Typewriters and the Art of Attentiveness

heminwaytypeAfter several years of writing scripts, I’ve decided to go back to writing fiction and, let me tell you, I’m finding that my prose muscles are really out of shape. (Terrible metaphor, I know, but it feels exactly like I’m going on a run after several years of being a couch potato.) That spare script style has made it hard for me to set a scene in full sensory detail. But what’s made it most difficult is the fact that I’m so easily distracted nowadays: by email, by friends, by a constant stream of, well, information. And when I do sit down to write, I find my attention wandering. My usual tactic when this happens is to take out the airport card on my laptop and lock my phone away. When things are really bad, I just write longhand. Then I read this article about typewriters and how they aid attentiveness.

And that sparked childhood memories of writing stories in my bedroom, the nice rhythmic click of the typewriter keys spurring the narrative forward. Something about the solitude, the heat, and the pounding of my fingers on the keys made me feel like Hemingway or Dorothy Parker — like a real writer. It was slow writing, but that pace allowed me to enter a hypnotic state in which it was easier for me to lay down each word and build each detail of a scene. (In prose, we have to be the art directors, the cinematographers and the set designers, after all!)

So I decided that I will do an experiment: except for paid work, I will only write on a typewriter for 30 days. Will it help me regain my prose mojo? Will I be able to vanquish internet-induced ADD? Will it have any effect at all on the quality of my prose? Am I kidding myself?

If you’d like to join me in this challenge, let me know via Twitter or email (yeah, I know, how ironic). In the meantime, I’m going to go buy some paper and typewriter ribbon.

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