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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.

How I Create New Characters?

I enjoy character design more than anything else. I feel like the characters are the most interesting part of a story because they are the driving force behind it. They shape the events that happen and can also grow as a result of those events. It’s usually the goals of the characters that become the focus point of a story. As well as this, I guess it’s just fascinating trying to figure out what makes people tick. A character might be unlikeable to begin with for instance, but actually has a very reasonable explanation for their behaviour that can quickly change our feelings towards them (Severus Snape is my favourite character in Harry Potter because of how complex they are.) It’s an amazing feeling if you manage to create a character that others then seem to invest in as if they were real people. I myself can think of several characters that I have connected with and even been inspired by. I feel like I can also express the different parts of my personality within the characters I create.

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The Creative Mind

There are a few creative people in my family with an interest in subjects such as art and photography. As such, I always felt like I was encouraged to be creative too, even though I later realized I had a strong interest in computers. When I studied game programming I found that it was actually quite rare to come from such a background and most of the people I talked to were better at subjects like Maths and Science. When they noticed that I was able to create decent looking sprites to put in my games they would comment on how creative I was. One of my closest friends would always put himself down, claiming that he just wasn’t capable of being creative. I always remember one of the things I learnt as a kid from a book about drawing animals, that you should never say you can’t, but that you’re learning. I believe that we restrict ourselves by forming such strong beliefs of what we’re not capable of. As such I would try to encourage my friend whenever it was required of us to do something more creative.

A lot of people seem to link creativity to skills such as painting or writing, but it’s actually beneficial in other areas too. To be creative is to be able to generate lots of ideas and then eventually hone in on a solution to a problem. Creativity isn’t a talent, but something that all people can posses. People that are considered to be creative however, tend to be more curious and inquisitive in nature. According to The Bedside Book Of Psychology by Christian Jarrett and Joannah Ginsburg (Cognition, creativity, p 64-65) people that rank high on intelligence test are usually less creative because it requires a different mindset.

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A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities

I came across this post ‘A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities‘ on the blog ‘Things Matter‘ where people have been ordering and describing what they think they are best at. I couldn’t think of a reason not to join in and give this a go, so here it is:

  1. Drawing/Painting: I come from a very creative and artistic family and so have always been encouraged to spend my time drawing and painting. I don’t get as much time to do it now as I use to, but I still like to keep up with this skill so that I can create images for the games I like to build. Whenever I have the time I will also upload images to Deviant Art.
  2. Photography: I love going out with my camera to take photos. It encourages me to go out, take an interest in things and to explore my surroundings more. I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I got my first digital camera as a kid. I upload a lot of my images to Flickr.
  3. Video Editing/Directing: I use to really enjoy putting movies together using video editing software. We use to meet up and share the movies that we created. I haven’t done this in quite a while though, but I imagine I could pick it back up again if I wanted to.
  4. Writing: I never considered myself to be great at writing, but I do enjoy doing it and took a free online course last year – start writing fiction. I also attempted NaNoWriMo. I’d like to improve this skill so that I can also write better text for my games and maybe even attempt a visual novel sometime.
  5. Editing: I need to have a bit more patience in this area. I tend to enjoy starting the creative process, but I start to get distracted by the time I get around to editing my work. I do spend a lot of time editing my photos on Photoshop however and I also have a better understanding of the importance of editing my writing.
  6. Cooking: I’m not so great at cooking (I’m the kind of person that eats to live rather than lives to eat, so food doesn’t interest me that much,) but I do try to bake something each week. You can see some of these attempts on my website, Share And Bake.
  7. Public Speaking: I don’t enjoy getting up in front of people, but I have done it in the past so I’m not incapable of it either.
  8. Dancing: I don’t feel comfortable dancing in public, but I will admit to having some fun in the privacy of my own room, in front of the computer with the music on loud.
  9. Singing: I can’t sing at all and I very rarely do even on my own. It leaves me feeling self-conscious.
  10. Acting: Other than drama at school I’ve never attempted to act before, nor do I plan to in the future.
  11. Playing Musical Instrument: Never done this before, other than messing about with keyboards and recorders when I was a little kid.

