By Connie Psaros, RPR, B.S. in Education
I was sitting in the lobby of a law firm waiting to be let into the conference room to set up. I had taken an extended vacation, so I worried that I wouldn’t be as sharp as I wanted to be. So instead of fretting, I picked up a magazine and wrote out in my head the densest article I could find, concentrating not on speed but on fingering precision. This mental practice calmed my nerves, got me into the concentration zone, and I ended up writing just beautifully.
Sometimes you only have a few minutes here and there, no time to set up your machine to practice. Maybe you’re sitting in the waiting area while your child is in a dance class, or maybe you’re on the train for a 30-minute commute. Why not put these little snippets of time to good use. Try to block out any distractions around you. Visualize your hands going through the motions along with the text. Pretend you are actually depressing the keys on your machine. And since you are concentrating on accuracy only, you will be embedding correct strokes into your mind/muscle memory. We can all write difficult material if we’re not pushing for speed at the same time. If you are writing dense material, it will make your next dictation take seem much easier.
Many of your obstacles as a court reporting student are in your head more so than your hands. That’s why I found this technique especially useful when I was writing sloppily and felt as if my hands were hitting the keys haphazardly. Just getting off the machine was liberating. Because you can slow down and “write” at your own pace, it will clear the junk out of your head so you can “reset” your writing compass, so to speak.
Mental practice should never replace actual machine practice, but there are times when it is a great alternative. Much has been written about the benefits of mental practice. Accomplished musicians and competitive athletes in particular have had success because they visualized in their minds in a step-by-step fashion what it is they wanted to accomplish. As court reporters, deliberate mental practice can make clean writing a reality. I would highly recommend that you give it a try. It could very well lead to your next breakthrough!