Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Keyboard Blues

I realize most of you have never been forced to sit though my lecture on finding your writing process. I assure you, it’s brilliant – thoroughly researched, full of big words and important-sounding concepts, and even a quiz! One of the things I talk about, though, is muscle memory.

Muscle memory is yet another cool thing your brain does – it learns to group things together so that you can do them without thinking. For example, think about how you shift gears in a car (foot off gas, clutch in, shift, release clutch, press on the gas). If you try to think about each step as you do it, you’ll stall the car out in a heartbeat. Eventually, though, you just do it without thinking – your brain does it all for you as one complete movement. It’s how athletes, dancers, and musicians have their bodies in the right positions at the right moment.

It’s how you type.

I’m forcefully reminded of this at the moment because I have a new keyboard, and IT’S DRIVING ME INSANE. It’s bad enough when I have to use someone else’s keyboard and I realize that not all keyboards are exactly the same. The difference in where the keys are may only be millimeters, but that millimeter is enough to throw me off and litter anything I type with typos. And, dog help me when I’m at the in-laws and I’m using a UK keyboard: some of the keys are in a completely different place and it totally screws me up.

Because I’m suffering from wrist problems (ergonomics is something I’m now forced to explore if I don’t want to suffer for my art), I have a new ergonomic keyboard. It’s curvy and has the split in the middle, and I’m having a really hard time learning to type on it. It’s hard enough to adjust to a new keyboard with the millimeter spacing differences, or the difference in pressure it requires to hit the space bar, but this is insane.

The main problem I’m discovering is that I don’t use the “correct” fingers to hit the keys. The B key is on the left side of the split, but (and this is news to me) I use my right index finger to type the B. That’s not working out so well for me (and since there’s a B in the middle of my name, it’s coming up a lot). Those letters in the middle of the keyboard (T, Y, G, H, B, N) never messed me up before, but that was before I discovered that my dominant right hand obviously likes to take over some of the keys that belong to the left hand. And because those keys aren’t where I expect them to be, I’m messing up all the other letters as well. ARGH!

You don’t want to know how long it’s taken me to get this far on the post or how many errors I’ve corrected already.

And the space bar is sticky, requiring me to hit it harder than I usually do. (I think that might just be a fault of this keyboard, and Staples and I will be having a conversation about that.) I’m not the happiest of campers at the moment. (And this is why I suffered through with the old, non-ergonomic keyboard until the book was done. There’s no way I would have been able to write while dealing with keyboard issues. I’m hoping I’ll adjust before it’s time to start on the new book in earnest.)

I’m downright grumpy about the whole thing.

So, is it just me? Am I the only one who gets tripped up by the millimeter of difference between keyboards or the only one who has trouble adjusting to an ergonomic split keyboard because I forgot everything I learned in Ms. Router’s 9th grade typing class? Do you type properly? Correct fingers on the proper keys, wrists properly arched?

Or is this just a typical Problem Child problem?


Tomorrow we welcome Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward to the blog!


PM's Mother said...

Hang in there. Once you get use to the ergonomic keyboard you will love it. I had wrist problems and had to get one and found I could keyboard faster with it than with the old "flat" kind of keyboard.

Angel said...

I have used an ergonomic keyboard for years and love it! But then I got my alphasmart and had to once again learn to type on a plain keyboard, since I type my rough drafts on that. I still struggle with it because the E and A keys stick, so I find my words littered with too many or not enough of those letters. The draft is littered with typos I have to correct once I get it downloaded to the computer.

But even with it being a regular keyboard, I got a stand to set the alphie on that has the cushion at the bottom, that way my hands are cocked at the right angle, rather than curving downward. I don't have carpel tunnel (knock on wood) but I do suffer from an occassional pinched nerve, so this helps tremendously.

Good luck! Hopefully it won't take you long to get used to it!


Playground Monitor said...

Ah yes. My mother's ergonomic keyboard. When I visit her, the first few days of emails are rife with errors. Then I get used to it and all's well. Then I come back home to my regular keyboard and the first few days of emails are rife with errors. LOL! We should probably all be using them because there's a reason they are made. Maybe when I have to buy a new keyboard I will, but until then...

Linda Winstead Jones said...

When I switched to an ergonomic keyboard, years ago, it took me some time to get used to it. It was like learning to walk all over again. Yikes. :-) Then I bought a Mac, and my ergonomic keyboard wasn't compatible. So, back to the old keyboard, which isn't horribly different from the laptop keyboard, so it wasn't as tough a transition. But now I need to get a new ergonomic keyboard, one that's Mac compatible. I hope I pick it up quicker this time. But I'm not going to try right in the middle of a book. (Not being a glutton for punishment.)

Smarty Pants said...

I switched to an ergonomic keyboard about 7 years ago. Carpel tunnel creeps up early when you start at 14. Its rough at first, but eventually you'll find you can type faster and more comfortably with it.

My big problem right now is with my mouse. I love the scroll wheel, but I find now that when I use it too much, my elbow hurts. Great. I hate those ergonomic mice with the big roller balls.

Problem Child said...

Hey SP -- have you heard about the vertical mouse? It came highly recommended to me as an ergonomic wrist saver, but I haven't found one yet. Still looking...

And switching keyboards mid-book is not a good idea. I was typing on my mini last night and got all messed up.

Smarty Pants said...

Is that like a joystick?

Smarty Pants said...

Like this:

Instigator said...

I have avoided an ergonomic keyboard for this very reason. I type with the correct fingers...my 9th grade typing instructor would kill me if I didn't. But I can't turn my hands the way I need to on an ergonomic. And I've never had trouble with my wrists so far so...

That mouse looks very strange. I'm not sure I could handle changing that. In fact, I think it might be worse than the keyboard. In the day job I use the mouse much more often than the keyboard.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

I type with the correct fingers, and I've never needed an ergonomic keyboard. I did try one for a while once a few years ago. Hated it and insisted on switching back to what I'm used to.

But on my Mac, the keyboard is so flat and small that typing on it isn't hard and doesn't cause wrist issues. I love this thing!

No, my wrists probably aren't arched, but my desk is high and my hands kind of rest on it and it just seems to work.

My mother had carpal tunnel issues. She typed about a gazillion words a minute and every day of her working life. Since retiring from her job, she's going much better with that though she has lingering arthritis issues.

Christine said...

Type properly with proper finger placement. I am super fast due to a few years stint a a receptionist/sales assistant. I can backspace faster than cut and paste.

Macbook laptop so flat top.

I don't worry about wrist pain, tho' lately I've wondered about computer induced bottomitis that hurts like it sounds.

catslady said...

I used to type for a living but when computers came into being those darn control keys got in my way - that's where shift use to be. My keyboard is so old half the letters are gone but that only bothers my husband when he needs to use mine because I'm hooked up to the printer - poor guy still types with two fingers lol. I truly don't know how you are going to deal with your right hand typing left hand letters with your new keyboard.

Jane said...

My fingers are on the proper keys, but I my wrists aren't properly arched.

Pamela Hearon said...

I shouldn't admit this is the present company, but I'm finishing my fourth novel typing with two fingers! LOL! Well, actually three since I hit the space bar with my thumb.
One of my retirement projects is to learn to type with all my fingers:-)