Coming Up With New Blog Post Ideas

Coming up with new ideas when you most need them, no matter what the situation, can be a struggle for many of us. Blogging is one area where we frequently have to come up with new ideas on a regular basis. I’ve ventured into projects in the past just to be intimidated by the prospect of having to update it regularly, and as such they fell short. However, there are also lots of tips available on how to keep ourselves inspired.

Trying to come up with an idea on the spot usually isn’t the best way to go about it. Most of my ideas come to me when I’m not trying to find them – our brains can be working on a problem in the background without us even realizing it. As such it can be helpful to keep a journal on you at all times. I have one for games and story ideas and I also keep a file with blog post ideas. We have to train ourselves to listen to our thoughts and to keep an open mind. A lot of us just throw our thoughts away and never really act upon them. It’s a bit of a joke amongst my friends that I’m always being struck randomly with new game ideas no matter where I am, but I simply don’t have a time where I close myself off to potential ideas. I usually find that a lot of inspiration can be found at the times that I’m suppose to be out relaxing; That doesn’t mean we should never allow ourselves to switch off, but we can store those ideas away for later instead of just pushing them aside.

My friends are a fairly passionate bunch of people and it’s not unusual for us to change between many subject topics while hanging out at the pub. Chances are, something will come up that might be interesting to write about later on. I allow myself to make a mental note at the time. If not with our friends we can find a lot of like minded people online through forums, communities and on other blogs. In fact, other bloggers can be a great source for ideas; We might be able to add to a topic or offer a different viewpoint – make sure to link back to them in this case. There’s also the option of writing to others to see if they want to do an interview or guest post.

Allowing ourselves to enjoy lots of experiences or exposing ourselves to lots of information can also give us more places from which to draw inspiration. Depending on the content of the blog, searching lots of relevant news sites and checking trends on social networks might help. I spend a lot of my spare time playing games, reading books and watching films – sometimes I form an opinion or analysis that I can then write about.

We could also look back over previous blog posts. Maybe we can extend a topic further and write more about it now. It’s also a good idea to break posts down if the scope is too wide, therefore turning one idea into two potential posts. Very lengthy posts could also be separated into parts as a series. Some topics can also re-occur, making it easier to figure out what to post on particular days. For example, I loved the Fan Art Friday on The Nerd Nebula. There are also plenty of sources online and in books outlining different blog post structures.

It’s also important not to be too critical on ourselves. Not all blog posts are going to be masterpieces or as well received as we’d like, but worrying about it can cause us to freeze up. Don’t be too quick to throw out ideas, even if now doesn’t feel like the right time to work on it – just keep it written somewhere.

Being able to create new content consistently can be a challenge. Lots of us have slower moments where we’re not quite sure what we want to create that day, but there are lots of ways in which we can help ourselves to get inspired. Keeping a blog can be a good way to help develop these skills and to motivate us to stay updated.

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Thinking About Starting A Blog?

There are lots of positive reasons for starting your own blog. Writing is a really fun activity; doing so regularly can improve our writing skills or give us a healthy outlet. It’s a good way to share the things we are working on and to receive useful feedback (see ‘The Importance Of Sharing.’) Some of the feedback that we do receive can challenge the way we think. I’ve learnt a lot from the comments and posts of other bloggers. The sense of community is wonderful and I’ve stumbled across a fair few like-minded people. There are very few opportunities in life where we can actually be ourselves, but our blog is one place where we have a lot of control. For me personally, a reason to start this blog is to overcome my anxiety of putting myself out there, even if it is just a very small part of the blogosphere.

Sill, many of us sit on the idea of keeping a blog before starting for various reasons. One such reason might be the confidence we have in our own writing skills. However, not everyone that blogs is a professional writer. I’ve never been very naturally talented at writing, but I’m good enough to share some of my ideas. Besides, what better way to improve those skills than having a reason to use them regularly.

