ourselves up to having our own brave and innovative ideas. Maybe it’s an overstatement to say a modern writer needs to be able to build their own website from scratch, but it couldn’t hurt.
But definitely, unequivocally, a writer’s gotta be able to type fast.²
¹ I actually use OpenOffice myself, which I love…and which also happens to be free. But I am not shut to the notion of any other software I might need to further my career.
² Obviously, if you have some sort of disability that prevents you from using the keyboard, there are other options out there, most notably Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The incredibly prolific Lynn Viehl uses it regularly and blogs about it here.