If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters, they might write all the books in the British Museum.
So, inspired by a friend of mine, I have been the hunt lately for a good old-fashioned manual typewriter. Many argue that it is not beneficial to revert where technology is concerned. They say that’s why we have computers. They say I need to shake off my dinosaur-like longing for a more innocent, less complicated time; as if I am supposed to embrace the manic and chaotic pace the world keeps now. Well, to that I say this: 90% of my first drafts are written in longhand. That goes for poems, short stories and a the few novels I’ve written so far, including one I’m hoping to find representation for…soon (but then aren’t we all?). But that’s a post for another day. My legitimacy as a writer has less to do with finding an agent and selling my book as it does with continuing to turn out tales and hone my craft along the way with some deeply appreciated readers who offer their time (for free) to read my work and provide me with comments to make it better. This is about typewriters…
I am thinking total dinosaur old-school manual typewriter. And the reason is this: my first drafts are in longhand. With a typewriter I could write a second draft and then mark it up to my heart’s content before creating yet another draft in the computer. I hear all the time just how many drafts should be created before a writer is content with his work. But then I remember an interview with Toni Morrison who stated that she should rewrite her first novel The Bluest Eye if she had a chance. I think Ms. Morrison’s point as that sooner or later a writer has to let his work go out in the world. Have there been other writers before her that have revised earlier works? Yes. And those works turn out good and bad. Despair by Nabokov is a good example. Stephen King’s re-release of The Stand with original pages cut by his editor in the first version is a bad example. Likewise, Thomas Wolfe’s O Lost! which was cut down to create Look Homeward, Angel. Why do I mention this? I don’t think there’s a clear formula as to how many drafts makes for a good novel. A writer knows when he knows. As for me, it takes me multiple drafts but never the same amount. And these drafts I wouldn’t write on a typewriter nowadays because it spits in the face of technology available (namely, my pen and a computer).
This morning I was on EBay. There are many typewriters available there. A guy in my neighborhood sells antique junk and I spotted an old manual typewriter in his shop. Of course, I overheard him charge a woman $125 for a painted plywood sign so I am guessing the price of his antique typewriter is astronomical. Sooner or later, I’ll go the EBay route, I guess.
Years ago, I came across an application I could download with the sound of a typewriter that can be used with a word processing program. No, I did not download it. Using that program would be tantamount to…what? An inflatable sex doll and making wedding plans? I don’t know. My point is this: I miss the old noise of a typewriter. Granted, my fingers have atrophied over the years; given the post-modern comfort of most computer keyboards. Voice recognition software, you say? Perhaps in the next evolution. For now, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a good deal so I can bring back some of that magic I had as a teenager when I used to transpose handwritten stories onto paper at my parents’ kitchen table or even further back when I wrote short tales on an old manual monster typewriter when I was 12 years old. Call it indulgence if you must, but do let me know if you know someone selling an old manual typewriter (preferably portable) for a good price.