Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Past into the Future

The very first book I wrote, a 400-page western romance about a young girl who'd been rescued by William Bonney, was written on a machine that looked like this:

It was 1981. I was 12 years old, there wasn't an Internet for me to research Billy the Kid so most of what I picked up was basic information and I made up the rest, and the typewriter was a heavy, metal beast that my great-grandmother had used in college in the 1910s. The red and black ribbon was ancient and a little ragged, and the letter p tended to cut through the paper, but I loved it with all my heart. I got really good on it. By the time I took typing my freshman year of high school, I was typing 75 words a minute. I was faster than the teacher. That might've been one of my easiest As ever.

When computers came along, however, I was thrilled. No more ink on my fingers! No more white-out! No more wasted paper because I'd spent half a day writing a page that would now get cut! I can't say my productivity actually went up, but my efficiency sure did.

In the past fifteen years, however, I've started longing for a typewriter again. I love the way they look, and I love the way the keys feel under my fingertips. I'm so in love that I have been known to get a little shiver when I hear a bunch of them going all at once. It's my own little Mad Men porn.

You know what's funny? They're making a comeback. Some people never left them behind, but with all the security hacks in recent years, they're seen as unhackable. That's not actually true, but it's a matter of perspective. With digital publishing, it's not quite as viable as a way of streamlining work, but you know what? I'd get one. In a heartbeat. Maybe not this model, and maybe not for everything I produced, but I'd do it.

I still have that first novel, by the way. It's in a folder I've taped together twice over the years, tucked into the bottom of a box of keepsakes I can't bring myself to get rid of. It'll be one of those items my kids pull out after I die and wonder why I kept it. Then maybe they'll read it. Well, my daughter might. My son would reach the first kiss and walk out of the room. And I hope it makes her smile.

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