Last Friday, the last Brother typewriter manufactured in the UK rolled off the assembly line, thus marking the end of an era.
I remember the thrill of getting my first typewriter. My grandmother took me to a dusty store near the Plaza Bolívar and bought me a manual model that sported an ñ, a ¿, and an ¡. I can’t remember the manufacturer, but I do remember typing a lot of my term papers on it. I lived dangerously, waiting until the last day before the deadline and then I’d dedicate the entire night to writing them. The clackety-clack of the keys hitting the paper was hypnotic and released all of my ideas, while the annoyance of correcting errors — having to roll the paper up a few inches and getting just the right amount of white-out on the little brush so that it would dry quickly and not leave an ugly gob on the page –, kept me focused. Some years later my stepfather bought me an electric model which, thankfully, was not altogether silent. The rhythm shaped my sentences, giving them a hard-boiled musicality that made me feel a little like Hammett. Of course, with time I graduated to the computer keyboard, but I still missed the musicality of typed prose.
You don’t want to be that guy who writes cookie-cutter women. As a good writer you want ALL your characters to be real, believable, and relatable. After all, the more your audience identifies with your fictional peeps, the more captivated they’ll be by your story.
I know it’s a challenge, but just because you only have one X chromosome doesn’t mean you can’t breathe life into your women. Other male writers were able to pull this off back when most men considered women lesser creatures and hardly bothered to care about what we were thinking. The effort can be rewarding. Just ask Flaubert. Emma Bovary is such a compellingly human character that he went down into the annals of literary greatness. So here are some tips:
I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while listening to Miles’ Filles du Kilimanjaro, swam in the Ganges with dolphins (this was rough — they kept complaining that all those ancestors’ ashes clogged up their blowholes), apprenticed with shamans and gurus (even set them up against each other just for fun which is how I got kicked out of seventh heaven), and once accidentally scaled U2 having mistaken it for K2. I have also astral traveled, but stopped when they refused to redeem my psychic air miles.
I will try anything once. Except for gluten, red meat, alcohol, dairy products, carbs… Actually, email me and I’ll send you a list. But other than that? Anything. Just remember I only give it one shot, so make sure the timing is right.
This is the first rule in my personal Tao. What others perceive as a weakness is actually what sets you apart. Anyone else can adapt to the rules by changing herself. You are not just anybody. Your goal in life is to be more yourself. Hence, turn your weakness around. You have a gap in your teeth? Don’t get braces and look like everyone else — play up your defect. It’s what will make you memorable. Look at Madonna. All that money and success and she still hasn’t gotten that gap fixed. She was strong enough to be herself.