A Key to Writing

A typewriter is essential writing equipment. It doesn’t matter if the ribbon’s dried up or if it’s actually a teapot disguised as a Remington—I believe that if you are actively trying to put words together, it’s absolutely necessary to have one.

Even if it’s only a postcard or a newspaper panel of Snoopy typing on top of his little red doghouse.

Typewriters have long been a symbol for writers. They conjure long, hard nights and bad posture, reams of crumpled paper that missed the waste bin, and maybe even wan lighting from an exposed bulb as a storm beats at the window. They embody the lonely author, the whimsical writer, the inspired, and the uninspired.

Even if you have never touched one, all wordsmiths understand the inherent charisma and mystique of the typewriter. If you sat down and tapped out your breakfast menu, it would be transformed suddenly, inexplicably into Literature, a testament of productivity and importance.

But it’s hard work to use a typewriter. Each letter must be backed by determination. Anything less and the message might not show up. If you make a spelling error, it’s in bold. Your backspace is starting over from the beginning.

Every one of these factors is a reminder of why we need them.

Writing is tough. Though modern technology allows us to type at bewildering speeds, the work being done at the keyboard of the latest lightweight laptop is just as difficult as that being done on an Underwood. That definitive snap of industry I love so much in a typewriter might be missing, but each letter holds just as much weight. Each letter needs just as much willpower to make it appear.

It’s messy and noisy, too. Even if we don’t have to deal with jammed type bars or wrinkled paper, we still start, start over, stop, doubt, and revise. Even if we miss the clack of sticky keys, our minds have no trouble filling the vacancy. As orderly as sentences on a page may apear, the ideas that made them won’t wait in queues.

We need typewriters because they remind us that this putting together of subject and predicate is difficult. It takes effort— strong fingers and a stronger heart. They are a reminder of what we are doing every time we sit down to write. This busy, untidy effort of laying down words is work.


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