The more things change, they change, OK?

typewriterThere was a story in the news recently that the younger generation has taken to typewriters. Not just to look at, but to use.

I can’t help but feel this is kind of like they way younger people like fedoras and that old-timey telephone jangle they use as a ring tone on their smart phone: Look at this cute thing from the olden days. Aren’t I hip to like it? Sorry kids, but try typing a 20-page term paper on a typewriter and see how much fun you have.

One of the best things that ever happened to writers was word processors, then computers, laptops, the Internet, email. Not to mention Twitter and my friend WordPress.

Don’t get me wrong — I love typewriters. I have my dad’s old Remington Rand in my home office (it’s true! See the picture?) and I intend to get it cleaned up sometime soon. There’s nothing like that sound of typewriter keys clacking along. And slamming back that carriage is downright cathartic. I confess that I even go to Staples sometimes just to type a little on the electric models on the shelf.

But I also remember furiously trying to erase to the point where there’d be holes in the paper. Whiteout all over the place, including on the keys and the carriage. At my first newspaper job in a bureau of the Biddeford Journal-Tribune, having to cut and paste (literally, not by selection and key strokes) pieces of paper as I re-arranged the paragraphs of my story. Crossed out words with a heavy copy pencil and wrote in new ones. Daily fielded calls from my editor saying “This is a mess. I can’t read it.”

Thirty years later, here I am typing on a laptop. I’m also checking my work email, have scheduled a bunch of work projects I can do from home today through the magic of my computer and the Internet.

I also plan to do some writing. I came to book writing after computers became as much a part of the household as the fridge and TV. Lucky for me. I can’t imagine the hot mess — as the kids say today — my manuscript, all my notes, my constant revisions for two books and all my project ideas would be if I had to type them all out.

I can write this blog post, or my newspaper column, or my novel, and immediately get it to others. Never have to worry about making carbons (I can guarantee youngsters will not start having one of their vintage affairs with carbon paper) or the manuscript flying out the car window. Once this post is done, I can send a tweet and put it on Facebook, and there are instant readers. No waiting for it to be published somewhere.

Sure, there are things we’ve lost with the computer age. My generation has chronicled them ad nauseum so I don’t have to repeat them all here. But if you’re a writer? Seriously? What a fantastic, wonderful world we live in now.

Anyone who doesn’t say the pros outweigh the cons is not writing enough.

So yeah, that typewriter looks neat. Love hearing it — the keys, the carriage. Love slamming that carriage across when I’m on a tear. It’s a fun diversion. But when I’m serious about getting some writing done? Sorry old friend, your day has long passed.

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This entry was posted in Craft, Editing, Marketing, Maureen Milliken, Of Interest, Opinion, Writers, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The more things change, they change, OK?

  1. Sheila says:

    My 20-something daughter wanted one. And you can still get (real fabric) ribbons to go with it. But my fingers go faster than the typewriter does. (Daughter writes poetry–maybe that works better on manual.)

  2. Age happens more quickly now — the typewriter already has the romance of the letterpress operations that make such lovely pages! I agree, Maureen, that I’d never go “back” from the computer for almost all of my writing and labor. On the other hand, for the moments when I want “slow words,” there’s still a pen and paper!

  3. liz milliken says:

    I thought about this in the early ’90s when I was writing the 338+ pages of my dissertation with over 1000 footnotes –how did people do that before word processing? And now that old PC and the dot matrix printer (with the paper on a roll with the holes along the side) that I used back then seems impossibly primitive.

  4. Nancy Gardner says:

    Good article, Maureen. Typewriters were magic in my youth. But who would ever go back? That said, sometimes handwritten copy works for me in the early stages.

  5. Who knows, maybe one day we will be saying the same thing about our laptops.

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