Grammar-ease – When the words outpace the fingers

As writers, we’re always working with words. Right? No surprise. And even if we know what we want to say, it’s not always the case that the fingers can keep up with the brain.Fingers in a blur over a keyboard

Do you ever have this problem: the story/article is gelling in your mind and it needs to reach the page – NOW. Not 5 minutes from now, not after you’ve showered or had your breakfast. But have you ever experienced a time when the words start flowing like white water rapids and you grab a pad and pen or open a blank document and get those fingers over the keyboard and start capturing what you can?

When I get in this mode (which is great, I think, and thankfully not too common), I’ll be typing as fast as I can and start munging words together – because there isn’t a pause button for the characters’ voices in my head. I can’t rewind the words, and darn it if times like these don’t produce “the best” turn of phrase imaginable. Right?

When I’m chasing after my thoughts, if I don’t type fast enough, I end up creating funky words – a creative mix of 2-3 words that Word immediately highlights as a spelling error.

Also when I’m in the try-to-keep-up-with-the-thoughts mode, I end up typing variations of words – for instance “there” when I know it should be “their” or “they’re,” but I just type what is fastest and is best phonetically. The same happens with “your” instead of “you’re” when my brain is in overdrive.

“Lose” when it should be “loose” is another. Sometimes I just don’t have time for that second ‘o’.

When I’m writing to like that, which I actually refer to it as a ‘brain dump’, but it’s probably more PC to call it ‘brain download’, but I had these moments before I had computers, so, old dogs and all that… when I’m in that fast mode of writing, I muffle the internal editor with duct tape and shove him in a closet and lock the door (funny, I just realized the internal editor is male and my muse is female – that’s a topic for another post). Anyway, when I’m typing fast, I let myself do whatever is needed to get the words on the page and then I hope to catch all the typos before the final product is submitted.

In this post alone, which wasn’t overly fast, I had words such as “femail”, “fingrsca nkeep” and “chas in gafter”.

Do you ever type so fast to keep up with your thoughts that you create new words, or find yourself spelling phonetically? Or does something else happen when your fingers are chasing the invisible words? I’m curious to know.

(If you want to see what happens when you type fast, try writeordie.com. There’s various functionality you can play with, but one setting is that your words start getting erased if you pause for too long. Another is an obnoxious noise sounding. It’s fun!)

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is an independent editor and writer who gives herself a lot of chuckles through word play. She’s also a New England region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom

39 thoughts on “Grammar-ease – When the words outpace the fingers

  1. Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? If not, it’s a challenge to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (Novemeber). During this time participants (myself included) come up with some of the most ridiculous typos and odd thought processes. We call them NaNoisms and post them on the forums afterwards. Some of them have made me literally (LITERALLY) laugh out loud. That’s just what happens when you put all the emphasis on writing fast! It makes for interesting re-reads later on. 😀

  2. Lisa, if I may call you by that name, it happens all to often to an old guy like me, and not always when thinking faster than I can type with my two fingers. I often blank out when writing an article or on my blog, (I think you refer to it as writers block) and this requires my all to often “smoke break”. Somehow this brings back the thought process and I charge back upstairs and type at speed. Now not being one blessed with the ability to look at the screen whilst using the keyboard, I watch what the fingers are doing. It all looks correct till I take a pause, the screen has converted to a rainbow color. Spelling and grammar having lost their way, the checker normally waving a white flag, (which by the way is female) My problem, when trying to decipher what I’ve written, I forget what I was wanting to say, so a slower thinking speed I now try to follow, so that the eyes and fingers remain in some form of coordination.
    Love this Blog by the way, the expounding of subjects has certainly aided me in my attempt to become some form of a writer.

    • Hi BullDog,
      Thanks for sharing! Funny that you make spell check beg for mercy. I do run into the same problem as you at times, though – trying to figure out what it is I wrote, especially when I’m creating new words on the fly. You just *know* those threads were ‘the best’ ever! 🙂
      Glad to have you here as a reader and that we’re achieving our goal to help fellow writers.

  3. I write in pencil and paper and still have this problem.Sometimes my thoughts just flow out in tidal waves!!

    • I can absolutely relate, Heroldsroses. The tidal waves of words are exciting, but when I can’t keep up, I do feel like I’m drowning, or at least choking at times. But if everything was even-keeled, I’d miss the spontaneous spurts of thoughts, ideas, scenes, dialogue, stories, and so on. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  4. My typing is plodding, so I try to make notes about things I want to write about. I just put a line in the middle of what I’m writing, with a space above and below it whenever an idea surfaces. I’m afraid I may not remember it at all if I don’t have a memo. I may discard what for a moment was a super-great idea, but that’s better than wondering what the heck it was. It’s easy to get rid of, no carbons, no paper! Bless computers and their delete key.

