Right now, this very instant, I'm having a great time typing away on my meager little blog.
Of course, I am. I'm a writer, right?
True enough, but that's not the reason.
The reason is I have an amazing keyboard. And of course, there's a bit of a story behind it. Not as interesting and dramatic as my normal story-telling, but—let's hope—informative, nonetheless.
Years ago, I made a switch to ergonomic keyboards. I spend a lot of time at the keyboard, so it makes sense. Despite that, I developed RSI problems anyway. Right now, this very instant, I can only feel half of my fingers. Thanks a lot, ergonomic keyboards.
Last spring, I started at a new job, working next to an old friend who introduced me to mechanical keyboards. I thought, well, that's nice and a little weird, but they don't seem to have ergonomic keyboards with mechanical switches, so … I tried one anyway. Eventually. I can only take so much preaching before I give in, apparently.
The thing is, sitting at his desk and trying his keyboard for a few seconds didn't sell me on the idea. I had to use it for a few days before I finally got it. Now, it feels amazing. I type faster. There's a learning curve, the keys feel so much better, but they also work different. I found myself typing like a dyslexic reads at first. It took a little concentration because my new keyboard can take all kinds of input and throw it on the screen faster than I can realize I've lost control of my fingers—and I love it.
A few details.
The difference in a mechanical keyboard is the switches. Most keyboards use little air-cushion pads that separate contacts. Mechanical switches rely on, obviously, some kind of mechanical action. But there are different kinds of switches. Gamers like some kinds. Typists like others. I use a kind called Cherry MX Brown at home because my activities vary, and Cherry MX Blue at work because I only type there and that's what they're best at.
And there is a lot to learn behind the switches: actuating force, grounding out, travel distance, etc. I'm only a beginner, so I'll spare readers my efforts to explain what I know.
Not only do they feel more satisfying to use and speed up typing, but they last longer too. Mechanical switches are more durable. Most mechanical keyboards can handle a bigger number of inputs for super-fast typing and gaming situations.
The downside: mechanical keyboards are expensive. There's a reason mainstream manufacturers went with the little airbag-button keyboards. I got my first one for my birthday because I didn't have anything else to tell my family I wanted. I bought my second for work a month later. I'm a frugal guy, but as a writer and a coder, I wouldn't work without a mechanical keyboard now.
I do still wish they'd make more in the way of ergonomic options though. I found a few, each of which were even more expensive, but they didn't fit they style I wanted to use. That single thing kept me from switching for a while. (My friend at work was an ergonomic keyboard fanatic before he switched as well.)
Last, here are some links.
An article by Ferris Jabr posted in The New Yorker this week made a connection between writing, thinking, and walking.
"Perhaps the most profound relationship between walking, thinking, and writing reveals itself at the end of a stroll, back at the desk. There, it becomes apparent that writing and walking are extremely similar feats, equal parts physical and mental. When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts." —Ferris Jabr
Such simple wisdom, yet it hardly needs science or research to back it up. I think most of us understand this intuitively.
Reading the article made me think back to a time I often call the happiest year of my life, Alaska sometime around '95. I had nothing.
(This is modified from a forums post I made earlier today.)
It was something of an experiment. I got rid of everything in my life. I lived in a trailer that I borrowed from a friend and parked it in the back lot of my father's steel yard, in the corner. We ran an extension cord out to it for power, but I had to go into his office for running water.
I had no bills, no insurance, and no car. I walked everywhere. I could live for months on $50 from odd jobs, buying a big bag of rice and some spices or condiments in bulk. Finding a quarter and walking down to the arcade for a game was a thrill. I spent a few dollars a week on showers, but the bulk of my time was walking somewhere: library, friends' houses, local shops, just walking out on the Homer Spit to watch bald eagles and white-capped waves.
Since then, I've been around the world and worked all kinds of jobs, from diesel mechanic to truck driver to missionary to (current) software engineer. I'm married and settled down with plenty of money and no debt and nice cars and such—but the happiest time of my life remains that year of walking and thinking. Having so little, even on purpose, meant that little things, like a game at the arcade, or buying a Big Mac when they were on sale for a dollar, meant so much more. Not only was there the time to think and enjoy, but the rarity of what is otherwise common and everyday became extraordinary and thrilling.
(I'll note that this experience is much different from those who have needs and not enough to provide for them. While I had nothing, I also needed nothing. I was young, healthy, and single. Lacking money when money is needed is an active stressor and takes a terrible toll on body and mind.)
I'm going for a walk today. That walk will end at my desk and my Work in Progress.
Who's with me?
Writer of speculative fiction. Current work in progress is an untitled dark fantasy novella.