Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing Life: Type

A manual typewriter at a winery in Healdsburg.

I learned to type on a typewriter in high school.  I remember sitting in the classroom as a freshman, slowly hitting the keys to learn that QWERTY keyboard.  You had to press the keys really hard otherwise the typebar wouldn't hit the page.  My favorite thing was when we got to the end of the line.  You had to hit the carriage lever return pretty hard and the platen would slide across the paper with a satisfying "thunk."  It was the first time I felt like a writer.

Those IBM Selectrics were revolutionary as was whiteout and correction tape.  Learning to use whiteout properly was an art in itself.  You had to keep the brush clean and glump free.  And to get the best results, you had to slowly paint over the letter while keeping the rest of the paper around the letter as clean as possible.

When I went to secretarial school, I learned about computers.  I learned DOS, that old MS operating system, and we had seven inch floppy disks that were literally floppy.  If the IBM Selectrics were revolutionary, the computer was a miracle, a beautiful thing that crawled out of a science fiction story.  I would stare at the screen of green letters on black expecting it to start talking to me.  The day I learned about deleting, cutting and pasting, and saving documents to be worked on later stand out as one of the most important days in my writing life.  When I realized you could print the document you were working on after it was done and proofed, I thought it wasn't possible for things to get any better than that.

I'm happy I was wrong about that assumption.

While the computer and I are close friends, I do find that good old fashioned typewriter up there to be an exotic, sexy creature capable of performing in almost any situation, including a power outage.  I think how nice it would be to have one.  A writer should have a manual typewriter around somewhere, right?  If only I had the space for it.