Computers and Writing

A friend of mine, whose writing credits amount to college writing assignments and some freelance work, has settled into an apartment in L.A. and plans to embark on writing a play and a screenplay, then a history he’s been talking about since I’ve known him, and that’s 30-plus years. An inveterate raconteur, putting pen to paper just isn’t his thing. However, he learned to type when he was young and as a clerk-typist in the Navy he managed to get into the 80-words-per minute range. One would think this would would make using a computer to write his fiction easy. Nay-Nay, the comedian once said. My friend eschews computers. I’ve never know him once to fire up one of the machines without cursing and stomping and damning the thing to hell.

So on a recent visit, he showed my the typewriter he’d bought, at store not far from his home. It’s an impressive machine. Not one of the ancient Underwood manuals that I learned on, a typewriter so heavy it would qualify as a lethal weapon. No, his was small and sleek and portable, but the type was that typewriter type that exists only in memory, it seems. He had typed up something to show me, nothing more than words on a page really, but for him it was a prize, something to be admired. For him, writing on a typewriter was a return to a normal life. He could walk to his grocery store, his liquor store, hang out in his local bar, and when it came time to write, he didn’t have to flip a switch, check a connection, ensure a printer was indeed capable of printing. He simply had to insert a sheet of paper into the carriage, think a bit about what he wanted to say, and then type.
Simplicity itself.
Upon showing me his treasure, I remarked that many writers of note still write in longhand, and some still write on the typewriters they obtained early in their careers. He seemed pleased to know this, this affirmation of what was right in his world.
And I was pleased for him. A man ought to surround himself with what is good, and familiar, things that work and if they don’t work, the man knows how to repair it, and bring it back to a state of usefulness.
I asked about replacing the ribbon, or perhaps the need of replacing a key if one breaks. My friend told me about the shop where he bought his typewriter and the man there. I was told there were many writers in Los Angeles who use nothing but their typewriter. They keep him in business, I was told.
Indeed.
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