    • Notes are definitely handy, and computers are great for eliminating crossed out words, scribbles, and general messes that can’t be deciphered anyway! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

    • I agree, PJ. It’s when something is just “together” and needs to get out of the brain an onto the page that I encounter it the most. Great to know it’s only going to get worse! hee hee.

  5. Oh this most definitely happens to me. Sometimes if I’ve had enough time at the keyboard I’ll dictate and some of the interpretations of my words are funny.

    Would love to see the Muse vs. Editor post. Maybe a Friday fun?

  6. I type super fast, and had a Gestapo-like typewriting teacher (you know the type – silver hair, probably grew up in a convent school taught by nuns with pointers and was class favorite). Learned on an old Royal with the round keystrikes (loose and wobbly sometimes, if you sat at the wrong desk). It’s all her fault (LOL) my thoughts go down quickly.
    But…it’s not the funky words that result that bother me. Sometimes I sound like an idiot because I don’t take the time to refine my thoughts in written form, which sound different than the message or tone in my head. blah, blah, blah, no edit, slight pause, clickety-click click – HIT send/submit, on to the next thing, after all, I’m a busy girl.
    Later on, I’m thinking “HUH?” (So excuse if I ever post a reply to your blog that sounds a little nonsensical!)

    Good post. I haven’t heard of NaNoisms either.

    • Hi Laura – that sounds like super fast typing. 😉 I loved learning on the old clunky typewriters – actually looking around to see if I can get one now, just for the memories. My journal entries turn into gibberish often – I’ll be writing and writing and then ‘oh, shiny object’ and start writing about something else and ‘oh, shiny object’ and I just end up all over the place, but I like writing stream of consciousness in my journal, so just go for it. But in re-reading at any later time, I do have a lot of “Huh?” and “what was I talking about?” moments.
      Funny stuff.

  7. I know exactly what you mean. I first learned to type in Jr. High and can keep up a very fast rate. I like to think that I can type almost as fast as I can think but often that doesn’t happen. The real trick is like you say – turn off the editor while doing the brain dump. I’ll stop spelling or doing the grammar thingy and will just let me fingers fly over the keys.

    There will be plenty of time for refinement later but often I find my first draft after a ‘brain dump’ needs only minor work. Sometimes we just need to trust ourselves and let the words flow.

    Strange how timely this post is. I had a writing session like that last night.

    • I like serendipity like that, Andrew. Glad you find this post and enjoyed it enough to comment. Thanks for reading and following! I admit that even though those fast writing sprees are a bit stressful, they generally do end up with something good. I was in a writing group that met weekly for a while. It was an open group – whoever showed up would agree on a prompt and write to that for 30 minutes or so and then read it out loud, right then and there, no polishing. Those writing sprees gave me some great starts to fun stories. 🙂

  8. Ha ha, I know that feeling all too well! 😀 I’ve come up with some doozy words, I’m sure! XD

    Hm, I’m almost (*ALMOST*) tempted to learn short-hand just for such occasions, but for when I only have pen and paper. Then again, that’s the old dogs, new tricks thingy you’re talking about too. Plus, even with short-hand, there’s no way I could write faster than I type. XD (SO GLAD I took that typing class in junior high!)

    • I’m grateful for typing classes too – I can’t always keep up with the thoughts, but at least I have a somewhat fighting chance if I’m using a keyboard as opposed to note pad and pen. But my favorite writing *is* with pen and paper, so, go figure. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Liz!

  9. All is said and done, aside from typos and NaNoisms, I gotta admit, I love those brain dumping sessions when it comes to the creative work! It’s an ego boost. When those times happen, you just KNOW you were meant to be a writer, despite all the revising that needs to be done later.

  10. Pingback: Talk is Cheap! Write moar!! « Hectic November

  11. I have the same problem and since I never learned to type properly and only use three finger (two on right hand , and one on the left.) it really complicates the matter. But I still maintain the ability to “type” as fast as most people. I tend to skip words entirely as I hear them in my head, but they never make it to page.

    • OMG, I didn’t think there was another three-fingered keyboardist in the world! I too type as fast as most folks because I learned on-the-job at a newspaper where, in the days before keyboarding classes, there were a lot of reporters who used only two fingers…so you see, you and I are already one ahead of them!

