Teeline shorthand

I don’t possess an inner monologue. Most people seem to hear words inside their heads when thinking, and it seems to be quite common for writers to play dialogues out internally before they put them on paper, but I can’t do that. I had always assumed this to be a figure of speech, “voices in the head”, but learned a while ago that this is literally a way of thinking, of which there are various models. Some people lack a mind’s eye and can’t picture something as a visible image with their eyes closed, and some can’t formulate something in words without producing them. I belong to the latter type.

This explains why I’m more productive when I can produce my writing verbally, and have Dragon transcribe it when I get home. Editing it then into proper prose is not that much of a problem, but even then, I use TTS extensively to help me figure out what sounds naturally, as I can’t produce sounds in my head.

This is not a death sentence for writing directly as text, though. I can type it without having to speak, but it’s painful and slow, and the rate at which I put out words is terrible. I have very low WMP, about 20-30, and when I stop to think, as is usually the case between paragraphs during production, this rate can drop even lower. Add to that typing on the phone while on the train, and you can get an idea of the volume I generate in that scenario. I wrote 400 words last time I checked, over about an hour, that’s 6.66 WPM; laughably slow.

The other day, I stumbled over shorthand, and that got me thinking. Some authors write their first drafts by hand, pen on paper, and I can see the appeal of having a visceral experience. Not the same as, but similar enough to speaking it out. Writing by hand is also faster than typing on the phone (I might just be exceptionally clumsy, but my thumbs never only hit one letter, and autocorrect doesn’t always help), but it still takes up a lot of space and is slow and tiring. So when I came across an article about stenography, I remembered my mother, who was an interpreter. Shorthand was her bread and butter, and in order to jot down conversations at natural speed, she had to be fast enough to follow. Now, like I said, I stop between paragraphs to think, but when I know what I want to write, I want to do it immediately, because the next step is already in queue somewhere in the back of my head, and sitting there, giving birth to words on my phone, throws me off completely.

I did some research, and Teeline seemed to be the most approachable system, while still fast enough at a rate of 60-100WMP. Natural English speech is around 100-130WMP, to give you an idea. So this seemed fast enough. It’s based on the alphabet, streamlines it down, and it skeletonises words by ctng ot prts u dnt nd for comprehension. Not only is this fast enough for my purposes, it also takes up way less space on paper, which is great when you’re on the train and only carry around a small block, not a proper notebook. You want to stuff it in your pocket when you have to switch trains.

Both stylising letters and skeletonising words are things I believe I can learn, and indeed, I have already memorised the alphabet by doing a set of flashcards on Memrise (my good old friend from back when I was still studying Japanese vocab). I found a great playlist on YouTube, too, with proper courses, which made me a happy camper.

So this is what I do now, a little every day, training the system to build some muscle memory, so I can use it to write while commuting, or whenever I have dead time I feel I could use productively. Or whenever I have an idea I want to write down immediately.

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