As writers, most of us perform our craft on computers these days – and have pretty much since household computers became commonplace. Due to the simplicity of being able to save and protect your work, to go back and make edits, to easily format your prose, and the modern conveniences of spell-check and grammar check, the choice to write at a computer is a simple one to make.
That said, I strongly recommend anyone interested in writing to get themselves a working typewriter. In my writing space, my typewriter lives right next to my computer – so it’s there any time I feel the need to write something I consider “pure.”
The beauty of a typewriter is, in my opinion, in the permanence imbued by its mechanical nature. Every letter and word you type is there, and it’s never going away. You might strike through it, but it’s preserved forever, stamped onto the paper with the ribbon and key and ink. In a world where it’s easy to edit as you go, we can find ourselves self-censoring what we write, every little bit until it sounds absolutely perfect. You can’t do that with a typewriter – with a typewriter the words you put down are the words you put down, and they’ll never go away.
Some people, myself included, also like to write freehand in notebooks, etc. – but that method to me seems to be more of a personal capture of a thought, or feeling. My actual written (handwritten, that is) words are filled with scribbles and circles and crossed-out words. They’re notes that make sense to me, and have their own special meaning because of that – but they’re still nothing quite like words typed on a typewriter.
The clarity and spacing of the letters – the uniformity of the typed word – these seem to me to be different from simple thoughts – instead they are hard-copied, nearly “published” writings. What’s more, barring the use of white-out, everything that is typed can usually still show through even if you decide to alter it. Your typos remain. Your not-quite-complete thoughts live on in their raw, unpolished form. What you’ve written exists physically, on paper – and only in one unique original. Everything from there on is a copy, but that one original remains, perfectly capturing the honesty of the moment in which it was written.
It’s for this reason that I am a firm believer that every writer should own a typewriter. Sitting down at one and just typing freely, you can express yourself without worry of second-guessing your work. Without the added “tools” of modern word processing we are at the mercy of ourselves, as we are, at the time the thoughts come out of us.
All of this said, I still use a computer for my primary writing. When I’m working on something that will need to be edited and worked on to become a polished piece, there’s no better solution than my PC. But at times when I want to pretend to be a poet, or if I want to write something raw and emotional (like the suicide note from an early draft of ‘A Confession,’ that ultimately was scrapped when I cut a side story), the rigid shackles of a typewriter and its mechanical permanence are the best way to capture pure emotion.