Let’s talk tools #3: Typewriter(s)
I have chronicled my rough draft process before (here), but the interesting bit in that process is the typewriter. Now, I am not a Luddite in any way shape or form, instead I am pragmatic, almost to a fault. And my faith in good technical solutions being able to just work is unshakeable. The idea that I can write a rough draft on my old-fashioned and get into the computer and start editing it faster than I could type it directly into the computer or write it out long hand, though kind of crazy to say, is true for me.
When you come right down to it there are three major reasons I use a typewriter.
- Distraction Free Writing – on the typewriter there is no twitter, feedly, email or stupid games. There is only an empty page staring up at me daring me to not fill it full of words. Hard to place a value on these moments of completely disconnected time I have in front of the typewriter.
- Tactile/Kinetic Connection – when you type a letter on a keyboard, a little piece of plastic gets pushed down a few millimeters and completes a circuit, that circuit is then converted into data that the lowest levels of the computer interprets as a keypress and eventually (in computer time, instantly in human time) the letter shows up on the screen. Any ‘t’ is the same as any other ‘t’, same for any other character you press. When you press a key on a typewriter a fabulous thing happens, levers and gears move and the right letter on the end of a typebar gets lifted and presses against the paper. You get instant feedback on each letter, there is a whole symphony of motion to get each and every letter on the paper, and each one is different. The ‘t’ that starts a ‘the’ before a ‘creature’ might be more hesitant than the ‘t’ at the end of a word like ‘threat’ or ‘dealt’.
- Mystique – you can’t avoid it, there is something amazing about how a typewriter sounds, looks, and even feels. There is something special when you think about the generations of writers who came before you who used the same machines to produce the greatest works of art of the last century. You can’t avoid this, but this is a reason to have one in your living room or on a wall or to have a purple one that matches you boots. This might have been a draw to the typewriter, but this is not why you keep using one.
One other thought, no one I know who uses a typewriter edits the way they used to. No retyping the work again and again (some people skip my OCR step and retype into the computer), all the editing happens on the computer. And in this hybrid model the typewriter is king in my mind, you get the speed of a computer, but none of the distraction.