Write On- The act of typing

I haven’t used a typewriter for donkey years. I was listening to a podcast on the plane and an author was saying- he didn’t use a computer. He used an old typewriter. He was asked if the slowness of the process bothered him. His response was interesting. He doesn’t write to be fast. He writes to enjoy and be a part of the process.

Using the typewriter, no matter how fast you are, requires retyping of pages. This author believed that by the very process of retyping his pages until satisfied, that the actual act of typing pressed into him the words, and made him a part of the finished writing.

I wonder, have we lost something when we gained  speed with the computer. I love how easy it is to spell check, I hate with a passion how easy it is to forget to turn off the spell checker and find out one has written –I red the book. I love the ability of turning on speech to hear what the writing sounds like when read by another person. It’s also a great writing tool for catching odd bits here and there. Do we when we write, bash along at a great speed, and by doing so lose a bit of the essence of our writing like that author believed? I wonder.

I don’t think I can go back to using the typewriter. I miss the sound of it, but it’s too hard to give up all the bangs and whistles the computer offers. I can bring my laptop anywhere with me. ( I know Orwell carried his typewriter, so did Hemingway, but seriously would that fit into my purse?)

How do you feel about the typewriter? Is it a relic from the past? Are you like me, who once had a young visitor to my study, and upon seeing  my typewriter asked, what’s that? When I explained what it did, wide-eyed the response was…gosh, you’re really old!


About susan sheldon nolen

It’s rare to catch me without coffee, a form of camera, or my beloved wire fox terriers. I love the history, the art, and it’s a massive part of my life, as I either paint, write, or get interrupted by my dogs, reminding me of the real world. I hope you enjoy your time here. It’s such a privilege to have readers.
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14 Responses to Write On- The act of typing

  1. If I had to write on a typewriter, I’d never get anything done. But, I do love the sound of it, hammering away.

    • I once tried adding sound to the computer keys to see if that ease sound memory lose, but it didn’t feel right at all! I am so used to the computer now, I feel it is just another part of me. I wonder if before I die, they will come up with a device that lets your thoughts instantly appear on paper? and one would be able to write this way? That would be interesting. But also a problem if you tended to drift off! Talk about rewriting then! lol…Good thing I have years and years and years of waiting to see if they come up with it!

  2. Catana says:

    It’s one thing to enjoy a particular tool, another to fetishize it and makes assumptions about other tools that you haven’t even tried to use, as that author does. I was glad to see the last of typewiters because a computer keyboard is so much easier on my hands. I don’t think I’d be writing at all if I still had to use a typewrite. And it’s certainly not about speed, except that it can be an advantage to be able to get your thoughts down before you forget them. Unless you’re an extraordinary typist, the computer makes that more likely than a typewriter does. And what’s so wonderful about having to type the same material over and over when you can make a new copy and work on that? Life ony allows you so much time to accomplish anything worthwhile. I’m grateful for every digital tool that enables me to *write* rather than struggle with a machine that makes the work harder than it needs to be. Correction fluid, anyone?

    • You reminded me of the correction Fluid! I had so forgotten! I also remembered how exciting it was to get that tape, and finally when the electric typewriter came about and you could back space away mistakes! Course it always showed and if you turned the paper over all the mistakes and retyping showed!

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    The typewriter is one relic I’m not nostalgic for–in the least. I remember typing college papers. And retyping. And running out of ribbon tape at the most inopportune times. I will take my Word documents any day!

    • I loved the sound of working on those papers late into the night and hated with a passion changing ribbons. I won’t even mention the retyping of whole page with only one crucial error on it! How much time did that cost? I can’t imagine writing a novel like that author had, and not one, but all of his. Just can’t imagine doing it.

  4. I don’t think the computer speeds things up for my typing, Susan with all the back-spacing and typing again I have to do… but I suppose it must have. With a typewriter I’d have had to have loaded a fresh piece of paper and stated again! But, like Andra, I love the clackerty-clack of the old typewriters!

    • I remember how with great seriousness I would line up the paper and sometimes the grip would slip and I would end up typing with a result of an upward or downward slant and have to start all over again! Don’t miss that at all, but the sound…nothing can replace that! Or the sheer physical effort required to push down the keys of a standard typewriter opposes to the porsche like ease of computer keys!

  5. I didn’t like typewriters. Especially in typing class. I wasted reams of paper. I ran out of carbon for copies. I tore too much paper erasing mistakes. Talk about holy manuscripts! I meant to write “holey” but my spell check kept changing it to “holly.” Sheesh. Give me a MacBook or an iPad and a word processor, and I will write on forever.

    • I forgot about the carbon paper sheets! What a mess they were! Don’t you love the computer spell checker? On a sadder note I was reading just recently that a lot of school children cannot spell as they are now relying on the spell checker on computers! As for what to type on now? Oh my Macbook Air!

  6. Pingback: Using a Typewriter on Your Laptop | Inked!

  7. I must first confess it’s been decades since my fingers danced over the keyboard of a real, clackety click typewriter, but I do remember it seemed my entire being was engaged in the process and it made me think about what that guy was saying.
    I do think that punching the keys of an old-fashioned typewriter was a little like writing the letters by hand, and that somehow the physical, tactile process engages all our senses in a way the almost motionless operation of computer keys don’t. On the other hand, I’d hate to be engaged in an endless series of re-writes, though perhaps he needs fewer than me! 🙂

    • I on board with you. I can’t stomach the idea of rewrites on a typewriter. I remember seeing cut and paste with real cuts and tape and then some authors ( the lucky ones) sending it off to their secretary! Now’s that’s an occupation long gone. I miss the romance of it all, but that’s about it! The answer might be snuggling down to an old black and white detective film..they always had clacking typewriters and dangerous secretaries!

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