I mostly blame Rob Burdock for boasting about the 1936 Remington Portable that he’s just acquired. It reminded me that I had my own little portable typewriter sitting unused and unloved in the garage and that I should dig it out to see if it still works.
It does still work, just. It could do with a new ribbon and the Q sticks a bit. It just needs a bit of oil and some TLC.
So why a typewriter when I have a perfectly serviceable computer? It certainly isn’t any easier: no editing, no corrections, no reformatting and it’ll all need retyping into the computer in the end anyway (when I have done some cheeky edits and spelling corrections!) No it’s not easier, but easier isn’t always better.
There is an argument that says that how you write the words has an impact on the words that you write. Writing longhand with a pencil (another favourite of mine) has a very different flow to tapping away at a computer keyboard. The editing loses a little of the spontaneity. The different speed of the words onto the page affects how much each word is considered. And then there’s the physicality of the writing process itself. The tactile feel of the slide or scratch of the pencil on the paper. Typing on a manual typewriter is just so much more energetic, and so much more noisy than any other method of writing. That thundering energy can lend its own style to a piece of writing.
The first stories I wrote were hammered out on this little portable on my kitchen table. I bought it at an antique shop in Oxford. That’s right, it was an antique when I bought it. Heaven only knows what that makes it now. Obsolete I suppose.
I don’t think it’ll go back in the garage just yet. Especially now that I’ve discovered I can get a new ribbon for it for a quite reasonable sum of money. It won’t ever again, I don’t think, become my preferred tool for writing. It’s a bit more like owning a Penny Farthing: obsolete, and impractical but sometimes fun to use just for the hell of it.