I have a fond childhood memory of sitting in my father’s office and playing with the typewriter. I never actually wrote anything important, I just loved pressing the keys and making noise. Seeing the letters appear was like magic to me. Needless to say, I was pretty young at the time. Okay, very young.
Just last month, I asked mom if she still had the typewriter. She didn’t have the one I played with all those decades ago, but she had one my grandfather used. I have it now. It’s much newer than that one I tapped away at as a child. It’s also significantly lighter. I can even still buy cartridges for it, including correction tape.
I played with it, exploring the functions and seeing if it still worked. It did. I also learned a lot in the few minutes I typed, like how spoiled I am as a writer with a modern computer and my word processor. I also learned how slowly I would have to type if I didn’t want to constantly use the correction tape...
It made me reflect on writers in the “olden days.” I can write and edit a novel in a few months with my computer. If I’m having a productive day and really going for it, I can write over 2000 words in an hour. Autocorrect means I don’t have to fix most of my speed typing errors. Most importantly for me, as an author who does not write my book in order, I can jump around and write whatever scene I want at any point.
What was it like for the writers back then, using typewriters, or even writing by hand? We have a copy of a bible that was recently done, written out by scribes on vellum using quills. It took years instead of months. Even the typewriter is an improvement for writers over quill pens, but my speed on a typewriter is only a fraction of what I can do with a computer.
What would it be like having to use a typewriter? How many pages would my draft be, knowing I write by scene instead of chapter or in one continuous narrative? How often would I be making corrections because my fingers move faster than the typewriter can handle. I remember being able to cause jams on the old typewriter.
I appreciate my modern tools as a writer. I won’t forget how much easier things are for me, with spellchecker, grammar checkers, the ability to easily delete typing, and I can jump around as I want in my story. Those writers back before computers were tough and persistent. Would I be a writer without my tools? Yes, I’d probably still write, but not as an author. I’d probably still be writing short stories for myself instead.
Here’s to computers, word processors, formatting programs, and an easier time as an author. And thanks to the typewriter, my reminder of how good I have it as a writer!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.