By Michelle Kirkpatrick
Let’s start right off with a controversial topic. I’ve heard it said there’s a breakdown of abilities and skill levels within court reporters: The top 10 percent of reporters are exceptionally skilled, able to write virtually any sort of realtime or fast-speaking real-life material thrown at them; the next 50 to 60 percent are your “average” reporter; and the “bottom” 30 to 40 percent of reporters perhaps virtually always struggling with a skill level that would throw them out of a chance to participate in that realtime realm completely, ever, in their lifetime.
Whether you’re inclined to believe that or not, the reality is, if you lined all of us reporters up and were able to judge with divine powers who should be placed ahead of whom, there is going to be an inevitable top and bottom.
Does that really matter? I assert that it absolutely does not. As reporters, we all have the ability to write. If you are a practicing court reporter, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you’ve made it far enough to be able to make an adequate record and that you’ve got some skills. Some in our profession would argue that there are some people who are not certified or not skilled enough to be called a reporter. But I am not writing this to debate the fine semantics of inadequacies that could make or break someone not being “qualified” to really be doing this job at all.
So if we can agree to set that aside, then let’s face it: A great many laypeople in this world don’t have what it takes, for whatever reason, to do what we do. We’ve made it past that threshold to write the spoken word in such a manner so as to be able to attempt to capture a verbatim record in our normal daily work. I would hope that most reporters at least consider themselves an average reporter! If you consider yourself a struggling reporter, maybe even a little less than average, however, then maybe you need to pay even more attention to my next few thoughts.
Does the title of this article — “The aspiring realtime warrior” — barely even strike you as being relevant to your life? Do you feel it takes a special something that you don’t have in order to be “one of those” who can write realtime and write it well enough for others to see?
If you are nodding in the affirmative, then I will agree with you, it does take something you don’t currently have. What you lack is drive. What you lack is the determination to be better. It may be that family life or health issues or financial difficulties or other circumstances in your life prevent you from acting right now to improve your skills to the point I’m talking about. But if you are thinking you are not one of those special people who can ever do this, I maintain that is not true! You do need to be extremely motivated. You do need to be very determined. You have to be willing to persevere. You have to want it — like the overweight person who has a difficult time breathing when walking from the living room to the kitchen but wants to someday run a marathon. I could give many examples in life where people who do not seemingly have the advantage wind up on top. You, too, can end up on top! You, too, can be that realtime warrior, the person who fits your own definition of what that means to you.
Merriam Webster’s online definition of warrior is “a person who fights in battles and is known for having courage and skill.” Under “Examples of warriors,” it has this thought: “a program of tough training and discipline that turns untried civilians into warriors.”
The webpage also has some interesting answers further down to their question, “What made you want to look up warrior?”
- “Developing a warrior weight loss empowerment program.”
- “My son graduating from college wrote a paper of being raised by a single mom and called me a warrior so was curious of the exact definition.”
- “Preparing a message for Sunday. Topic: being an overcomer, therefore, a warrior.”
- “I heard the word Warrior, some people are spiritual soldiers then there are those that are called to be warriors who are known for their courage and skill.”
Blood, sweat, and tears. Goal-setting. Visualization. Words of affirmation. Becoming a sponge to soak up as much realtime career information as you can find in seminars, Internet articles, message boards, and court reporting realtime and theory books. More goal-setting. More visualization and words of affirmation. Surrounding yourself with those who have attained what you’re looking to attain. Asking questions. Believing. All of these things are what makes a warrior, and all of these things are something you can do.
The average reporter — the “untried civilian” — through a “program of tough training and discipline,” armed merely with their own sheer determination to improve, learn, and aspire to be that realtime warrior will be average no more.
Less than half a decade ago, I was a 24/7 single mother, an RPR, and still on Premier Power, writing on the Baron TX I had purchased brand-new in 1986, then upgrading to a refurbished Stentura 8000. Over the years of my career, I had worked for a couple of freelance agencies writing your typical deposition content; had done my own solo thing for ten years, averaging maybe a thousand pages a month or less; and since have taken a salaried district court official position. I really had been busy for more than 15 years being that warrior mom to three little boys! And while I was certainly proud of the reporter that I was, I was definitely not, by anyone’s definition, in the top 10 percent of reporters in the nation, nor was I necessarily an “exceptional” reporter in any identifiable way. Until I became determined. Until I became relentlessly focused. Until I had a vision that I would not let go of. Less than three years later, with updated realtime software and new steno machine, I became armed with five additional NCRA certifications, one federal realtime certification, and qualified in an NCRA Realtime Contest. Am I average? I think it’s safe to say, maybe by anyone’s definition, not so much anymore.
What I can say with definite certainty, however, at least by my own definition — if no one else’s – I am a realtime warrior. And I can say with certainty that if you want it, then without a doubt, you too can be a realtime warrior.
“Man cannot aspire if he looked down; if he rise, he must look up.” — Samuel Smiles
Michelle Kirkpatrick, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a freelance reporter working in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written to promote the use of realtime among court reporters. More information from court reporters about succeeding as a realtime reporter is available through NCRA.org/realtime.