Murder, She Wrote

Quote: “Portable?  Really?”

I have a writing friend called Angela Lansbury.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  I do have a writing friend, but that’s not her real name.   However, she has just purchased an old typewriter.  My first thought, apart from oh how stylish, was why?   Was it an attractive, if somewhat large, ornament or was she actually planning on using it?

If I’m not mistaken, were they not originally rejected and replaced by computers for practical purposes?  The ability the computer has to erase and re-write easily.  It has better storage capacity plus the ease of duplicating and editing.  It was a sensible transition.  One of the biggest bonuses in our current mobile age is portability.  My friend had bought a ‘portable’ typewriter.  Portable means that it should be transportable, and for it to be transportable it has to be moveable.  As far as I know she doesn’t have any back injuries, but I think she might if she takes this old fangled machine literally at its word.

We all seem to have a fascination with ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’.  It has become fashionable to dress in the clothes our grandmothers would have worn; to have floral china to eat our Victoria sponges off.  We like to hark back to a time that is essentially not now, one that was better, on the surface at least.  ‘The good old days’ is, after all, what we hear frequently from anyone over the age of forty, so it must be true.  It’s easy to look back through rose tinted glasses at the street parties reflecting a cohesive community and forget that each era had its bad as well as good elements.  I think the typewriter falls into both categories.

Our fascination with the old has not stymied our love of the laptop or similar.  There are multiple reasons computers have literally taken the world by storm.  Ease of access to information from around the world from almost any location being just one.  Whether by laptop, memory device or even phone, you can take your work or pleasure practically anywhere.  Just look at the coffee shop: it’s our new office.  I’m in one now and opposite me (at my computer) are two men on their laptops.  So how do you capture that essence of the vintage in a Starbucks or a Costa?

Do you haul your typewriter on your back and crawl, tortoise like to your nearest coffee selling venue?  Well, it depends on your strength I guess.   The question is why would you want to?  Writing is a creative process and can produce different results depending on the vehicle you use.  Writing by pen feels different to tapping on keys.   It’s a direct link from brain, to pen, to paper.  The pen feels like an extension of the hand.  It physically feels different and therefore conjures up a different way of thinking.

Typing on your computer, depending on your speed and skill, offers many benefits.  It allows you to type and type and type with the knowledge that you won’t run out of paper or ink (although maybe battery) and you can go back and edit at will; Therefore potentially freeing up the mind.  Both of these portable writing devices allow us to write in situe absorbing what’s around us or finding the perfect, peaceful place to write.

The typewriter, sneakily infiltrating our lives and making a comeback, offers its own atmosphere.  It puts you in an alternative mind-set.  You have a large physical contraption with a history right in front of you.  Who knows who has used it before?  Each is an individual with its own foibles: a sticking ‘s’ or a duplicating ‘d’ and each emanates its own personality and character.  It feels real, like a living thing; it’s a physical and immediate method. Us ‘creatives’ like a little of the quirky, so maybe this could be a good way to be inspired and produce exciting ideas and potentially, if the writing gods allow, a piece of actual writing.

For me, a typewriter is a beautiful, intriguing decorative item; one which I may use in the future.  It would be solely a creative tool; utilising its history, temperament and physicality for inspiration.  I often revert to pen and paper for quickness, instantaneousness and because I know that it offers me a different outlet.  So maybe the same is true of the typewriter.   You wannabe Angela’s can head to the café knocking out your little gems but I think I’ll avoid that café with the click-clacking keys and the paper piles accumulating around you.  Finally, I’m wishing you stubborn vintage writing fanatics a sturdy spine as you heave your ‘portable’ typewriter from home to café and back again.  Maybe the agony and pain her spine endured was what Angela Lansbury was writing about in those opening credits to Murder, She Wrote.

Photo courtesy of Nette Hargreaves.

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