Think About It

A few weeks ago I allowed myself some meandering “me time” once things sort of hit a new normal with our family’s medical drama.

I meandered through the library and the library’s book sale.

I meandered through the shelves of donated novels and textbooks at Goodwill.

I even spent waaay too much time meandering through Amazon’s selection of books—paper and electronic.

I ran into several hard copies of Gone With the Wind in all three locations. Never read the book. Only remember seeing bits and pieces of the movie when my parents would watch it because it was the only thing on TV. But I did a little digging and it got me thinking…

That sucker is over 410,000 words long. All done on a manual Remington typewriter. It’s rumored that Margaret Mitchell would place each completed chapter in a manila envelope, and, once she was done, the stack stood taller than she did.

I bet so.

And remember the “first million words are crap” advice that’s floating around now that I mentioned in an earlier blog? Well, probably not many authors would care to risk wrist and thumbs to pound out that many words on those clunkers.

And think waaay back to the fountain pens the poor blokes like Shakespeare and Homer used. Feather quills? Pretty prolific writers for pen and ink. I don’t know. Maybe they had it easier. Maybe not.

But that’s all they knew in their time.

I remember playing around with my dad’s manual machine when he’d drag the beast out of the closet to type up something for the high schoolers he taught way back when. He’d let me mess around with it until I’d get the levers hopelessly gobbed together and he’d have to undo them.

Then I remember how different it felt when I used a keyboard for the first time at school. Much less work to press those keys down. No messy levers, either. And the laptop I’m on now? Barely any effort at all.

I do think if I had the chance to type a short story out on an old machine, I’d try it. You’d definitely think more carefully abut word choice because each letter takes so much effort.

On the up side, you wouldn’t have to remember to save anything… (This being noted after MS Word decided it needed a nap a while ago and I had to start this blog over.)

Then I got to thinking, maybe technology has writers at a disadvantage. If an EMP goes off and all electronics are wiped out, we’d have to dig out the clunkers and hope someone hoarded ink cartridges.

Or go back to pen and paper.

I’ve tried to write on paper—and I love it for outlining and brainstorming—but going from point A to point B? I’m totally spoiled to my MS Word (persnickety though it can be). At this spot in the blog, I’ve cycled back through the piece at least five times and tweaked/deleted/added text.

Do you know what that mess looks like on paper? Like someone handed a baboon a ballpoint pen and said, “Have at it.”

And trying to do that on a manual typewriter? Not likely going to happen. That’s where the image of wads of paper strewn all over the floor comes in. Start, stop. Nope. Unroll. Wad.


At any rate, I’m spoiled rotten to the backspace key and cut/paste options.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely tech-spoiled, too. Better find a hobby that will carry your sanity through until the emergency responders can restore power after the EMP dissipates. And Martial Law is lifted. And until Best Buy can import their newest batches of electronics from across the sea.

The next time you’re in a room full of books, think about it. What did those authors do to get those thousands upon thousands of words out of their brains and coded into little black marks so someone else can read their minds? Not to mention the hoops and tricks and time it took to get the finished piece into the hands of a publisher.

Hemingway probably said it best:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog and the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.