How Learning Magick is Like Learning the Dvorak Keyboard

by Mike Sententia on November 16, 2012

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Readers often ask what it’s like to learn a new direct magick technique, and how it feels to change the steps your mental muscles take as they perform a task. This week, I finally found a good analogy: Learning a new keyboard.

I’m switching from QWERTY to the Colemak keyboard layout. Like Dvorak, it moves the keys so the most common letters, like E, N, and T, are on the home row, replacing rare letters like J, K and F. Once you learn it, you can type faster, with less movement, meaning less risk of carpel tunnel and tendonitis. I’m about halfway there.

I expected most of what I found, like slower typing and time spent memorizing keys. But I’ve been surprised by one thing: I’m consciously aware of something that’s normally unconscious.

I’ve touch typed for around 20 years. At this point, I don’t think about keys, I think about words. My unconscious mind types whatever I think, almost as fast as I can think it.

But when I use Colemak, all of that is conscious again. Which is basically the feeling of learning a new direct magick technique.

This week, in addition to a new keyboard, I’m learning better magick communication, which lets me more accurately receive messages from ethereal software and spirits, which helps with manifesting, among other things. (Level 3 communication, for those keeping score at home.) Both skills have gone through the same stages:

Memorization: I memorize the technique, like I memorized the keyboard. It’s slow, but I expect it to be slow, and I feel good about my progress over the hour. This part is fun.

Slow practice: The first few times I use a new technique, I’m completely conscious of it. Just like, when first typing with the Colemak, I spelled each word in my head, thought about which finger to use, and stepped through everything completely consciously. Again, this feels good, because I expect it to be slow.

Mediocrity: This is the stage I’m at now, with both L3 communication and with Carmak. I can mostly forget about communication and focus on the manifesting, and I can mostly think about words rather than letters, but with both, the new stuff (L3 communication, the keyboard layout) are halfway in my thoughts. Which makes me be less thorough than I would otherwise be, avoiding follow-up questions in manifesting and unnecessary words in emails. This stage is the most frustrating, and the one I’m most likely to quit — it’s why I never learned fast communication before, and why I gave up on Dvorak a year ago.

Unconscious skill: This is where I am with QWERTY, and where I mostly am with level 2 communication. It simply works, and I can focus on the goal (writing an email, manifesting). And I didn’t realize I was there with either of those until I abandoned the skill I had and learned a new one.

Typing with Colemak and practicing L3 communication also make me tired in the same way. It’s a sustained focus that leaves me creatively drained, a bit slow, and ready to watch TV. I think it’s because both take something that’s normally unconscious, make it conscious, then you consciously retrain your mind to do it in a new way.

(Note that this doesn’t happen when I learn a new command for ethereal software, because that’s just saying new words using the same underlying technique.)

So, why is it worth it? Because in another week, I’ll have a better keyboard, and more accurate manifesting.

(And here’s the site for the Colemak keyboard.)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Yvonne November 17, 2012 at 6:25 AM

Got it.
I don’t do keyboards but this reminds me of when I learned to drive a stick-shift car.
You don’t mention the (irrational) fear/resistance that might hinder the learning process early on, perhaps because you are perfect. (smile)


Mike Sententia November 17, 2012 at 9:55 AM

Well, it’s a lot harder to trash your computer by typing wrong than it is to kill your transmission when you learn to drive a stick. :)

I didn’t have fear/resistance on the keyboard, but I do encounter it sometimes:


Ananael Qaa November 17, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Now this is a really good analogy. You should be sure to include it in the book. As a matter of fact, it might be perfect for the introduction – it explains in terms of a concept that just about everyone is familiar with what you’re trying to accomplish with your magical system.


Mike Sententia November 19, 2012 at 4:27 PM



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