The Thrill of Mind-Numbing Work

posted on September 14th, 2009

A friend recently mentioned doing a little freelance work indexing books, which, she said casually, would couple her love of English and data entry. I chuckled at this, but only because I share her enthusiasm for the mindless drilling of a keyboard.

When I sit down to write, I often dawdle at first by opening up my journal program and type-type-typing some pointless entry cataloguing a day’s minutiae, as if anyone on the planet would ever want to read such drivel, even a hundred years from now as part of a badly funded sociology project. It feels good to type, therapeutic to hit the keys with bullet-speed rapidity while my eyes and mind wander to more interesting tidbits around the room.

It’s more than simply a warm-up exercise, though it is surely that. It’s as if I am freeing my mind of all the detritus of the day—exfoliating my brain, as it were, of the dead skin of unneeded thoughts and concerns. I’ll spare you any more icky analogies; you get the idea. By the time I’m done with the journal entry, I can more easily move to the fiction, the deadline-oriented work, the magazine article—or, as it is to me, the stuff of life.

While working at my last day job, my favorite parts of the work day (not counting staff meetings and lunch with one of the bosses) were when I had raw data to input: articles to type, photos to scan. You know, grunt work. I loved the grunt work best. I still do. Give me a few hours of scanning documents or doing other secretarial or administrative tasks, and I’m a happy camper indeed. I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes with churning out a finished product. And that sort of
work requires less creative brain space than creating a world of characters and places and making them do interesting things and remembering everyone’s eye color for 75,000 words.

Give me a good, solid keyboard and I can type mindlessly for hours. If it’s my AlphaSmart Neo, I’m in heaven. Or my desktop ergonomic keyboard, which has just the right tactile feel to it. Or even now my 10” netbook, with its amazingly comfortable keyboard and size (where I am writing this entry). Gone are the days of my childhood, banging out words at half the speed on my portable manual Smith-Corona or on the gargantuan, very non-portable gray manual Underwood in Mr. Loughlin’s ninth grade typing class.

With newfangled equipment such as this, no wonder my friend and I enjoy mind-numbing data entry work. It’s an emotional therapy all its own. Perhaps we both missed out on promising careers in some company’s accounting department. . .