Saturday, May 30, 2009

Typewriter Writer

You know how much I like old typewriters, so here's something from the blog of Paperback Writer: Typewriter Writer. An excerpt:

I am an old writer. Back in the late sixties I started writing stories and poems on school notebook paper in pencil, then in the seventies graduated to pen and composition books and legal pads. Mom bought me a second-hand manual typewriter when I was thirteen, and I used that for eleven years until it literally fell apart. After that I bought a used IBM Selectric typewriter from a yard sale, and used that for writing until 1994, when my husband bought me my very first computer.

I've always thought that my learning to write by longhand and typewriter always put me at a disadvantage to younger, more tech-savvy writers. For most of my life I didn't have the marvels of the modern word processing program to help me write. No backups, no disc copies; just me, the pen or the typewriter, and the single hard copy. I've always felt a bit like the writer equivalent of Wilma Flintstone because of it.

I was explaining this disadvantage to one of my young writer friends the other day, in one of those "be grateful for what you've got" type conversations older writers like to have with youngsters. She was complaining about how slow her printer is, while I'm still riveted by the fact that I can print out an entire manuscript in less than an hour -- something that twenty years ago would have taken me a good two months to type.

"That's why you're able to write straight through everything, isn't it?" my friend asked me. "You trained to write on a typewriter, and you couldn't stop or go back or fix things."

I was surprised, but she was right. It's not easy to backspace and rewrite on a typewriter; with the two I owned I had to use White-Out or correction tape, or rip out the page and start over. I also couldn't review and edit anything I wrote before I printed it out -- naturally using a typewriter = printing it out instantly. Add to that the fact that back then typing paper was expensive, and my mom had a fit if I wasted even a single page of it.

I never thought about it before, but I guess subconsciously I did teach myself to wait until I was clear in my head about what I wanted to put down on the paper because of the limitations of my equipment.

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