Focused writing, free of distractions, is all the buzz, but is an old mechanical typewriter the way to go?
Writing is trendy and hip. Typewriters are too and so are the people who use them. So why not write on a typewriter? No notifications, no eyestrain from blue light, no distractions. Sounds like a novelist?s dream right? But how can you bring your written words from a sheet of paper into your computer for further editing? It?s relatively easy, but that?s not the big drawback about typewriters. Read on.
Typewriters suck. It?s the truth. There?s a reason why we moved on from them. Without further nic nac, here are the top 5 reasons why typewriters suck:
- they are bulky and heavy
- your typing speed is mechanically limited, because you can only use one letter after the other
- you?ll annoy the hell out of your surroundings
- getting pages you just typed up into your computer for editing is a hassle
- Hipsters use typewriters
On top of that, don?t forget repair and maintenance. It?s easier to get a laptop fixed, than an old typewriter nowadays.
Closeup of a typewriter. Photo by Jason Yu on Unsplash
Why typewriters ARE awesome
Typewriters are great. They?re full of nostalgia and will channel your inner literary genius. If you want to focus 100% on your first draft, typewriter it is. The limited typing speed actually is a feature, that gives you time to think about what you type, as you type it. Here are the top 5 benefits of using a typewriter
- literally all you can do is put words onto a page
- if in good condition, a typewriter can last several lifetimes
- it?s the ultimate nerd statement
- typed pages can easily be scanned and converted to editable text files
- the monotonic, clickety-clackety noises can be beneficial to your creativity (no really, you?ll type yourself into a trance in no time)
With so called OCR-Software (Adobe Acrobat and many other, even free options out there) and a scanner you can easily transform your typed pages into a textfile of your choosing. This really shouldn?t be an excuse. If the type is still clear and well stamped onto the sheet of paper, the OCR software will easily be able to recognize the letters.
So, how is it really?
Like with most things in life, there are no absolutes.
It depends on what you need to accomplish. To me personally, the limit in typing speed is a big problem. If you hit two letters too shortly after one another, the hands of the typewriter will get stuck. This stops you dead in your tracks. If you enjoy typing slowly and think conciously about what you?re typing, this will benefit you. But for me, I like to splash my thoughts onto the page, as quickly as my fingers let me (around 125 WPM).
Also, don?t forget, the mechanics in a typewriter will put a lot of strain on your finger muscles, you won?t be able to use all 10 of your fingers because they?re just too weak.
A typewriter usually is hardly portable. There are so called portables, sure. But those are still very bulky (compared to even the most ridiculously thick gaming laptops) and you really shouldn?t bring it to your local Starbucks. You?ll be the douche there. Forever. Trust me. No more coffee for you.
If you have a dedicated space for your writing at home or in your garden, where you can permanently set up a desktop version of a typewriter, do that. It?s great as decoration alone and ? if you?re in for the slow and heavy typing ? can be your creative wonderplace. The bulkier, heavier desktop typewriters are a joy to use, as they feel sturdy and indestructable. There are plenty of models with a rich history, if you?re into that kind of thing.
If your workflow includes hammering out your thoughts into a first draft with no corrections, just letting the words fly, with enough time inbetween each letter to properly think, a typewriter might benefit your style of work. Don?t be afraid of using OCR software to get your first drafts from paper into your computer, once you?ve done it one or two times, it?s second nature really.
There IS something satisfying in using a typewriter, watching the pile of pages on your desk grow slowly. It?s a magical thing, really. I do have several typewriters, as collectibles, but I still use them from time to time and enjoy every second of it. But on a daily basis, I prefer a proper mechanical keyboard (close enough for me to the typewriter feel, without the sore joints) hooked up to my Thinkpad.
Of course, there are plenty alternatives to using a typewriter. In the end the only thing that matters is, that you get your thoughts out of your head. Be it onto paper or into a file. Especially, when collecting ideas or writing your very first draft, it?s important to focus and not get distracted. The simplest thing would be to just turn off all notifications on your computer and switching off your phone (or throwing it away for good). But hey, that isn?t as cool as using a typewriter right? I agree.
Still, there are other things you can do, to minimize distractions and still be ?hip? and ?different? about your writing:
- use a mechanical keyboard ? it feels just like the electrical typewriters of the 80s (Ducky!)
- use a fountain pen and chamois paper by claire fontaine or notepads by Rhodia ? feel like the old masters
- use the laptop/computer of your choosing and create a second user on it, with only the software installed that you need to write, all notifications turned off, maybe even without a webbrowser
- buy a cheap laptop (sub 300 $, maybe a used thinkpad) and install Linux on it (which is free) and only writing software, this basically is a modern typewriter then
- use distraction-free writing software (there?s plenty) for getting your first draft out of your system in an familiar environment
In my opinion the modern equivalent to typewriters: Thinkpads. Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash
Typewriters are cool. Heck I check several sites for used typewriters at least twice a month. But are they practical? No, they aren?t and that?s just the truth. The luddite in me is all crazy about low-tech solutions for my everyday-needs, but a typewriter can?t replace my mechanical keyboard and my Thinkpad. I don?t want my ability to put words on the page, as quickly as I can think them up, to be hindered by mechanical constraints.
That said ? it might just be right for you and as long as you don?t annoy the living hell out of everyone else around you: go for it.
Whatever works for your creative workflow IS the right thing to do!
Also, if you?re looking for a workhouse-printer for your writing, that?s really cheap to run, check out my article ?Is This The Perfect Printer For Writers??.
Good luck and have fun hammering away! 🙂
Thank you so much for reading! I?m in no way associated to any of the brands mentioned. Also this article does not contain any affiliate links and is purely based on my personal experience and opinion!