Relaxation, learning and touch-typing – 200 words project


Here is this week’s 200 words project:

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“And work itself, after a while, takes on a rhythm. The mechanical begins to fall away. The body begins to take over. The guard goes down. What happens then?
RELAXATION
And then men are happily following my last advice:
DON’T THINK.
Which results in more relaxation and more unthinkingness and greater creativity.

Ray Bradbury in Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

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The best example I have of this process which Ray talks about, in my life, is in typing. I am learning to touch type.

I went through school and college in that unique period where typewriters were outmoded, and PCs, “computers” were rare enough that I never took any typing classes. A decade and some later I find myself typing a lot, every single day, using a homegrown weird two hand, five finger system – two fingers of my left hand, three in my right. And I have to type looking at the keyboard.

This situation I found in equal measures, sad, funny and humiliating. And so I finally decided to teach myself touch typing.

The challenges of teaching yourself touch typing, when you are typing all day to make a living are enormous. When you try to touch type all the time, it is too slow, too hard. And you fall behind on work. And your fingers hurt. And it takes a huge amount of will power to actually follow through – which depletes you will for the other tasks.

And so, I decided to focus on touch typing for 5 minutes a day, for one month. After that, it moved to 10 minutes in the second month. And the third month, 15 minutes a day, every day. It has now been about 6 months. I still struggle. But I am much better at it.

As I was writing my 1000 words for today, I realized that the above sequence which Ray Bradbury talks on how to more creative, applies to achieving excellence in all manners of tasks and skills and abilities, and it mirrored my progress on learning touch typing too.

The progression seems to be something like this:

1. The student wants to learn and starts learning to touch-type.

2. The student takes classes but struggles to implement it all the time.

3. Every time the student wants to touch-type, she is tense and paralyzed that she doesn’t remember the position of the keys, that she is making mistakes, that this is so hard and slow.

4. Over time, with practice, the student gets over the paralysis part, and starts remembering certain keys. But the typing still remains tense – the brain is still trying to think actively (and this is very tiring) on where the next key is.

5. Over time, the student remembers most keys most of the time. But the typing remains tense – the student is worried about accuracy, about making mistakes, about not remembering what to type. She still needs to somewhat think about the placement of the keys.

6. After some more time, the student hits these periods of grace, these times when the act of typing is almost like breathing, instinctive, habitual and easy.

7. After a few more of these moments of grace, the student starts relaxing when typing. The elbows are not locked. The shoulders are low and relaxed. The neck is not tense. And the more relaxed she gets, the more competent she becomes and the easier it becomes, and more relaxed she gets.

8. She is now an excellent touch typist, one who seems she has typed this way forever!

And so the progression – learning to fear, to no-fear, to relaxation, to competence – to more relaxation, to excellence – this seems to be the arc we follow in all our activities – be it typing or creativity or meditation or cycling or calculus. This process seems to reflect on the huge impact emotions have on how we learn.

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About the 200 Words Project

Once every week, on Monday morning, I will post my ‘200 Words Project’ post where I will ruminate on some idea which caught my interest in the current book I’m reading, or maybe (sometimes) from a blog post or podcast – in 200 words or more, never less!

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