What Do You Write With?


I used to love reading Paris Review interviews, and especially when writers talked about whether they wrote with pencil, pen, typewriter or computer. Back then my inner Luddite smirked satisfactorily when writers said they wrote either longhand or on manual typewriters. At the time I was writing on a Royal manual typewriter and disdained the thought of writing on a computer, except for work. 

I loved the clack of keys against paper and platen and always remembered the essay in GQ magazine by Mordecai Richler, in which Richler poetically praised the typewriter as a writer’s muse. I wish I could find a copy of that essay.

Today I was reading a post by Nathan Bransford in which he asks: How Does Technology Affect Writing Style?

And I thought back to the days (not so long ago, really) when I wrote on my typewriter. Even when I converted to a computer, I sometimes still wrote a first draft of a story or even the first few pages of a story or a chapter on a typewriter. I felt then that my prose flowed better when it splattered out in Courier. 

I’ve gone back and read some of my sketches that I’ve saved, and there are some that seem stylistically better than what I write now. But, then other drafts are clunky, just as drafts I’ve written on the computer read clunky and misshapen and I think maybe the technology doesn’t matter: it’s always the writer.

Although I do have to say that when I go uber low tech and write a draft with pencil, I feel as if I write better, but I tend to rush what I write longhand and get impatient and want to actually be able to read what I’ve written (my handwriting is terrible; I’m a hellbound lefthander if my elementary Episcopal school teachers are correct). I don’t think I could write a draft longer than a few pages longhand: my eyesight couldn’t take it. I also edit better when I can print a draft and edit in longhand.

There are times, though, when I think about the typewriter, and long to pull it out and hear the clack of the keys again. Where’s the ribbon when you need it?

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5 thoughts on “What Do You Write With?

  1. I don’t know about the typewriter, but from experience I have the same problem with bad handwriting and am also left handed, definitely pretty much illegible if I write fast enough for me to get all my ideas down which is why I use a computer

  2. I fondly remember the typewriter, too. Mainly the clack clack of the keys – I found a software program once that imitated this sound, and it was wonderful, but then I upgraded computers and couldn’t find a similar program. The ones I found all had novelty sounds (balloons bursting, anyone?) and what they called “typewriter” usually sounded more like machine guns. So I’m still searching …

  3. I loved certain typewriters when I was a reporter and miss them. They were much more tactile, just so definitive and physical. Revising is much harder work, of course. But I look at some books written in longhand or typed and am amazed. I wonder if the ability to edit makes us NEED to edit!

  4. I use a typewriter for most of my writing. My writing is never exactly what it should be the first time around but when I used to compose on a computer, the first draft only “seemed” better because I would use the delete key 5,000 times.

    I believe that the writer makes the writer; the medium is just personal preference.

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