Dvorak Devotee

One of the greatest writing-related discoveries I’ve made in the last 15 years is the Dvorak keyboard layout.

The letters are arranged in such a way that the most common ones are on the middle row ā€“ including all the vowels ā€“ and you don’t need to stretch as far for a full-stop or a comma. You can read more about the improvements made in this BBC News article. The inventor designed his system decades before the personal computer revolution, yet it’s natively supported on both Windows and Mac.

The hardware is another story. While I do have a custom-made Dvorak keyboard, it’s not always practical to take it with me. Fortunately, I can touch-type and I’ve learnt where the letters are by sheer muscle memory. At one point I could even mentally switch between that and QWERTY, depending on whether I was at home or work. For the last 18 months, I’d been able to use exclusively Dvorak in both places.

That changed yesterday. I started a new job and was issued with a new laptop. It’s similar to my own and runs Windows, but the administrator has jammed it into QWERTY mode only. I’ve therefore spent the last 24 hours relearning the most popular layout in the Anglosphere.

In theory, this should be easy because the letter on the keyboard matches the letter you want to type. However, when I learnt touch-typing at school, it was drilled into me that you look at the screen, not your fingers, so I have to remember to look down from time to time. Today has produced better results than yesterday, but it’s going to take some time before I can once again switch flawlessly between QWERTY and Dvorak.

A Surprisingly Unpopular Event

I received a message from someone local who’s currently working on a community-focused project that launches this weekend. It’s aimed at encouraging people to think more about the clothes they have, the memories they represent, and imagining what might happen when these items are passed on.

One of the proposed events was to bring in local poets to respond to the above themes, but as the organiser didn’t know many poets, she wanted to tap into my connections. I was happy to help out, and I spoke to two of my poetry groups.

After a week, I was surprised to receive virtually no response to my messages, especially as the clothing event was intended to take place in person. As an organiser, I’ve found that people react to staged events more positively, as the public has become weary of so many virtual ones.

I explained this to the organiser but added that I would still like to contribute. My starting point was a T-shirt from 1996 that I still own, and the resulting piece became an exploration of when I met my first girlfriend at age 12, and how my approach to relationships has changed between then and now.

I don’t know whether I’ll actually be able to attend, as something more pressing has arisen, but I wish her all the best with the project.

When You Find the Words

I’m pernickety about keeping backups of my stories and poems, even if I ultimately don’t end up doing anything further with them. Each is given its own folder, and the different versions appear in date order. The oldest files go back more than a decade.

As such, I was most surprised that I couldn’t find a certain light verse I’d written in 2018. I tried searching by title: Too Chicken. I then tried searching by first line: I’m in love with the woman from Nando’s. I tried searching again with other words I recalled from the text, but no results appeared.

I thought I would have to reconstruct the piece from memory. I knew a reasonable chunk of the text, and it was written in a triolet form, so some lines would be repeated at predictable points.

The other day, however, I was looking at Snapchat. The app has a Timehop-style section where you can look back at pictures you sent in years gone by. I don’t often use that feature, but I’m glad I did, because I’d taken a picture of the original handwritten draft.

A lot of my pieces are first jotted down in pencil, and are then typed up and edited to create a second draft. That critter had somehow escaped the net, but it’s now safely on my computer and can be easily found.

Thinking Time

My main way to consume novels and other publications is to listen to the audiobook version. This allows me to walk or run or be otherwise active at the same time, so I tend to read paper books only if there’s no other option.

However, I also go through periods of not listening to anything, and I’m currently in one of these periods.

I mentioned in my last entry that I’d been unwell, but that I was able to finish a short story Iā€™d half-written. I’m feeling much better, and I’m back to leaving the house for much longer periods. I’ve been using this time to think about the sequel to that story, and now that’s coming along nicely.

I’ll eventually be ready to go back to the audiobooks, but I can’t see that happening for a little while yet, at least until that sequel is completed. But when that day comes, I’ll be able to pick up from where I left off.