In this past week’s New York Times Sunday edition, Tom Hanks wrote an opinion piece solely around the use of typewriters.
In case you don’t have a friend like me that’s completely obsessed with everything that is Tom Hanks, you may not have known that the actor is obsessed with vintage typewriters. If you want to read the full article, it’s right here, but I’m going to pull out some quotes that are completely accurate.
I inherited my typewriter from my dad. He showed it to me quite a few years ago and I asked him if I could one day have it. He didn’t see a reason why not. It sat in its case on a shelf behind our water heater in the basement; it wasn’t as if he was using it on a daily basis…or using it at all.
Here’s a fun picture of my typewriter next to my laptop:
There is something justifiably different when you type on a typewriter versus on a standard computer or laptop keyboard.
The sound of typing is one reason to own a vintage manual typewriter… In addition to sound, there is the sheer physical pleasure of typing; it feels just as good as it sounds, the muscles in your hands control the volume and cadence of the aural assault so that the room echoes with the staccato beat of your synapses.
On evenings when my fiancee needs to use my laptop to work on a paper or some other homework assignment and the mood to write strikes me, I have to use my typewriter. I set it on my desk, look at him, and ask, “Is me typing on this going to bother you?”
Because it’s loud.
It shakes my whole desk. It knocks down my pictures and my jars and it dings all the time. When I get in the zone, I tune out the noises (they become a comfort), but then I have to take a step back and think about how it’s affecting everyone around me. To everyone else, it sounds like CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK DING! VVVVVVVVRT CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK…you get the idea.
And each word sticks in your mind. You hear that pounding of the letter hitting the paper and it imprints itself in your brain. You want to relieve some stress or write a scene full of obscene screaming? Use a typewriter, because you hear the screams in every letter of every word.
When you type on a typewriter, there’s a sense of finality around each word you type. Without that “DELETE” button, I am forced to stop and think before I start each sentence. It’s a craft more than just putting out half-assed content. It’s not about word count, it’s about quality.
It’s almost an art.
Don’t bother with correcting tape, white-out or erasable onionskin paper. There is no shame in type-overs or XXXXXXiing out a word so mistyped that spell-check could not decipher it. Such blemishes will become the personality of your typing equal to the legibility, or lack thereof, of your penmanship.
I will admit that I have the correcting tape/white-out sheets, and it’s more of a pain to backspace to the mistake, type the letter with the white-out sheet in the way, backspace again, and type what was meant.
Just look at my picture here of a scene for On The Border’s sequel (feel special!). Look at how many mistakes are on there. My typewriter’s space bar likes to add in random spaces when I don’t even hit it. Just look at the first paragraph with “w ays.” There’s a comma hidden underneath the letter L somewhere, too. But most of my mistakes on this one are just random spaces because of my space bar.
Using a typewriter almost feels like playing a game of skill. You want to create the best looking document you can. You want it to flow. You want it to sound good. You want it to mean something.
It takes more work writing on a typewriter than it does on a computer. And, at least for myself, what comes from a typewriter just feels a little closer to my heart. It means a little bit more.