Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Before the Internet

First of all, it has been two weeks since we've posted (or rather since I've posted) anything.  Faith was supposed to do this one, but I decided to just write it.  Now on to the post.

I recently acquired a 1955 Remington typewriter, in mint condition.  I've been using it for writing short stories, and I have fallen in love with it.  Of course, my computer-age brain is still getting used to going down to the next line before I hit the margin.  It doesn't do it automatically!  It just stops!  Anyway, it's been a lot of fun getting to see how people wrote essays, reports, thesis, and entire books.  If you messed up a page, you had to start all over again.  I think it would wear on my patience after a while.  

There are some advantages to not being able to edit what you wrote.  First of all, it's very good for rough drafts.  You just blurt everything, and then you can go back later and look at it.  It's all there, and you are free to mark up the page as much as you like.  In fact this typewriter has a double-spaced setting, which I will be using in the future.  Lots of room to write, and no way to delete an entire paragraph.  I mean, you could use white-out, but an entire paragraph?  You might as well just start a fresh page.

All this typewriter business has gotten me thinking about writers before the household computer.  In some ways I think they had it better.  Once you wrote something, you wrote it.  It was there, and it wasn't changing.  Now, if you re-type that paragraph or even sentence in your word processor, the original statement is gone forever.  For some of us that might not be a bad thing, but I have had instances where I would have liked some things to come back.  

Now don't get me wrong, there were plenty of ways to destroy your writing.  In Lucy Maud Montgomery's book Emily's Quest, the main character burns an entire manuscript because a friend of hers told her that it was badly written.  When she finds out later that he was lying, she has no way of getting it back.  Burning was a very popular method for destroying your works before you could hit the delete button, however when we delete a file it goes to a "trash can" in our computer.  When you burn something, it does not come back.  

The last thing that fascinates me, and probably what makes me wonder the most, is that authors which we now revere and read with respect (Fydor Dostoevsky, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Jane Austen, the list goes on and on...) wrote their works entirely by hand.  Well, Tolkien probably used a typewriter, but you get my point.  War and Peace, one of the largest novels known to man, was composed by Leo Tolstoy entirely by hand.  That is 590,000 words, re-written multiple times, and all in Russian (some of it's in French too, so more than one language).  This guy makes modern authors look pathetic.  

When you think about the kind of work that people used to go through to write a story, it makes our world much more encouraging, and causes us to grin and say "if they could do it, so can I".  I know I've thought that to myself.  

Keep writing, on your computer, by hand, or by typewriter, and don't worry if you don't think you're brilliant.  Some things just take time.  Heck, I don't even like my own writing most of the time.

~ Grace Weiser

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