by Laurence Sheehan
There is a correct mood for typing. There must be no tension between the shoulder blades. Take deep breaths before starting. Many typists find it helpful to cross legs at the ankles. If you are right-handed, chances are you will cross your left ankle over your right ankle instead of the other way around. Normal? Normal! Our bodies operate out of worrisome . . . deeply contradictory . . . impulses.
Always arrange your skirt or trousers before starting to type.
The piano player can get carried away. The typist must remain detached from the material being worked on. In other respects, such as posture, eye-hand coordination, and type of smile on mouth, there is a close resemblance between the two jobs. This is why we say to study Liberace reruns on TV.
The typing mood must not be compromised or you will make teepees typos and strikeovers. Close your eyes from time to time and focus on the hum of your machine. Think of the hum as your “mantra.” If you don’t have an electric, you must do the humming. Take plenty of deep breaths. Do not copy off a neighboring typist’s work.
Some typists want to know how to remain aloof when in fact they’re slaving away on something as personal as a third or fourth unpublished novel. They say they can’t help but get involved, and so commit an inordinate number of typos and strikeovers, or find themselves producing the most execrable rubbish.
That’s when it is time to switch off the power on your machine à écrire (typewriter) and walk away. If it is a nice day, walk a couple of miles away. Take your mind off the hardships of typing. If possible, walk past a telephone company building and compare your lot with the lot of those in the Bell System. Or visit a public school and observe the suffering going on in the name of education. When you return to your typing table, spirits refreshed, you may find that you have left your typos and strikeovers behind you.
Always be alert to when you come to the end of the page. If you run off a halfdozen lines after the paper has rolled free of the machine, it means you are too detached. And you may lose some good lines forever. Truly great typists remember everything they’ve typed and could type it all out again after putting a fresh sheet of bond in the machine. But most of us are more spontaneous, automatic, and accidental sorts and must sit down and slog away blindly at the keyboard hoping some of it will come out making sense. Dropping a key phrase or two along the way could spell trouble, career-wise.
The all-important little finger was once defined as the finger closest to the big knobby bone in the wrist, in other words, the fourth finger from the thumb. It is not the thumb. The job of the little finger on the right hand is to depress the “p" key when “p" is needed. The job of the other little finger is to depress the “q” key when it is needed, as in “Don’t quit now!" or “quack-quack-quack-quack-quack.”
The old expression “Mind your p’s and q’s!” originated with the Nobel Prizewinning typing instructor Ingmar BingleHof. He used it to remind would-be typists to exercise those little fingers all the time. Some of the Bingle-Hof finger drills are part of the curriculum at the famous Katharine Gibbs schools.
Typing the same or nearly the same thing over and over again is torture. Veteran typists farm out their chores at some stage to prevent brain damage. This takes $$$. And you must trust completely the person you have in mind for typing over your typing. If word of your typos and strikeovers leaked out, you could become the laughingstock of all the typists in your area. This should be avoided.
Some typists find they tend to make the same mistakes, which are known as Freudian ships. They consistently type “freindly" when they mean “friendly,”or “fruitcake” for “father.” There’s not much structured help for these poor blighters yet, but the Guild of Typists is working on a niggardly budget (pay your dues!) in their behalf.
The question always comes up: Should you start typing immediately after a breakfast of waffles and sausage?
The answer is, what you eat for breakfast doesn’t have the slightest effect on your proficiency at die Schreibimaschine (the typewriter). It is more important to try to “get to" the typewriter sometime before noon than it is to load up on waffles or any other breakfast favorite. Make up your first meal of the day from among the four basic food groups— protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and wine. That is common sense. But do not presume to find in your choice of fare a shortcut to typing fame.
Never type after tennis or yard work. The small muscles in forearms and hands will lack the sensitivity to handle the keyboard with the proper lightness after such exertions, and your typos and strikeovers will increase. If you must work in yards say to earn $$$ to add to the CCC you get for your typing—schedule the typing sessions beforehand.
Also, never use italic or type in red or your work will be scorned and abused no matter where it lands.
Yes, typing has its down sides. There are bruised fingers. su!c!dal thoughts during periods of excessive typos and strikeovers, and the utter loneliness of it all.
But there are benefits in a typing career as well, and these are not emphasized often enough, or with proper gusto.
Good typists can acquire influence and connections out of proportion to their physical beauty. Eventually they may be fêted in restaurants in L.A., D.C., or even Hartford, home of Royal McBee Corp.
There is the simple pride that goes with a typing job well done. Neat margins and the absence of smudges and correction marks, after decades of plugging away at the keyboard, are rewards in themselves. And fellow typists will go nuts about good craftsmanship unless you are typing in the same field with the possibility of overlap or undercurrent lurking in your carbons.
Finally, there is the sheer animal pleasure involved in pounding the _ _ _ _
out of a machine until it gives up its graceful message to the world. Any day now it will, too, so don’t worry. And remember about the deep breaths.