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As a kid, perhaps inspired by Nancy Drew, I loved wiping away thick layers of dust from the obscure objects I found beneath the floorboards in our attic: grandpa’s baby shoes, a jewelry box filled with my mom’s lost infant teeth, an engraved hand mirror. I believed that there were stories hidden in these things from the past, stories that begged to be written.
One day, I went searching for a story in our front hall closet. The closet, more Alice in Wonderland than Nancy Drew, is like a rabbit hole because it is under the staircase. The deeper you go in, the farther you must scrunch down. The ceiling runs a sharp diagonal to the floorboard. It was there, in the back of that messy closet, that I found a very important thing of the past:
(An electric typewriter, circa 1979, but a typewriter no less.)
And I started hammering away. My thoughts appeared in black and white, immediately, as I thought them. I started stamping out my own memories and stories. Click click click click click. I liked to roll my stories back down and re-type over what I had already written. Each letter had its own stamp, its own fresh ink. Language became visible and tangible. Click click click. I was in love.
Yet, just like every game one plays as a child, I eventually lost interest in the typewriter. It was my Velveteen Rabbit. I ignored it for American Girl dolls, a new bicycle, my Easy-Bake Oven. It might have run out of ink or just stopped working altogether. I can’t even remember now.
About the time I turned eighteen, I started to look for typewriters everywhere. Having a writing life had become a life-goal for me and I wanted it to be romantic and tangible again. Luckily, typewriters had made a comeback. One could (and still can) find them at yard sales and in thrift shops selling for nearly 100 dollars or more, even with a broken “s” key and no space bar. There are even specialty online shops for revamped typewriters and typewriter parts.
I wanted the perfect typewriter. I didn’t know what it would look like exactly, but I just knew it would help me create or salvage the writing life that I wanted so badly.
A few months ago, I found myself on the typewriter search again, even though my desire for one had dwindled considerably during my college years. I had seen a few typewriters around Charlottesville and I had even considered busting my paycheck on a doctored-up, candy-colored typewriter off the Internet, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew deep down that having a typewriter wouldn’t actually change my mental state. I realized that I tend to lust after typewriters when I am in writing rut. When my writing slows down or feels pointless, I long for that tangible feeling I loved so much as a kid – that click, click, click, made instantly real by paper and ink.
In the midst of this recent writing rut, my job became extremely stressful. It was the perfect excuse for my not writing. We were moving offices. I was working late and some weekends, constantly packing boxes, shredding old papers, recycling junk, and gratefully accepting hand-me-downs from my boss – things that would have been discarded otherwise – one of which was a printer.
The printer had been for my boss’ personal use. She said she liked to print drafts of her legal letters for hard-copy editing, but had a new printer/scanner combo to use instead. I could have the old one, she said. She even gave me two fresh ink cartridges that hadn’t been used. (Cha-ching!)
It took one whole evening to get the monochrome printer set up. It’s so old that I didn’t think I would be able to align its software with that of my Macbook Air; but, when I heard the worn-out grown of its plastic turbine, my spirit soared.
My words came out
Black and white,
suddenly tangible in my hands, and ready
for more ink.
I have inherited a hand-me-down home-remedy for my writer’s block and typewriter envy, and the little old printer, which is brand new to me, helps my writing feel real. It gives me the power to change the thoughts, ideas, and memories that come out in seemingly inalterable hard-copy over and over again, as many times as I want.
It has made editing into its own creative process because it is no longer just word processing on a multi-pixel screen. No, my printer is not a candy-colored antique; nor was it covered with a thick layer of dust when it fell into my lap, but it has stories to tell. My little printer forces me to edit in hard-copy, and it means business.
***This piece first appeared in WriterHouse and was republished here with permission. ***
#Real #Writing #WritingProcess #WritingTips #WritingHelp #ABetterWriter #WritingIsRewriting #FictionWriting #Arts
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