For my birthday I received a teal Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter.
If you couldn’t guess, that’s the perfect gift for me. I’ve always wanted a typewriter, a good old-fashioned mechanical one. That’s exactly what I got thanks to my partner’s thoughtfulness.
Since I received this precious gift, I have not started writing a novel or anything of the sorts, but I have continued jotting out my thoughts and expanding on a few ideas. Before, I would do this on standard pen and paper, eventually going fully digital once I moved, but now it seems I’ve regressed a few decades.
The process of using a typewriter has been not just a new one, but has given me new insights. It didn’t take long for me to realize where the “shift” key on a standard keyboard got its name from. And it also didn’t take me long to realize that I may be a little too-OCD for the level of attentiveness and intent to use a typewriter.
This typewriter, being from France, has a AZERTY keyboard verses the American QWERTY I’m used to. So I often put ‘q’s in place of ‘a’s and sometimes a ‘w’ pops up where it’s not supposed to be. I tend to not put a space after capital ‘I’s–I’m not entirely sure if that has to do with a texting methodology or not. This causes me to misspell words, but at least there is a red ink option to overwrite mistakes like this.
More frustratingly, sometimes I want to change a word entirely but I’m already three lines down. Or I realize I’ve gone off track or changed tenses. Whole paragraphs can’t be shifted around a page like they can when I’m working on a Google Doc (like I am while writing this).
I began to wonder how all of the people before me have done it. Assumedly, they had a much different writing process altogether. Maybe they had no internal qualms with the sloppiness of their typed pages, or they kept paper alongside to jot down notes as they wrote.
For me I need to accept the messiness, embrace it even. Let a full page of typed words (which takes me roughly 15 minutes) be riddled with misspellings, side rants, and the need for a red revision pen. Then do the revising by hand (something I’ve always enjoyed if we’re being honest) and retype the whole thing! Yay! What? Okay that’s a lot. Did people really used to do ALL of that work back then? I feel my heart racing at the thought of needing to do all that for my final undergraduate project.
But it’s all part of the process. I’ve always been fascinated with writing processes. Which was fitting as an English major and a writing tutor. I wrote before on the importance of having a writing process and how revising is the most crucial part to my process.
Instead of opening and closing a digital document though, I’ll need to insert and remove a piece of paper, then retype everything if I want a pretty copy. But even that is bound to have its own errors. Which I find fitting. I find that my writing is never done–and I’m sure others will agree. I could open a document from years ago and find the need to revise it, even for one word.
Writing with a typewriter may be a more accurate reflection of my process, because the actions are more deliberate and force me to segment the steps out instead of revising as I write (which I’m also doing on this Google Doc).
This has shown to me the depths of my need for “perfection” or things to be “just so.” Most of my writings I don’t share. They are on lined notebook pages, collecting dust on a shelf. What I have written on my typewriter goes into a manila envelope and then into a desk drawer. If no one will see these pages, why must I ensure their appearance be up to a certain standard? Because that’s how my mind works. Even in life, I know it can be messy, but I still strive for things to go a certain way. A bit ironic given the last year or so, wouldn’t you say?
Life is sometimes messy and unorganized but we can’t always shift things around when we want, and it’s good to recognize what it is important to try to perfect and what is not.