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I am sitting looking at what; in the days gone by, would have been a blank sheet of paper in the typewriter. How did Sir Arthur write all of his stories longhand?

They say that if you want to write you should just sit down and do it. Maybe.

I was reading a book about writing short stories which was written in the late 60’s, early 70’s. The preface by Joyce Carol Oates included the sentence, “Miracles are in the wings, in the ink of unopened typewriter ribbons, craving release.”

So here I sit at my “typewriter.” But this is easy. I learned to type on a typewriter. If you made a mistake, you had to go back and white it out and re-type it. Cut and paste was literal. If you felt a sentence or a paragraph worked better at a different place in the manuscript, you literally cut a block out of the sheet and pasted it where you wanted it. I read about an author who used to hang every page of his book on a wall, and would work them up higher on the wall until they reached a certain high spot, then he’d mostly leave them alone. Strange, huh? Them old typewriters you had to know what the margins were actually supposed to be on a page and manually set them. If you wanted more than one of whatever you were typing you stuck a piece of carbon paper in between two white sheets of paper. Of course, if you made an error you would have to correct it on both copies. Nobody told me about “Whiteout” type of products right away. You had to get this long pencil looking eraser with a little brush on top. Some of the erasers looked like a wheel with a brush affixed, but you had to erase.

I remember when a friend of mine got an electric typewriter. It was easier on the hands and, it had a special ribbon (a typewriter ribbon was a long strip of cloth soaked in ink. It was moved mechanically along between two spools as you typed each letter. On the oldest models, when you got to the end, you could just flip the spools and use it from the other side. You could also buy ink to re-ink them.) Cartridge that was self-erasing! You just went to the spot where the error was type over it using an eraser cartridge which acted as whiteout, but not as messy. Amazing stuff. Not only all them high tech gizmos but, if you wanted to spend the money, you could buy another type head that had a different font! Way!

Anyway, I am sitting here looking at this increasingly less blank page, wondering how in the world Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Alan Poe and Charles Dickens ever got by? You had to really WANT to be a writer, I guess. What about The Bard dipping a feather into a bottle of ink and having the printer set the whole thing in type by hand, letter by letter? No wonder they didn’t care about how words were spelt back then.

Speaking of writing, I got a book in the mail that has been out of print for some time and was stolen by one of my Sci-Fi loving friends. It is called 100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories and is edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander. What a great book. All of the stories are 1,500 words or less but are really great. I loved this book and was happy to find it on the ‘net and pay the price. I think Max may have, erm, borrowed, the original and never returned it. I can’t remember. Wonder if Carter knows anything about it?

Anyway, if your local library or something has it, check it out.

Well, I guess I’ll quit for now since the Good Book says that “a fool is known by his multitude of words.”


2 responses to “Typing”

  1. swabby429 Avatar

    Spoiler: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle owned an Underwood Model 5. But, yes, I understand your point.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Lol. Point taken.

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