Why Typewriters?

This morning I sat down for a short writing session and paused. I had my pen and notebook on the table in front of me and my computer was sitting to the side playing music. As I wrote the date on my paper, it didn’t feel quite right. I turned off the background music, closed my computer, and put it out of reach. Pushing my pen and notebook aside, I grabbed one of my typewriters; a 1956 Charcoal Royal Quiet Deluxe. Yes, this was what I needed this morning.

At the same time I thought to myself why would it matter if I was writing on my computer, in a notebook, or on my typewriter? What is it about writing with a typewriter that is so pleasurable – and dare I say, necessary?

Pondering this, my writing plans for the morning changed as I stared at the keys. This is a fair question. Do I use a typewriter simply because I have a business or it seems “cool” or is there something beneficial or genuinely pleasant with using a typewriter? This seemed like the perfect moment to explore WHY typewriters bring me so much joy and seemingly inspire creativity.

So I typed out the question, “What is it about typewriters that bring us so much joy?”

I’m suddenly and acutely aware of the sound of the tap-tap-tap of the keys on the paper and it’s ridiculously satisfying. As I’m typing, I’m simultaneously staring at the lake waters and can’t help but reflect on the moment. The sound of the soaking rain watering the dense forest of trees below my patio jumps out as well and is soothing to my senses. I love that I’m distracted by nature and not by the dings and motions on a computer that intrude on the thought process rather than add to it.

It occurs to me that when I write on a typewriter, I’m fully engrossed in the creative process. Sounds of nature become part of my writing and creativity. Even my thoughts slow down, I notice, as I chew on each word. There isn’t room for unnecessary words. The typewriter gives me time to think as I type, pause, sip on some tea or coffee, and ruminate – all without interrupting the flow.

On a recent book project, I typed a rough draft and then sat down to my computer for the purpose of editing and writing the final draft. But something interesting happened: my book changed.

Instead of editing and cleaning up my book for clarity, I was adding to it and quickly it became bloated with excess. My fingers could move faster and for some reason that felt like I should add more words. This resulted in losing the essence of my original writing. I was so disappointed with the results of the first few chapters of the final draft, that I stopped working on it and set the project aside.

Today it is clear that what my book needs is to go back to the typewriter. It started on one, it needs to be finished on one. The computer will be great for formatting, final edits by a professional editor, and sent off for printing or putting into an e-book. But for the substance of my book, it needs a good typewriter.

And now it is completely clear to me “Why Typewriters”:

Words belong on a typewriter.
Work belongs on a computer.

2 thoughts on “Why Typewriters?

  1. I only used a typewriter (electric) for a few years in highschool. Someday I will experiment with one again. I have heard others share that they savor the lack of distractions — which a computer tends to bring to one’s work life and which you describe so eloquently in this blog post.

  2. Hi Laura,
    You are so right about it. I just bought a used Corona Electra 110. It brings me so joy, reminding me my youth, when personal computers didn’t even exist. Writing on a typewriter let me breath, be nourish by the present, the surroundings, and my emotions. It’s impossible to do that with a computer; its electronic circuits hum anaesthetize me.
    Using a typewriter it’s like taking a quiet ride on a bicycle, while using a computer is like riding a powerful electrical vehicle full of distracting electronics.

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