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Creative Block

I was watching an episode of ‘Portrait Artist Of The Year’ and one of the artists was explaining how she was sometimes scared that she would approach the canvas and find that she had forgotten how to paint. It seems kind of silly, but I could totally relate to that. Quite often I feel hesitant to sit down and create because I’m worried that I’ll have forgotten how.

It happens a lot when I’m programming, a fear that somehow all of that syntax knowledge will be erased from my mind. Of course that has never happened, but sometimes I’ll flick through a programming book just to re-assure myself. I have had bad days where the logic just doesn’t seem to come to me. I’ll sit there staring at the screen unable to process what it is that I need to do; apparently writers are not the only ones to suffer from block.

I’ve been feeling it recently with my art too. Regrettably I don’t always have the time to draw, but even if its been a few weeks it will always feel natural to me again when I return. I don’t suppose I’ll have improved, but I have found that once you’ve honed those drawing skills you never seem to lose them. Yet this still doesn’t stop me from having that brief moment of anxiety when I first put pencil to paper.

I’ve found the trick to conquering this is just to learn to trust yourself and to go for it. Even if something takes a while at first, eventually it’ll get there. There’s also no reason for why any well-practised skill would just suddenly disappear. All creative people have good and bad days.

NaNoWriMo The Final Words

Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

words

So I hit my target of 50,000 words today and became a NaNoWriMo Winner. It feels strange when you’ve been focussed on something for so long when it is suddenly removed. Even if you really wanted to get it done, you still feel at a loss when it’s over. I haven’t finished my story mind. At the start much of my panic revolved around whether my idea could stretch to 50,000, but now that I’m there those worries seem silly and I still have a fair bit to go, plus I want to edit and improve it. So getting to this point isn’t actually the end, but just one achievement on my journey that I can enjoy.

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NaNoWriMo The End Is In Sight

I’m now on 36,950 words and the end is in sight. I’ve been finding it a little bit easier this week. I was relieved to be able to catch up with my words last week because it would mean I could still meet my target while writing slightly less per day, but since that point I’ve actually been writing more. It feels better to be gaining on words rather than catching up. As well as that, it no longer feels like such a high goal to reach with just 13,050 words left to go. I remember it felt like I’d accomplished a lot just when I’d hit my first 10,000, but now I’m looking forward to reaching 40,000 because it’ll mean I just have that thin slice left to go. I’ve already written more than that so I know I can do it.

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The Halfway Point Of NaNoWriMo

I now have 21,938 words and in just a few days time I’ll have hopefully passed the half way point. I think even if I don’t succeed at reaching the full 50,000, I’ll feel a sense of achievement just for getting to this point. I’ve caught up with my words, despite having missed the first two days. I can get away with writing slightly less per day now, which feels a lot easier by comparison and should motivate me to keep going.

I think I’m also finding it easier because I’m becoming better acquainted with my characters as I go. I’m also getting better at not editing while I write. Loads of new ideas are coming to me throughout this process, and so there are probably bits that don’t make so much sense now or are not in the right place within the story. I do often find it difficult to fully plan for something before starting though. It’s usually while I work on something that the best ideas come to me. I’m seeing this as just a part of that process of formulating my story, and then I can neaten it up afterwards.

When I write I usually do so in order, but I have been jumping around a little bit more during this as ideas have come to me. I’ve been trying to write so many words per day so as to keep up, but I have to admit that I’m finding the count to be a bit too much of a distraction adding to the pressure to write. I find that I tend to get good and bad days that affect how quickly and well I can write. I’ve hidden the word count and have found it’s better to instead set a routine of writing for so long each day. Usually if you don’t worry about it and just develop the habit of working every day the content will just happen as a result of that. I’ve also found that scribbling a few notes down before starting seems to help prepare me to start writing.

I did have a bit of a blip last week. I’m using my laptop for this; Sometimes I spend a lot of time up at my boyfriend’s place so It’s important to be able to carry it around with me. My laptop has always worked well and been reliable for me. I’ve used to build games, websites and create digital artwork without any problems. I had typed out a few paragraphs and then it suddenly blue screened on me. Luckily it came back, my work was recovered and I’ve had no issues since, but the trust is gone. I’ve been backing up my work every day anyway.

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