How to break a CW barrier?

I read this in the Solid Copy CW Yahoo group today and it deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

Most of us have experienced the problem (been plagued with it?) of dwelling on a missed character to the point of missing the next several in a row. Using the following exercise I totally eliminated this tendency.

Listen to code and focus ONLY on the first character of each word. After you can sustain this with near 100% accuracy for two or three minutes running, start listening for ONLY the first two characters. My plan was to then listen to ONLY the first three characters. However, by the time I had successfully done this with first one character ONLY and then two characters ONLY, the tendency to dwell on missed characters was nearly completely abandoned. By the time I got through this exercise of one and then two characters it had become easy and my workload had decreased to the point that I realized that without effort I was also getting the third and fourth characters – without trying!

Paul, WI5F

That quote defines my next CW exercise. I’m not saying I was about to invent this or anything but some time ago I had an intuitive feeling that if I just copied the first three characters per word in a QSO, I could copy enough to get the meaning of the text. I mean, CW QSOs are a world of abbreviations anyway, right? I got a positive response from this message I posted on the Solid Copy CW group on October 5th in answer to a request for help learning CW:

I have a great deal of respect for anyone who is determined to learn code. I’m stubborn, not talented. Unless you have a gift, this [learning CW] will take a considerable amount of time. I have no natural CW ability at all. Here is what I did, what I wish I did, and what I’m gonna’ do:

The right stuff I did, in my opinion:
1. I used a computer – apparently you already do this.

2. I stopped making phone contacts. Yup, I disconnected the mic. No phone. (OK, a little PSK and RTTY now and then, but no phone).

3. I kept changing software and training exercises to keep it interesting.

4. I participated in contests using CW, even when I could only get a handful of contacts.

5. I worked, and work now, on my code 3 to 5 days a week. 20 minutes a day at first, then up to 60 minutes or more after I got above 10 WPM. I generate my own exercise text files for Nu-Morse using lists of common words, ARRL section abbreviations, and simulated contest exchanges. They work fine in the Koch program too, by the way.

6. I learned to send using Iambic paddles. You will be able to send code that others can easily copy with less frustration than if you start out with a strait key.

I wish I would have…
I wish I would have just got on the air in spite of ‘key fright.’ (I still sweat even though I can copy pretty well now.) I really don’t know how I forgot that the primary function of amateur radio is to get
on the air. Often still, I get so caught up in the station set up, software tweaks, club meetings, home-brew projects, code practice, etc, that I forget that getting on the air is what the hobby is all about.

I wish I would have bought, read, and re-read, “The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy,” over and over when I first started learning CW.

I wish I would have added a 500KHz filter to my rig right away.

I wish I would have sent less code with my computer and more with my key.

I’m gonna’…
… keep it up and QRQ up.
… learn to use a strait key too, then a bug.
… build a QRP rig to take along, or buy a QRP rig if I discover that soldering is not a skill that I can cultivate.

Just when it seems you can’t bust through, you’ll bust through.
Remember, stubborn.

I ordered a Small Wonder Labs HiMite today and put a Elecraft KX1 on my Christmas list. Since the waiting list for the HiMite is long, I may well get the KX1 first.

Play the text of this article as CW!

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