    • I’ve seen many 2-fingered typists zip around the keyboard. Hadn’t noticed 3-fingered typists, and now two of you are here! Writers unite! lol

      Glad to have you here and thanks for sharing. I just got a smartphone with the teeny keyboard. I’ve never been a texter, and am finding it hard to type with just my thumbs and I have to search for all the letters! When I type I seldom look at the keyboard, now when typing on my phone I *have* to look at the keyboard. Quite a learning experience.

  12. I think what pisses me off the most is when Word highlights a word that isn’t a spelling error. That’s when I bemoan the demise of WordPerfect and rant about the fact that Word was written by techie geeks, not wordie geeks.

    • I think I got ‘lucky’ in that I never experienced WordPerfect. I don’t know how I missed out on it, but I only know Word so don’t know what I missed out on.

  13. I have worried about me for a while now. Brain dumping is getting to be a norm late at night after I have been trying to sleep for an hour or so and my brain continues to swell. I get up and run to the computer, afraid that all those thoughts will drain out via my ears before I can get there. Finally, I make it and start to type. I am a fast typist, but this is ridiculous. My fingers are flying as fast as I can barely process my thoughts. I truly believe the characters in my book are dictating and I am the machine bringing them to life. Finally it’s been saved. All I can do is save it and hope I can read it tomorrow morning. I am sure if I can’t, they will awaken me later for an editing session. Whew !!!

    • Hi Linda – thanks for stopping by and commenting. Kudos to you for getting up and getting those words on the virtual page. When I have thoughts hit me when I’m trying to sleep, I scribble into a notebook and hope that (1) I’m writing in somewhat of a straight line and (2) I’ll be able to read my writing in the morning. I try to stay partially asleep when words come to me as I’m trying to sleep. I have lost a few storylines because I end up writing on top of something already written.

      It sounds like you have a story that just needs to be told – you can rest when it’s all on the page, finally, right? Just hope it’s before you’re too exhausted!

  14. I would like to finish my comment as usual I paused for a moment while my brain went somewhere else. I too seem to have that problem I type way too fast
    and the words engulf me making words as I type like a broken vase in pieces.
    Then I rewind my brain and attempt to sort them out as if I am gluing back the pieces. The 3 yrs I spent in typing class definitely increased my speed now if
    I can just connect my brain to my hands.

    • Hi Jayci3,

      It’s sometimes a challenge capturing thoughts onto a page, but you’ll get better with practice. Keeping up with thoughts, well, I don’t know if any of us can really capture everything – but everyone seems to be coming up with their own methods, and we can only do what we can and hope the voices keep talking to us, right? 🙂

  15. I am a contemporary dancer that work wiith text a lot, and we wrote for an hour non stop as a stream of consciousness technique to access and find new material. Through this method we found recurrent material, habitual material, patterns, and I got a feel of separation between my hands (we wrote by hands on paper), my conscious verbalizing self and the underlying creative subconscious. This inspired me to a dialogue with the other students on WHEN ARE YOU IN SIMULTANITY WITH YOUR SELF, YOUR ACT, AND YOUR IMMEDIATE IMPULSE AT THE SAME TIME? You can write one word simoultaneously with you thinking it or getting it from somewhere, as you are half through the word it changes into a different word.
    Many times this makes for funny contexts in the sentences when read afterwards. I find it a great way to tap into creativity that I normally don`t get access to so much.

    Thanks for the great post!. Loved the read.

  16. Yup. We are not really perfect individuals that sometimes we drift from what should be. Thank you for post. It really made me appreciate my mishaps in blogging. PROOFREAD 🙂

  17. There has yet to be manufactured a keyboard that can keep up with me–even when I am not thinking rapidly. I have dealt with this problem my whole life (I have had more than one piano on which I stuck hammers together almost permanently!). See? It’s the machinery’s fault! (tee,hee!)

  18. This is what we call a writer’s block ;I usually get stuck with my essays and articles and it really pisses me off at times. Some say that go out, take a walk and you would be able to overcome it ,however, others find it more relaxing to take a ‘smoke break’ and then get back to the work. When I get stuck up with articles,I usually go out with my friends and divert my mind towards things which I enjoy doing most.

    And yeah, that happens often when we get in a ‘mood’ to write,we end up making grammatical mistakes and making errors in antonyms like what you mentioned above. The solution is that we should write more in order to make ourselves acquainted with our ideas and also converting those ideas from a raw form to actual material.

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