Books · General · Writing

Back to Ink and Paper

Inky hands, correction pen stains, crumpled up paper, doodles on the corners… that was more or less my perpetual state as a writer when I was younger. Then computers came along and I migrated to the digital forms of writing, leaving my notebooks behind to collect dust while I sang the praises of Microsoft Word, with its pristine fonts and formatting options and the ability to start over and delete words with the click of a button.

Lately, however, I have been having difficulty even coming up with words to delete.

To be fair, when I was younger, I never had to approach a computer screen with a work mentality – it was a tool for fun and procrastination, but now I mostly associate it with translation and proofreading. I was also not involved with the Internet as I am now, and knew only a handful of websites. Social media wasn’t rampant, and my attention wasn’t diverted every few seconds by new tweets, Instagram posts, blogs, videos and forum replies.

I knew I needed to take a step back if I were ever to pull myself out of this neverending loop of distraction, disconnect a bit from my laptop, build my focus… and so I decided to go back to the basics. I think I went too far back though, because I bought myself a typewriter.

IMG_20160303_074759 (1)
I cannot get over how beautiful it is.

I had been wanting one for the longest time… and I finally bit the bullet and got it. And I don’t regret my choice even once (except maybe when a week later I saw the same typewriter but about $150 cheaper, but aaaaanyway. >.>). It’s a Princess 300, dating back to the 1960s and it works perfectly. The beauty of a typewriter is that once I sit before it, the only thing I can do is write. Even if I hit a snag, I don’t have the internet to escape to. I have to sit there and look at the paper until I write something. Anything. And I am. I’ve typed up about 35 pages so far, and let me tell you this – the feeling you get of seeing your words immediately leaving their impression on paper is just… amazing.

The click! click! click! of the keys and the ding! of the machine as I reach the margin and the soft vroom! of the platen as I push it back to place just keeps driving me to type and type. And when I reach the bottom of the page, the paper rolls out all crisp and beautiful. And of course I bought cream paper to complete the effect, haha.

Just a sample of what I've been typing.
Just a sample of what I’ve been typing.

It’s strange, but the tactile feel of your words as you write them is really encouraging. It’s as if you’re seeing your book come to life with every punch of a key, something the computer can’t do. It’s kinda similar to eBooks vs paperbacks/hardcovers in a sense, where I only feel like I’m properly reading a book if I’m holding it between my hands and flipping the pages.

I also went back to a method I used to employ when I was younger, when I would get sheets of paper and sketch or doodle or draw maps or write key plot points. So one night I brought out some colouring pens, a stack of paper and got to work, losing several hours in the process and once again getting ink all over my fingers. And it was great. I have really missed using my hands – really using my hands – to create something.

Late night brainstorming sessions with tea and candles.
Late night brainstorming sessions with tea and candles.

I’ve still not managed to completely detach myself from my laptop, but slowly I’m spending more time at my desk, getting to know my typewriter and all its secrets and mechanisms, leaning back in my bed with sheets of paper and bright pens. And I’m writing like I haven’t done so in a very long time.

How do you write? With pen and paper or good old technology? Do you have a typewriter of your own, or any special writing instrument?

20 thoughts on “Back to Ink and Paper

  1. Cool. I love the look of the old typewriter! I think you’re on to something…the computer is very task based whereas paper and pens encourages raw creativity. Maybe I’ll hit the dollar store and invest in a notebook!

    1. Yes exactly! Ideas just seem to flow incredibly smoothly from the tip of your pen. And hey who can say no to a pretty notebook? 😉

  2. It took me a long time before I convinced myself I could write on the computer. I’m a longhand writer at heart and used the transposition to typing as an editing tool. Then I discovered the great advantage of cut and paste. I do find, when I’m too distractible or just not making any progress, that returning to pen and paper helps.

    1. Ah yes. The cut and paste feature is very useful. I’m getting a little frustrated with my inability to simply hit backspace when I make a typo, instead relying on correction tape. But I guess that’s just encouragement to get it right the first time!

  3. I love me my computer, but I do want to write on a typewriter someday. Talking about using your hands you remind me of my wife. She’s a fine artist and refuses to go into graphic art because she wants to feel her hands on the medium.

    1. You won’t regret the transition when and if you make it! And I know where your wife is coming from… I sometimes try to sketch on my Note phone but it’s just not the same as paper.

  4. I saw your tweets about getting a typewriter, and it is indeed a beauty! Though I couldn’t see myself going that route–I love the ease of Word documents and Scrivener too much–I think it’s wonderful that it’s helped you tap into your creativity. Sounds like it was the perfect solution. Just don’t get chocolate on those keys. 😉

    1. Oh I love their ease too! But I intend to use them as an editing tool from now on. Haha – I won’t! It’s such a delicate machine I’m afraid to get any crumbs into it!

  5. I absolutely love the idea of a typewriter, Zen! Well done 😀 Unfortunately I’m chained to the laptop lately so I’m green with envy. Keep up the great work 😉

    1. Thank you, Dianne! You should consider investing in one… if even as a decorative piece because they’re really so beautiful to look at.

  6. Love it, Zen! I’ve been considering buying a typewriter for about a year now. I think it’s a fantastic happy medium with writing. It’s efficient, but organic.

    I definitely struggle with working on my WIP on the weekends and blogging as well, because I’m trying to decrease my screen time. I’m just about sold on the typewriter idea, and there is no shortage of funky shops in Portland where I can pick one up. Hmmm… 😉

    1. Yes! Do it! Typewriter buddies. 😀 I had to get mine on Etsy because unfortunately there is an extreme shortage here in Dubai… but it’s so worth it. And will definitely help you step away from the screen!

  7. I love your typewriter! The sound of the keys must be so gratifying. I often write longhand with a pen and then transcribe my words to the laptop (and when I do this becomes my first editing process).

    1. It is EXTREMELY gratifying. I love it. 😀 That’s how my editing process is going to be from now on too. All the edits will be made when I copy the manuscript into my laptop.

  8. I think with my fingers, so I need as much 3D as I can get. I write my book by hand or with my yellow typewriter. And I’m not even a hipster 🙂 I know it is possible to read books on the screen and I admit that, but I need as much tactile feelings, as much textures, as I can get. Then I can think. 🙂

    1. I totally get you! Nothing beats that tactile feeling. And you don’t have to be a hipster to enjoy typing away on a typewriter. They’re such marvelous devices and it’s a shame not many people use them these days.

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