The Typewriter Revolution

The Typewriter Revolution

Some clients know I use a 1941 Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter for personal communication and for many of my book drafts. It was Hemingway’s favorite typewriter and the same one my grandfather kept in his office. There’s something truly different about sitting down with a mechanical typewriter and watching your thoughts fly onto the page.

On a computer, I can’t write in any of the standard word processors. Watching my sentences and misspellings get squiggly green and red lines added automatically is distracting. The urge to stop and look things up online is also horrible for my writing process. I write or edit five newsletters monthly and have consistently published a book or more per year since 2009. One of my secrets is to sit down with a manual typewriter and simply let the thoughts fly out of my head. If I’m away from my office, I use a large legal pad and felt tip pen. If I don’t have either, I record my thoughts and get them transcribed.

I realize this is a very different way of creating content, but I’ve found it works well for me.  This very blog post was created by a combination of all three methods. First, I scribbled down the topic and a few bullet points I wanted to cover, then I recorded my thoughts and sent the transcription to my editor. Voila. A few days later, I have a blog post sitting on my desk for review. I red line it with a colored felt tip pen and off it goes to the internet after one final revision. If I simply sat down with my laptop, I’m confident the process would be more distracting and take twice as long. My process isn’t for everyone, but consider the following quote by a brilliant author and historian, David McCullough:

“I think that much of the joy of life can come and should come from work. I think we’ve been sold a certain bill of goods about ease and happiness being necessarily synonymous. They aren’t.

Something goes out of the human experience when life is made progressively easier, less complicated, less demanding of alertness, effort and appreciation of work when it’s done.”

When I heard McCullough say this in the documentary, California Typewriter, I stopped in my tracks. How true are his words. Today’s technology promises us ease of use. Why remember the phone number to the pizza joint across the street when Alexa can order it for you? Seems like a good idea, right? Wrong. We weren’t created to live like soft little blobs, going through life with zero friction. I don’t think we should look like the humans in the movie Wall-E. The human experience includes work and the satisfaction one gets from it.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in an old rust belt town with extremely high unemployment. Perhaps it’s the conditioning my parents and grandparents instilled in me. Either way, I know what independence looks like and it is not the absence of problems to solve; nor is it constant entertainment and lack of work. It’s the obverse.

If you have an interest in joining the Typewriter Revolution, watch the documentary above and get this book. You’ll train your mind to think differently when you’re forced to put real words to paper. Start by writing your friends a simple “Thank You” note or “Get Well Soon” card. Before long, you’ll find the quiet time with your thoughts and an old-fashioned piece of mechanical equipment, outside of exercise and meditation or prayer, is the most therapeutic time you spend each day.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

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