How I Learnt to Touch Type (Trusting our Muscle Memory)
Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to learn how to touch type and to do so quickly. I dedicated myself over the space of two weeks and by the end I was able to type fairly well. The difficulty was that I was already fast at typing using my own method and so switching slowed me down for a while. I decided that learning how to touch type would be beneficial for me, although to begin with I doubted the claims that it was faster.
There are lots of free ways to learn touch typing online. I used a couple of websites: https://www.typing.com and http://my.typingtrainer.com. Each website uses different methods for training and I found it helped to go through a second one to help cement what the first one had taught me. There are also various games available. The usual typing tasks can be a little monotonous, but a game can help you to improve without even feeling like you’re putting the effort in. The one I tried out was Typing of the Dead: Overkill – a good one to help speed up your typing. I didn’t concern myself with speed to begin with, instead focussing on accuracy. I would repeat each test until satisfied enough to move on. I found that my typing speed improved on its own as the location of each key moved to muscle memory. At first it was difficult to type quickly because I had to pause to think about where to place each finger. I wouldn’t suggest being too punishing on yourself; As speed increases it’s likely that a few mistakes will crop up.
I put a lot of time aside to learn all of the letter keys in as short a time as possible, allowing me to fully switch to touch typing. When I attempted to learn it before I had only used it during practice sessions and then would revert back to my old style the rest of the time. To pick something up quickly I have found that it’s best to try and use it all the time. This can be challenging to do, particularly if you need to type for a living, as your speed will take a hit to begin with. I found it frustrating for the first few days and had to avoid the overwhelming urge to switch back. I had to keep catching myself to ensure I continued to touch type correctly. It was worth the effort in the long run and now I wouldn’t go back. Many of us develop our own methods for what feels comfortable to us, and it’s not necessary to change how you do something if you’re currently content.
The most important thing that I’ve taken from this is the importance of going in with the right mindset. I had attempted touch typing before, but I gave up due to frustration. It seemed strange to me that anybody could feel comfortable typing in that way and I would make up excuses about how my hands were too small or my fingers weren’t dexterous enough. When I taught myself this time I was much friendlier to myself. When I made mistakes I took it as a part of the learning process. If I struggled with a letter I would tailor my training to focus on it. I also kept telling myself that in time I wouldn’t have to think about it, much like riding a bike.
It was fascinating to experience how my muscle memory developed to allow me to touch type. No matter how frustrating something is to begin with, if we keep at it consistently our brains will eventually adapt. We do lots of things on auto-pilot because we’ve done it so often we don’t need to think about it anymore. Touch typing is the same in that eventually your hands will move of their own accord and you can trust them to take the correct positions. I noticed this happening as my fingers would move before I’d even considered where to put them. I’d hesitate to begin with as I was uncertain, but then I’d check the keyboard and they’d be hovering over the correct key. I came to trust them and now I take a back-seat in figuring out where each key is. I find it easier not to look at the keyboard as it can throw me (it’s like how you learn the controls for a game, but then as soon as you think about what buttons you’re pressing you can’t seem to play anymore.)
Whenever I want to learn something I tell myself that I can trust my brain to eventually figure it out. It takes some of the responsibility away from your own shoulders; This feels better when things go wrong because you can reassure yourself that your brain just needs a little more time to adjust. It helps to remember previous experiences where we struggled to learn how to do something right away. At the moment I’m trying to learn how to hold a pencil correctly and using the overhand method. I wasn’t corrected from an early enough age and have problems with smudging the ink when I write. When I’d attempted to do this in the past I became despondent because I would struggle to even draw a straight line. I have more patience for it now. If I can learn how to touch type I can do this as well.