Back in February, I shared with you my crazy decision to teach myself how to type from scratch, and using an alternate keyboard layout called Dvorak, to boot. At the time, I still hadn’t made up my mind as to whether or not it had been a good idea, and I promised to check in again later with an update. Well, here I am.
So how has my experiment with learning to touch-type properly with the Dvorak layout gone?
First off, I’m not sure if I adequately explained this in my previous post, but using the Dvorak layout does not require the use of a special keyboard. It can all be done with software. I basically hit a button, and my computer automagically converts the QWERTY key I’m hitting into its Dvorak analog. I hit the key that is labeled J and H appears on the screen.
It means the learning curve is crazy steep, but it also does guarantee you become a touch typist by the time you’re done. Looking at the keys is flat out not an option.
Now let’s talk about that crazy steep learning curve.
I’m not going to lie. The first week of this experience was hell. In order to learn, I used a free tutorial that introduced a few keys at a time, and offered lots of vaguely nonsensical sentences to practice on. I did a new tutorial or three every day. And it was awful. My hands hurt with all the new muscles I was using, asking those pesky, neglected other half of my fingers to pull their weight for once. I refused to let myself go back to typing the way I normally did, so basic emails could take me half an hour to curse and cry and bumble my way through. I constantly had to check my cheat sheet to remind myself where the damn X and V were.
Ten days in, I had the whole alphabet sort of down, but I was typing at about eighteen words per minute. For those of you not familiar with WPM, that means writing a typical 2500 word chapter would take approximately for-f***ing-ever. It wasn’t going to cut it.
So I took the internet’s advice and I practiced and practiced and practiced. I opened up books and stories I loved to my favorite parts and typed them. I took about a million speed tests, hoping I would suddenly, magically be able to type well.
It was still awful. Like trying to speak a foreign language and knowing you could do this so much more easily in freaking English. Without meaning to, I found myself spelling words in my head constantly, even when I wasn’t practicing. So. Annoying.
Then. Finally. Three weeks in, I was typing at about thirty words per minute—still insanely slow and about half my normal speed, but starting to approach at least being functional.
And there were moments. Brief glimpses that were like being in The Matrix and suddenly seeing the lines of shiny green ones and zeroes. I could see how maybe, someday, this wouldn’t suck.
Unfortunately, the holidays were over, my next deadline was beginning to loom, and I didn’t have any more time to dedicate myself fully to learning to type. I dove into edits feeling like I had a broken limb as I tried to make my fingers form words. It was hard, and it sucked, but it was okay.
I practiced and practiced.
Five weeks in, I was typing at about forty words per minute, though with a lot of errors.
Six weeks in and I started being able to type without thinking again, the words flowing out without so much effort. I stopped spelling in my head so much.
Seven weeks in, I started hitting fifty words per minute. My errors were getting fewer.
It’s now been four months, and I’m proud to report that I’m averaging sixty words per minute with ninety-six percent accuracy. Mind you, I started out typing sixty words per minute back before I relearned to type, but remember: I’m now typing just as fast as I used to after only four months. Even better, I’m hitting mid- to upper- sixties from time to time, which makes me pretty optimistic that I’m still improving and will probably continue to speed up with continued practice, whereas with the old way, I was absolutely maxxed out with nowhere up to go.
Maybe even more importantly, my hands don’t hurt, and I’m significantly more accurate. I’m even experimenting with using other writing software like Scrivener now that I’m not so dependent on Microsoft Word’s autocorrect capabilities, which used to be absolutely essential with how many letters I missed.
So, my overall verdict? It’s been a rough road, but in the end, it was totally worth it. Would I recommend it to anyone who already knows how to type QWERTY correctly? Nope. But to any two-finger typists out there, I would say it is absolutely worth giving it a shot.
6/6/15 – Edited to add that I’ve now been at it for six months, and I’m typing seventy-five words per minute with ninety-eight percent accuracy, and I just keep getting better. Totally worth it!