Recently while scrolling through my WordPress Reader, I saw a picture. A dark black, beautiful typewriter. Here is a link to the picture and blog: http://erikslehman.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/typewriter-porn-of-the-week/. I have a typewriter. Nothing special, a gray and green 1940’s Smith-Corona Skyriter I picked up from Ebay. I love it. Something about it just makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The sound it makes as you strike each key over and over, the cling when when reach the end of a line. I even used it, for a paper at my university. Working in the technology field, I get asked a lot of questions regarding the advancement of technology and how it is aiding higher education. While there are many advantages, I am still a sucker for the olden days. I was discussing just those days with two of my classical culture professors one day. One who completed his Doctoral program only 10 years ago, the other some 40 years ago. The topic of computers came up, and how they have been a blessing for Doctoral students and all students for that matter. I agreed, but I also felt that there have been too many shortcuts for writers these days. Case and point, on that last sentence I deleted it about four times before finally deciding how to write it, and I may yet go back and change it when I reread this post. The delete button has made writing for the masses so much easier. I love the delete key, don’t get my wrong. I use it all the time. But there is just a different feeling I get when I pull out the typewriter and decide to use it. I told one of my professors that, while I enjoy using a computer, I put much more thought into my work IN the moment when using a typewriter. I can not delete or go back and change as easily as I can with a computer. I stop and think about how I want my next two or three sentences to flow before I start using the typewriter. Where as with the computer, I just start typing and go back and edit after each paragraph. The professor who used a typewriter during his Doctoral days laughed, and said I would change my mind if I ever had to type out a large paper with one. I said I would still love every minute of it. The other professor, who I was taking my capstone class with, face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Then do it,” he said, “write my capstone paper with a typewriter.” Challenge Accepted. And without thinking I began a journey that would make me rethink my writing process.
Prior to this, when I began a paper, I would make bullets, and then just begin. I would just start. No real thought. Write off each bullet I made then go back and edit, edit, edit. That is all there was to it for me. But with this paper, I had to go about it differently. I could not just write whatever came to mind. I started by JUST using the typewriter and trying it that way. Pushing away key after key, throwing away page after page. Making it all the way to the bottom of a page, only to realize I did not like the third from last sentence. After four days of working away, and only a page of words I felt good about, I pulled out a pen and pad. This was new to me as well. I have kept a journal for some time, but those aren’t filled with coherent thoughts I planned on turning into a professor for a grade. I set my bullet points out and began. It was a slow process with still, me wasting a lot of paper. If computers have done nothing, they have saved many a tree from my writing.
Once I had what I felt like would be enough pages handwritten to complete my 20-25 page typed paper, I begun. This, was still an enjoyment and a pain in my ass I will never forget. I slaved away on the typewriter for hours on end. I wanted one good completed copy of my paper to go back and edit. The handwritten copy was horrible to read and try to edit. I needed some legible words to work with. For the first copy, if I messed up a word or two on a page, I just corrected it by hand. No need to waste an extra page of paper for something I would not turn in. It was a challenge, but I still made it through and was better for it. This practice copy definitely helped make my typing up of the final copy go much smoother.
So, here I was, coming up on the end of the semester, two handwritten copies of my work totaling 30 some pages each. And one typed paper coming in at around 19 pages. I was not worried about the length, I new I could get more words out when I started editing the work. I pushed the typewriter away for about two weeks, and my paper away all together for a week. That felt good. I focused on my other capstone class. Yes, I was one of those idiots that took TWO capstone classes in the same semester. Two classes with 20+ page papers due. That was fun let me tell you. But I made it through, and found something out. If I ever do get to make it to a grad school that required hours upon hours of research. Then write mini books for classes, I could do it. I could survive semesters of nothing but research and writing. Just give me wine and scotch from time to time to keep me hydrated.
Ok, so back to my typed capstone paper. After the week of editing and making my paper sound perfect, or as perfect as I felt it would get I started typing my final paper. Luckily typing my not so perfect rough draft was great practice. It also taught me that my “a” key would stick and the “i” needed to be given that extra push to make it to the paper. For the most part, the typing went off without a hitch. Only once did I make it to the end of a page and make a mistake and have to redo the entire page. The final result, a 23 page typed paper using a 1940’s typewriter over the evolution of leisure from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire, and an A. Well A- but whose really keeping track. The whole journey of typing the paper made me realize that I still hate writing things I want people to read with a pen. I write as fast as I think, and the faster I write the less legible said writing is. I may say the delete key has changed the way writing is accomplished today, it will always be my best friend. Especially if I ever get up the courage to finish the novel i’ve started. And lastly, the typewriter is a love of mine that I will always have. But I will never accept a professors challenge to type a long paper on one again. NEVER. AGAIN.