For many, the vintage typewriter epitomises the writer myth. It conjures romantic images of the wordsmith, seated in some attic*, producing that special music which is unique to mechanical word processing.
*Bonus points if you pictured your writer in a vaguely Parisian setting, illuminated by any type of candlelight or with any kind of alcohol close at hand.
Maybe, the typewriter belongs to those who wish to evoke the writer aesthetic. I’d argue that the modern, day-to-day practicalities of writing (believe me, they do exist) are difficult to cope with, if your instrument of choice is a vintage typewriter: typewriters are expensive. You need to buy the ribbon. Also, even the portable ones are a damn site heavier than your ultra-thin notebook.
The great benefit of writing on a smartphone, an Apple, a Windows PC (and everything in between) is the ability to reshape the piece on the go. The twenty-first century writer is more akin to the potter, who shapes their clay at the wheel. Those who use the typewriter are more like stone masons – you have you re-work completely, if you want to make changes.
So, why are they so popular?
Because maybe, between the invention of the typewriter and the introduction of the smartphone, we’ve lost something. Maybe the writers of the typewriter era writers had something else about them. How much concentration was needed to type a first draft of a novel on a typewriter – without the ability to add an extra paragraph on page five, or delete lines on page eighty two?
Maybe, in our current world, the world of the instant, constant edit – we’ve lost the beauty of the scribbled first draft.
Maybe, our lust for vintage technology is really a hope that we can possess the creative prowess of our literary heroes? Maybe by using typewriters, we can invoke the spirit of Fitzgerald, Hemmingway or Woolf?
Will I ever buy a typewriter?
No. I’m still too attached to the ability to save digital drafts. I wouldn’t be able to cope with typing up a hard copy, then losing any part of it?
Do I still want a typewriter?