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 (brainyquote.com)
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.