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Monday, February 27, 2012

Typewriter Love


I started writing when I was still in elementary school, on a manual typewriter that weighed more than I did and had been bought for me by my mother at a garage sale.  I think she paid five dollars for it.  I know she regretted her purchase after I finished teaching myself to type and started writing stories at three o’clock in the morning.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal in our modern world of nearly silent keyboards and computers, but a manual typewriter is LOUD.  Especially when it’s being used by a seven-year-old whose mode of typing is better described as “hunt and peck assault at ninety words a minute.”  It was like gunfire in my bedroom every night, and it’s probably a miracle that my mother didn’t smash either me or my typewriter with a hammer.

(I still hunt and peck, just like I did back then.  Only now I hunt and peck at a hundred and twenty words a minute, once I really get going.  This is because practice makes perfect, and I practice a LOT.)

Starting on a typewriter meant that when I made changes, I had to re-type the entire page.  Since I’m a compulsive reviser, I got into the habit of typing everything out three or four times before it could be called “finished.”  It was time-consuming and probably killed a lot of trees, but it was also very useful, because it taught me about discipline.  If I was going to write, I needed to approach it seriously and with the understanding that even a sentence could be an hour-long commitment.  I wrote light, silly, frivolous things, just like any kid, but I did it understanding that I was going to do a lot of work before I was finished.

These days, I write on a laptop computer more powerful than anything NASA owned the year I got my first typewriter (and no, I’m not that old; I grew up in the 1980s).  My keystrokes are still a little harder than they need to be, which I find comforting, even as I wear out a lot of keyboards; somewhere in my head, there is the quiet knowledge that typing should always sound like fighting a battle against the whiteness of the page.  Totally silent keyboards creep me out a little bit.  And I’m still deeply disciplined about it.  I re-type sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters until they begin falling together the way that I want them to.  I write out timelines and scribble connection charts on sheets of notebook paper, making notes that mean absolutely no one to anyone who isn’t me.  And it all falls together.

I think I was always going to be a research nerd and a rewriter, but the typewriter solidified it.  The typewriter made me become the kind of writer I am today.  I wish I still had it.  I would give it a place of honor on a desk of its own.

And maybe a hug.

Seanan

6 comments:

niki said...

I love you post! It brought back some memories for me. Some kids grow up banging on pots and pans in the kitchen but for me it was my Dad's old typewriter. I remember banging away on the keys before I could even read!
He'd let me sit in his study sometimes and put in a blank paper into the typewriter to let me "color" it in... good times.
Thanks for sharing!

Pam P said...

I started typing years ago on a manual typewrite, was so happy when the electric ones came out, and now love using the computer to type so much easier for me. New series sounds good, reminds me a bit of the syfy tv show Sanctuary.

marybelle said...

I hunt & peck & I am fairly fast & accurate. I learned to type on a whopping great big typewriter at High School. It was part of my business studies. Of course I also learned Shorthand. I still remember most of it. A wasted talent I fear.

Michele L. said...

I used a typewriter too! I have some fond memories of my typewriter. Many a college report was typed on my good ol Smith Corona. I still have it but it doesn't work right. It still looks good on my side desk! :-)

Jasmine Haynes said...

I love your cover! I started with a typewriter, and like you, now that I'm using computer, I'm still very hard on the keyboard!

Pat Cochran said...

Like the above commenters, I started on a
manual in high school and progressed to
electric, a word processor, a PC, and now
a laptop. Thanks to Honey for bringing me
into the modern world. Left to me I'd still
be pecking out words on an "old-timey"
typewriter! LOL.

Pat C.