Friday, May 28, 2010

Banging the Keys

Cricket McRae

The other day I saw a book called Bang the Keys by Jill Dearman in the library at the Northern Colorado Writers' studio. It was in my hand before I realized I'd picked it up.

Okay, allow me to backtrack. Northern Colorado Writers is the dream child of Kerrie Flanagan. The stated goal of the organization is "to encourage and support writers of all levels and genres on their journey to writing success." Currently there are almost 200 members who take part in classes, workshops, critique groups, retreats and the annual NCW Conference.

But my favorite thing of all? The studio. Kerrie rented a good-sized office space and lots of people chipped in to paint, decorate, and furnish it. Coffee and tea are always available, as are snacks, a microwave, wi-fi, a house laptop, a printer and copier. There's a classroom space, a library and all sorts of places to sit and write. And finally there is the quiet room where talk is verboten, with the teal recliner where I sit for hours and hours and bang the keys to exhaustion. It's a place where writers can go to the office, talk publishing, writing, and promotion, and then settle down and work. Pretty darn awesome, if you ask me. Kudos to Kerrie for taking the leap and making it work.

Anyway, Bang the Keys is directed more at people who are starting a project or trying to make that leap from wanting to be a writer to actually, you know, writing. It looks pretty well put together and is no doubt inspiring, but I tucked it back on the shelf after a quick perusal.

What really caught my eyes was the title. See, I Bang Keys. Meaning, I type really hard. People at the library glare at me. My guy complains I type too loudly, especially when he's trying to sleep. Fast (Don't all novelists type quickly? I mean, what other choice is there?) and hard enough to wear the numbers off my keyboard.

The space bar on my laptop is worn like the dipping steps of a medieval castle. The "M" and "N" are gone, and the "E" is well on its way.

I blame my father's old Olympia typewriter.

After all, that's the machine I learned to type on. Sure, the high school had IBM Selectrics, but at home was the Olympia in its gunmetal gray case. I would sit in front of the television and watch reruns of Star Trek while banging out the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog over and over and over, trying to build up speed. Typing out bits of dialog from the TV, trying to keep up, whacking at the stiff keys like I was killing snakes.

Don't ask me why. I don't know. I was driven by little alphabet demons.

Still am, apparently.

One of the guys in my writing group says he's the same way. He learned how to type on an old, obstinate typewriter, and now he beats his laptop damn near to death. So there are at least two of us.

Any others?


Anonymous said...

I don't know that I bang the keys but I certainly hit them often and fast. I've warn all of the letters off from 'a' through to 'f' and the 'k' and the 'e' aren't doing too well either. I can't imagine how painful it would be to type a novel draft if you couldn't touch type. I know I couldn't do it.

Graham Powell said...

I learned to type on a manual - mine was probably the last class at my school that did - but I use only the Mack truck of keyboards, Keytronic, so I haven't destroyed one yet.

I hate typing on laptop keyboards, and it kills me that people actually buy desktop keyboards with the same flat keys. Gah!

Anonymous said...

That Writers Studio sounds a lot like The Writers Place in Kansas City.

Maribeth said...

Oh, if only we had a place like your studio around here!
I learned to type on a little green Thom Thumb children's typewriter. Index fingers and right thumb only. But the key strike had to be hammer like. Until I read this post I didn't realize why my strike is so heavy.
Don't knock two fingers at six or seven what did I know?
Safe holiday everyone!
Giggles and Guns

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You too, Cricket? I thought I was the only one! My husband says he's going to put out some big bucks on my next laptop so it will be quieter.

I grew up with a typewriter, older one. So maybe that does make sense. And I type really fast. People in libraries do stare... :)

Janel said...

It took me forever to get used to typing on a laptop. I love the raised keys and satisfying click of our desktop computers, which remind me of the typewriters I learned to type on. My kids are fascinated with the dinosaur typewriter in the basement.

Keith Raffel said...

Cricket, how does someone your age even remember typewriters? Me? I got a manual typewriter for my Bar Mitzvah -- which was de rigeur -- and an electric when I went away to college.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'm a banger - a lot of my keyboard letters are "blind." Good thing I'm a touch typist and not someone who needs to hunt and peck. I learned to type on an old manual typewriter nearly 45 years ago and have been at it since. Not sure if that's the reason for my wearing the keys down to nubs or my enthusiasm. I'm voting for a bit of both. I'm really noisy on my little Alpha Smart and hate typing on laptops. And like you, Elizabeth, people stare when I type in public because of the speed. Nothing like a good old fashion high school typing class to give you a lifetime skill. Probably the most useful class I ever took.

Deborah Sharp said...

yep, I'm banging away on my keyboard as I type this comment. Sadly, I can always tell when the writing ISN'T flowing by how quiet the keyboard gets. click, click .... nada.

Cricket McRae said...

Thanks for all your comments -- I had no idea there were so many other key bangers out there.

Casssandra, you sound tougher on your keyboard than I am!

Graham, I don't mind laptop keyboards, but my little Vaio is a tight squeeze, even for smaller hands.

Paul and Maribeth, how cool would it be if there were writers places all over, with reciprical memberships for travelers?

Elizabeth, when you get your new quiet laptop (briefly) assign clicky typewriter key sounds to the keyboard. That lasted about ten minutes at my house. ; - >

Janel, I wish I still had an old dinosaur typewriter!

Keith, you know just what to say ; - ). But I received an electric when I went to college, too.

Sue Ann, high school typing class was soooo boring, but you're right about it being one of the most useful skills to have.

Lol, Deb. Nothing quite so hateful as the sound of just staring at the screen.

Darrell James said...

Sadly I never learned to type, I was on the math and science track. But after a few gazillion words as a writer, I'm pretty fast with 2 to 3 fingers of each hand (not necessarily at the same time.) It works for me. I still type fast than I can think :)

Shel said...

I learned to type on an IBM Selectric in school, but I touch type, and I touch type fast, so my letters get worn off and my spacebar worn shiny as well.

Alice Loweecey said...

My kids look at me funny when I say I learned on a manual typewriter. (I remember when color TV started, too. Eep.)
I don't touch-type, but I do kind of a flash-memory trick for a line at a time. I'm fast through practice, and boy do I BANG those keys too!

Cricket McRae said...

Darrell, you obviously learned how to type -- just differently. ; - )

Shel, don't you kind of miss the whirling ball on the Selectrics? Such a solid "thwick!" with each key stroke.

Alice, just tell your kids that typewriters were word processors with the printer built right in!