“The Moving Finger Writes…*


In my previous post I mentioned that it takes hours to write one of these little stories.  That’s not exactly true.  It takes minutes to write a story but hours to edit it.  Editing is the real challenge of “trying to get the words right.”

But I confess I have another reason it takes me so long to write a story.  I can’t type.

I am embarrassed to admit that I am strictly a one finger hunt-and-peck man.  Occasionally my left index finger will get involved, but it usually doesn’t get past the “D.”

Then there’s that nasty business with the “Caps lock” key.

It’s not that I am ignorant or untrained.  I took a typing class in high school.  My friend Winfred and I were unfortunate enough to sit front and center in Mrs. Kidd’s little shop of horrors.  Winfred was a great defensive tackle who played some college ball and then went on to become a preacher.  He was my salvation at the time, because he was as bad a typist as I.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager old Winfred writes his sermons by hand.

Mrs. Kidd stood directly in front of us (actually, more like over us) as she gave instructions.  I don’t remember much about her except that she was rather stern and had big nostrils.  Added pressure there.  Ever try to concentrate while looking up at the business end of a double barrel twelve-gauge shotgun?  To make matters worse, she always carried a big wooden ruler, which she regularly applied to my hands when they were in the wrong position.

I went through that entire school year with bruised knuckles.  Told my daddy I got them at football practice.

Once a week we had the dreaded “words per minute” test.  On a good day I might manage 20, and five of those would be misspelled.  But those tests were really the only reprieve I ever got from the tyranny of Mrs. Kidd.   You couldn’t cheat front and center, but a scatterling of cheaters were behind me.

The test would go something like this: “Limber up your fingers.  Type what I’ve written on the board.  We’ll start on my mark in 30 seconds.”

Then, ever so faintly, I’d hear it.  Chick.  Chick.  Chick.  Mrs. Kidd heard it too.  It sent her charging to the rear like a rhino, ready to administer a little corporal punishment to someone else for a change.

I managed to make it through the year.  Think I made a “C” by the skin of my teeth.  But I never attempted to type again.

The other night I asked the Redhead if I was too old to learn to type.  She told me that there were plenty of internet sites that might help.  I looked at a few and thought “maybe I can still do this.”

Then I remembered what a college professor once told me.  “Research has shown that it takes about 10,000 hours to master a skill.”

If my math is right, that’s 417 days, nonstop.  If I subtract hours for leisure activities like work and sleep, I’d be looking at about five years.

That’s a big commitment.  The way I feel most mornings when I get out of bed, I’m just hoping I live another five years.

I think I’ll just stick with hunt-and-peck typing.  With the time I save I might be able to get that left finger nimble enough to reach the “F.”


*and having writ, moves on.”  Omar Khayyam.


26 thoughts on ““The Moving Finger Writes…*

  1. Two years of Mrs. O’Kelley….before computers of course.
    Ever thought of voice recognition? They make systems that recognize southern accents 😀

    1. Trust me that would be worse. I am currently working on a project to convert the classes I teach into an online format. When I do them “live” it takes about 30 minutes per. On a voice recorder it takes several hours, and I sound like a buffoon.

  2. So, “Words Not on Paper” is very similar to “Words Per Minute!” some childhood trauma takes years to work though…..Maybe you should rename your blog….”Words NOT on Paper & Words NOT Per Minute! Damn it!”
    Anyway you prompted my memories of H.S. typing class…..one of my favorite classes and teacher!! As I type away with confidence…..little did she know, or I know…………..

    1. I had no idea you were a triple threat: speaking, writing, AND typing. That just adds to my envy.

      Whenever I look at those old photographs of Hemingway or Faulkner tapping away on their Royal or Remington I think “how cool, I wish that were me.” But I’d never been able to afford to write back then — I would have needed Wite-Out in five gallon buckets.

    2. Ray since I cannot type also! Do you think it may have been teachers fault!! Oh Ms Kidd laugh about it and Greg Boyett wrong spelling? 😐 sorry has to remember skirt lifting so random you had no way but the sound you made I really did not believe it a first happened so fast for both of us! Is Ms Kidd still teaching. ? Or alive ? I forgot how old we are?

      1. I never remembered the skirt thing until you mentioned it, but I do now!

        I suspect Mr. and Mrs. Kidd have both passed, but I’ve lost touch with a lot of Sylacauga folks.

  3. Memories of typing class and rulers. Did she make you sing the song, “a-s-d-f; j-k-l-semi?” The blessing in this slow method you say you use is that you don’t have to edit quite as much!!! “Haste makes waste.”

  4. I never did learn to type. Age wise I was left handed and lost speed on the typewriters we where taught on. My excuse. Love each post as I can relate only too often. Keep the post coming please.

  5. I cannot believe what I am reading. You cannot type, and you took a typing class? How is that possible? I also took a typing class in high school, the only guy in a sea of señoritas. I don’t remember my grade, but I left that class typing 100 words a minute. Likely still do about that. It may take 10,000 hours to master some skills, but typing is not one of them. Get busy. It’s not that difficult, and it really is useful.

    1. Thanks. My friend took the photo. Her instruction was “now try to get that look you make whenever you’re about to make some smart-a** comment. Ah, that’s it,”

  6. LOL!! This reminds me of my brother REX! He was a pharmacist and all day long he typed labels … With two fingers!! Two! …and he was Fast!! …and the labels had to be correct! I wish I had asked him why he only used two fingers… God called him home when he was still a young man; I wouldn’t be surprised if he is still using two fingers and doing the LORD’S work!😇
    Love your post! …They bring back sweet memories!

    1. I’ve seen others that can do that. I probably need to just work on that, but I don’t know if I have the patience for it. Maybe if I clench my other fingers I can do it.

  7. I can relate. When I joined the cell phone revolution (two years ago) I vowed to become a fast texter. I just can’t do it. Every now and then I’ll see my 14 y.o. son grab his phone and text a sentence in two seconds, and I think ‘that would have taken me a full minute’. Old dogs, new tricks.

    1. Ah yes, the smartphone. My young co-workers busted me on that. “Hahaha, he can’t type!”

      My response? At least someone taught me how to hold a pencil correctly.

  8. I think most guys just don’t have the finger dexterity to type. I live with one. Drives me nuts watching him hunched over his laptop keyboard pecking slowly away. He thinks it’s the keyboard that keeps him from typing faster and would love to own a Royal model.
    I might add Ray, your penmanship is really very nice ….. be proud!

    1. Oh, Leisa, the ability to type has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with practice and effort. I have big, clunky fingers, and I’m not too bright. Nonetheless, I type like a machine gun.

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