The Benefits of Writing on a Typewriter


“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway (

When modern writers are struck by the muse, we pour out our thoughts onto our laptops or even our phones. It’s what we’re accustomed to. What I’ve been wondering lately is what effect different types of writing media, from laptops to desktops to phones to typewriters to pen and paper, have on our writing. I wonder if it matters what we use to record our thoughts, if it has any effect on the nature of our finished writing. I think it does.

To test my theory (or hypothesis I guess), I got myself a typewriter. I didn’t know what to do with it so I just sat down with it late one night and started typing, not thinking about what I was writing or where it was going to go. Eventually I ended up with this strange short story about a delusional person. Really, it was a weird story. It was nothing like anything I’ve ever written before. As I read back over it, it hit me that I would never have written something like that on a word processor. It had a lot of flaws, a lot of things that needed to be worded differently, a lot of grammatical mistakes and misspellings; but here was an idea that I had laid out with no judgment, no inhibitions, no ability to go back and delete entire paragraphs I didn’t like or fix little things in previous paragraphs. This was a true first draft, a rough idea. I had never written something that I didn’t polish as I went along, and I never realized before that that could hurt my creativity. I would never have given that story half a chance if I had been writing it on a computer.

I’m not saying writing on a computer or phone or tablet is the wrong way to do it. What I’m saying is I think that if you’re stuck in the idea that you have to compose all your work on a word processor (like I was for a while), you should try writing with an old typewriter or a pen and paper and see what happens. For some reason it brings out new ideas and personal things you didn’t know you had. I’m sure most writers already know this, but for me it was a new discovery. I used to be a magazine writer, and using a word processor was quick and made editing fast and easy. As a result everything I write on a computer still reads journalistically. I try to write professionally and judge and edit as I go, and that’s not always the best way to write. I didn’t expect that a little typewriter could impede my self-judgment to the point of improving my creativity. It completely changed the way I write.

On top of everything else, I think the typewriter creates an atmosphere. It kind of makes you feel like Hemingway or Faulkner, like you’ve taken a step back in time. We all know the best thing about writing is that it lets you step out of this world and into a different one, and I think the typewriter facilitates that mood. It has more good points than drawbacks. A typewriter doesn’t get hot or run out of battery or crash like a laptop, although you do have to have a basic understanding of its mechanics and be able to change the tape. If you can break up with your laptop for a little while, I think it’s an interesting experience.

All original content copyright S.D. de la Rosa, 2012.

~ by Sara on December 7, 2012.

10 Responses to “The Benefits of Writing on a Typewriter”

  1. When I was a teenager, I owned a series of typewriters. I love how it feels to write on a typewriter – the sound of it, the feel of it. Plus, if you’re on a typewriter, you can’t get distracted by the internet.

    • That’s a good point, I didn’t even think about being distracted by the internet. That happens a lot when I’m writing on my laptop. I’m new to typewriters but so far I’m loving them. I know what you mean about the sound and feel of them. It’s kind of inspiring for some reason.

  2. Very well written post. It is interesting how writing via different mediums, brings out a different state of mind of the writer. I personally never have typed on a typewriter, but I have compared my writing by hand vs on the computer and it is a radically different feeling.

    • Thanks! Yeah I’ve noticed that too. It’s good because if you have a particularly bad case of writers block, sometimes you can get past it by changing mediums. A change of scenery can also help I’ve noticed. Pen and paper is great because it’s very portable. You can go write out in a boat in the middle of a lake or up in a tree. And writing like that definitely changes your state of mind.

  3. I am, ## and have never thought about it… until now… I’ve been writing with pen and paper for ever. I have spiral bound notebooks full of thoughts and notes. I rough things out in pencil or pen, (I prefer pencil, putting a sharp stick on paper has a ritual feel) THE pc has a different feel altogether “very industial” efficient… it’s easy to just scrap something off the page. jj

    • That’s true, pen and paper is probably the best, actually. It has a personal feel and you can take it anywhere. Thanks for visiting my blog! I like your magazine.

  4. I think I might want to give that a try.

  5. Agree. I used to use my Olivetti Lettera 32 a whole lot more. I’ve gotten stuck in the “computer” trap. Just over the last few days, I’ve brought out the old typewriter for some more impromptu writing sessions. Anything goes! Lots of fun.

    • Yeah sometimes it really helps when you have writer’s block. It’s hard to say exactly why, but it does. I actually haven’t used my typewriter in a while now. I think it’s time to pull it back out again!

  6. I grew up, writing as a teenager, bleeding into a typewriter because only very wealthy folks had word processors in 1982. When a computer became affordable I got one.
    Today, years later I am going to buy an old IBM Selectric off of Kijiji. Mostly for the same reasons the author of this article states. I have realized that my writing gets over-polished on the first draft, and words and phrases that had great power get edited out and are lost forever by the delete button.
    Extra-Plus 1- Typing does not remind me of term papers as computers do (What a kind of literary coitus-interruptus it is to remember 4th year term-papers on the Brontes)
    Extra-Plus,2- You don’t suddenly lose a great piece of work because it was late at night and you hit a wrong button ’cause you were tired and/or drunk.
    Extra-PLUS 3- I can find anything that I typed in the early 80s in minutes. Despite archiving, CD cutting, back-uping &ct; most of what I drafted digitally just, somehow … vanishes, or is dug up a decade later to be unreadable due to obsolete formats.
    Viva la typewriter and pen.

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